May 28, 2012, ERIE, PA — Regular readers of our site know that I have an issue with the comic book character version of Pennsylvania injury lawyers as “sharks” or “pit bulls.” The gist of the message, for those of you who’ve read of this before and for those who’d prefer not to read it at all, is that aggression is an over-used and over-valued tactic among Pennsylvania attorneys and one that the best Erie injury attorneys employ only rarely.
As is often the case, I’ve written boatloads of words on the subject when only a few might do the trick just fine. So, I was thrilled when I ran across a quote that seemed to neatly summarize the issue. Let me set the stage for you.
On July 14, 1976, the nation was recovering from Watergate. President Nixon and Archibald Cox, the Watergate Special Prosecutor, had engaged in a long running and highly publicized battle over the President’s recordings of various meetings with Watergate conspirators during which time the President and his supporters had vilified Cox. The Special Prosecutor, by contrast, steadfastly refused to respond in kind, choosing instead to carefully and diligently perform his investigation and justify his position in various courts of law.
Their battle came to its conclusion in the famous “Saturday Night Massacre” when the President fired his own prosecutor only to discover that the public backlash was so great that it ultimately drove him from office. In the process, Cox grew in public stature to the point that he was widely perceived as a paragon of virtue.
And so it was that Archibald Cox was selected to stand before the Democratic Convention in Madison Square Garden on July 14, 1976. He was to introduce another man of unique public virtue and he sought to explain what he believed to be the simple proposition that ought to define public service:
“That open-mindedness is consistent with conviction; that civility can accompany tenacity; and that humility should go hand in hand with power”
Those words apply with equal force to Pennsylvania accident attorneys. Open aggression has its place but it’s a poor substitute for conviction, tenacity and power. When a Pennsylvania lawyer has conviction, tenacity and power, open aggression is unnecessary and harmful to the client and the profession.