The 7 Knightly Virtues: An Attorney’s “Code of Chivalry”

By on January 1, 2012

Guidelines for Choosing the Right Attorney

By Beverly Lewis –

The 7 essential elements you should always look for when you choose an attorney to represent you are best represented in the “code of chivalry.” Knights in the middle ages are thought to have a “code of chivalry” which has over the years risen to the level of all knightly virtues which all warriors should seek to attain.

Your lawyer is your advocate or warrior in the legal arena, therefore, you should expect your attorney to operate under this “code of chivalry.” Just as a knight’s virtue is represented by his equipment, we can look at the 7 main “virtues’ or equipment your attorney uses in representing you to determine whether or not you have chosen your knight/advocate with wisdom.

The seven knightly virtues are thought to be 1) courage; 2) justice; 3) mercy; 4) generosity; 5) faith; 6) hope; and 7) nobility.

1) Courage: Your attorney must have the courage to correctly give counsel regarding your case and the potential outcome. Many times, we as attorneys are pushed for reasons such as money or prestige to take on a case which we know will not reach the conclusion the client seeks. An attorney must have the courage to be true to you by using all of their training and experience to tell you the truth about your position in the law suit. I have a magnet on my desk with a picture of the front of a horse and on the horse’s breast is superimposed the face of a lion. It says “True courage often lies within the gentlest of hearts.” I believe that if you have a strong heart then you will be able to give good advice to your clients even when they really want to hear a “different truth.” Your attorney should have a heart of  passion for their work and for their clients. This does not mean that they will necessarily like you or want to be your BFF, but it does mean that they believe that your system of jurisprudence can be correctly used to achieve a fair and just result.

2) Justice: There is a tension between justice and mercy in all areas of life. Justice brings to question a person’s integrity and honesty. As an attorney there are a lot of gray areas in the law, but there is always a line which should not ever be crossed. In our society when people think of an attorney they usually will say something along the lines of an old joke which goes like this: “When can you tell if an attorney is lying? When their mouth is moving.” I am not sure when this attitude took captive our societal thoughts, but it has. I personally am on a one attorney knightly quest to change society’s thought pattern to recognize that there are attorneys who truly are seeking to help their clients and walk through life with a spirit of integrity upon them. When I first began thinking about this, it was somewhat confusing as to how to be an attorney who walks under a mantle of justice but still gets the job done. However, as I sought the truth of the matter, it became clear that you can and moreover, under the laws of this great nation are obligated to be honest and walk with integrity when you hold a position of trust such as an attorney. Over the years I have found that as one seeks justice based upon a high level of honesty, integrity, truth and wisdom then you will always be able to keep the scales of justice balanced. I am in fact a better advocate for my clients when I know that the line I am drawing in the proverbial sand is based upon a firm foundation of truth. From this position it is hard to be knocked down and justice is more readily found.

3) Mercy: I am trained as an attorney to use words as a two-edged sword and I am good at it. As an advocate in the law arena I must use my words to create pictures for the court to see what it cannot see as it sits in the courthouse about the parties and the situation as it exists in real life. At the same time I must be prepared to tear apart piece by piece the other side’s testimony. Yet I seek to do this in a manner that does not engineer hostility, but seeks merely the truth without personal antagonism toward the other party. I believe that a true warrior can actually kill without the other party even being aware you are killing them. In other words I am paid to “kill” the other side’s position, but in mercy if it is clear I have made my point there is no need to beat the other side to a pulp. This is like a football game where the score is 52 to 7. The winning team knows it is going to win, but the team should and usually does make a choice not to wipe the other side’s nose in their loss – instead choosing to put in the third string or ramping back in order not to score anymore. In the legal arena, mercy comes in many ways between the client and the attorney and between the attorney and the witnesses. Although it is an adversarial arena, there does not have to be a burn and rape mentality, mercy can be sought and given without loss of face.

4) Generosity: When I was young I saw my step-mother literally take off her shirt and give it to someone who admired it. (She had on a halter top under the shirt!) This random act of generosity stayed with me throughout the years. An attorney must walk a fine line; charging their client and looking after their interest but not overcharging them or double- billing. In our lives all of us want to experience the sprit of generosity towards us, but how many of us actually operate in this manner. One year I thought to tithe one of my client’s outstanding bill. I decided to pick a client that I knew would pay me and had a somewhat substantial debt owed to me and waive the debt. I sent this individual a letter with the outstanding bill included marked “Paid in Full.” I explained in my letter to the person that I was waiving the remainder of their fee. Over the years this person has sent me many potential new clients, bringing forth the unexpected benefit of making both of us beneficiaries of generosity. Can you expect your attorney to waive your fee? No. But you can and should expect your attorney to share with you their wisdom and knowledge during your case. If your attorney operated under a code of generosity, then it will manifest in all areas of the representation. An attorney should be generous with their wisdom and knowledge at all times.

5) Faith: A knight is always faithful to his word and deed. Faith under the code of chivalry deals with a knight’s integrity and trust. Trust has to operate on a two way highway by going in both directions. In any professional relationship there is the ultimate loss of control when the professional takes over the matter for which their expertise was sought. This may leave you feeling like you have jumped off a cliff without your parachute and all you have to hang onto is your attorney’s word and integrity. I recently saw a saying which stated, “War can be started by one individual, but it takes two to make peace.” Trust is the same. Most of us have had our faith and trust in someone broken at sometime in our lives so it makes it more difficult for the client to trust the attorney. We seem to live in a society where trust is a rare but highly valued commodity making it hard to find. You come to an attorney and we say to you, “Trust me, I have your best interest at heart.” So there is immediately a dichotomy of “to trust or not to trust?” Many times your whole quality of life depends on the outcome of your case. So how can you know if you can trust your attorney? The best way is to look at their integrity within the community and make a decision to have faith in the attorney based upon what you find. Does the attorney have a good and reliable name in the community? When you ask around do people know the attorney and have favorable remarks regarding their services? Recently I was in a shop and I made a comment about being an attorney. Someone within hearing distance said, “Are you an attorney?” Upon receiving a reluctant but affirmative nod from me, this individual began a tirade against their current attorney. They basically had nothing good to say about their attorney. This caused me to grieve for my profession. I tried to redirect the individual by suggesting they go and discuss their issues with the attorney, only to be told that they had tried and gotten nowhere. All any of us really have is our integrity, our word. If I give you my word that I will do something then based upon my actions, my integrity and by my word, you can have faith that you have hired an attorney who will be faithful to their declaration to you as your advocate from start to finish.

6) Hope: In all things the thing that will keep us going is Hope. As an advocate it is my job to keep you going. While I can not promise that you will win, I can represent to you that I will do all that is within my expertise to present your position to the court in a manner that will ultimately lead to a just and fair result. You may not like the result, but I will do all that I can to make sure you either reach a settlement based upon our discussions together of what is in your best interest or that we have had a fair day in court. It will be my job to protect you throughout the process, thus you may safely have a hope of being guided through the maze of legal entanglement which seeks to entrap you.

7) Nobility: Nobility means to be noble to one’s convictions. Your advocate should be someone who will tell you what they are going to do for you and then will follow through. A knight was noble even when it seemed against all odds. Your attorney needs to have the presence of mind to not waiver in their own integrity when something questionable comes up and a decision has to be made as to whether to proceed in one direction or to go a different way. More importantly a noble attorney will have an understanding of the “code of chivalry” and will seek to exhibit behavior based upon all that is encompassed therein at all times without fail. It is not a nobility of status but a nobility of heart. I will seek at all times to maintain a standard which will keep both the integrity of my profession and you the client as the pivotal point of all that I do for you as your advocate.

You attorney should seek to strive to maintain and live the qualities found within the knight’s “code of chivalry” in order to give you counsel you can trust in and faith that your position will be heard. I desire that you would have a working relationship with your attorney based upon a high level of all of these qualities being present in your relationship. I frequently tell my clients that they are my best tool in representing them because they will always know their case better than I will because they live it. I am only moving within the orbit of your life for a specific time for a specific purpose, yet while I am here with you, I hope I can touch you in a way that will be beneficial to you for the rest of your life. If we can all seek to live a lifestyle based upon the influence of the qualities found within the “code of chivalry” we will all bring forth the best part of the other and make our world a better place.

 

Submitted by: Susan V. Carroll, Esquire
Susan Carroll is a Family and Marital Law Attorney in Panama City, FL. She is able to serve the entire state through her Virtual Law Office at CarrollLawOnline.com where she offers access to forms for those without representation, cost-effective legal services “a la carte” as well as full legal representation. 

 

About Beverly Lewis

Beverly Lewis is the CEO (Chief Encouragement Officer) of LifePoint and co-founder of Slingshot Success. She works with business leaders and entrepreneurs as an executive trainer and coach, teaching innovative strategies to take the “dys” out of dysfunctional businesses and put the “fun” back into functional productivity. You can learn more about her at http://beverlyspeaks.com/ and on Twitter @beverlyspeaks.

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  1. Pingback: Perry Mason and the Case of the Wildly Successful, Perpetually Restless Author | CrimeReads

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The 7 Knightly Virtues: An Attorney’s “Code of Chivalry”