There's no way of knowing just what a lawyer is going to get themselves into when they take a case. Sometimes, it's an easy case, and they'll win with no doubt. Unfortunately, these lawyers can't say the same thing.
Lawyers on Reddit share the case they knew they were going to lose. Content has been edited for clarity.
"My client gave a textbook perfect confession to a robbery the police had no leads on.
He had walked into the police station, and told the front desk that he thought the cops were looking for him. He then volunteered that he and a friend robbed a gas station last week. Then, after police arrested and warned him (right to silence etc), and after he spoke at length with counsel (not me)...he repeated his confession in an audio/video statement. He wasn't forced or coerced. He hadn't been detained for an unreasonable time in cells first. They hadn't even interrogated him. But as a result of his confession, they were able to get a DNA warrant and matched him to blood swabbed at the scene.
And the best part? The police had no idea beforehand that it was him. My client and his friend had covered part of their faces, the surveillance video was horrible quality, and they had bear sprayed the store clerk (a 16-year-old kid) immediately upon entering so the kid hadn't been able to provide the police with as description beyond 'two males.' And since he had no criminal record, he wasn't in the DNA database from previous crimes. He had just heard a rumor that police were investigating, and assumed they knew it was him.
I had to laugh when I got the police report and read all of this. I then focused on securing him as fair plea deal because he had no chance at an acquittal."
"I'm a criminal defense guy, so I have had plenty. Most infuriating one was a guy that got busted for selling rocks to a confidential informant. The CI was wired for sound and video so the whole transaction is crystal clear. Plus the cops ID'ed his car as the one that drove up the scene and he was stopped a couple of hours later with the buy money in his possession (serial numbers were recorded).
He had three prior convictions for rock sales. The prosecutor offered him five which was the mandatory minimum. He absolutely declined to even consider a plea, insisted on a jury trial, insisted on taking the stand and telling a ridiculous story about how it wasn't him in the video (there wasn't any doubt). I felt like Lionel Hutz trying to string together a closing argument with a straight face. He got 20 years."
"I have a part-time job as a court bailiff, and hate standing in court for these.
In a recent case, the father was arguing that he wanted additional visitation and joint custody, which had previously been granted solely to the mother. The judge asked the father a whole host of questions about his kid: who is his teacher? Who is the school principal? Who is his pediatrician? When was the last time he went to the doctor? Dude didn’t know anything, but said it was because the mother hadn’t told him. Mother knew all answers and had text messages to prove that she’d offered any and all information to the father and he responded by cursing her out, telling her not to text him unless he asks a question about the kid.
Not only did he not get joint custody, his visitation was reduced to whatever the mother wanted, since he admitted that he refused to give their kid a prescribed medication when he had him because the father had decided he didn’t need it. So he’d just throw it away, causing the mother to have to get more if she sent it with her son. The father was the only one in the room who was surprised."
"I enjoy taking law classes and a few good friends are lawyers and 110% what everyone needs to do when talking to their lawyer - tell them the truth.
When my partner started going through her divorce with her ex, we'd get these messages about how 'I've talked to a lawyer and he said...'
And we could only shake our collective heads (her and I and my three lawyer friends, plus the attorney we'd retained for the case). From the sounds of it, you didn't tell your lawyer that you got back together for ten years after the property was signed over? Looks like you omitted the part where you moved away, and for five years didn't have anything to do with the property - no taxes paid, maintenance, repairs, mortgage, not a single penny. Oh, and obviously you left out the part where you didn't pay child support the entire time?
In his mind, he was dealing with her so we were using his old manipulation tactics, glossing over events and ignoring others. Thing is, she had told her lawyer all those things. So when he approached with the trying to blow it off attitude her lawyer came back with 'Well, what about this this this and this?'
Then he came back with 'Can't we settle this out of court?'
If he'd actually given his lawyer the full story, he would have gotten useful advice. Instead, he tried to social engineer his lawyer who told him what the best thing to do would be given the information he was given and it was woefully different from what the advice would have been had they been told the whole story.
Always tell the full truth to your lawyer kids."
"At a deposition, it’s the questioning lawyer’s responsibility to ask the right questions to get the info he or she is after, and the lawyer has to be thorough and methodical. If they neglect to ask about something, that’s their problem. Those defending the witness always tell the witness not to volunteer information and to just respond to the questioning lawyer’s questions. Again - don’t volunteer.
I had a witness come in and we went through the whole preparation meeting where I gave her all the instructions and told her not to volunteer. Again - don’t volunteer. I ask if she’s reviewed anything to prepare. Nope, so that’s good. (You have to disclose things you’ve reviewed.)
We go through the deposition and she does fine. Questioning lawyer is done, he’s packing up his stuff, the court reporter is packing up her stuff, and the lawyer is waking toward the door.
Witness says, 'Did you want to see this?' and pulls out a stack of books that no one had ever asked about, she hadn’t told me about, and which contained stuff that the other side was able to use.
"I had to try to defend a man who walked into a convenience store with a knife demanding money. He wore no masks, just his casual clothes, and walked through every aisle before he robbed it being spotted by every security camera in the store.
After the robbery, he ran back to the hotel he was staying at, also carrying an open back pack full of money (being seen by the hotel’s security cameras in the process.) He then went into his room threw the bag on the floor and hid under a bed until police arrived. I spent a long night thinking about it before passing the case to somebody else. Because I have no idea how to defend someone who has so much evidence against them.
"My friend's mom was a defense lawyer for a hospital- her job was to represent doctors accused of malpractice or anything relating to doctor or patient interaction.
I forget all of the details, but she had one case where a female patient had accused a male doctor of assault. The claim was that the doctor groped the patient several times during a procedure.
Allegedly, the doctor had been coached to say that during a routine procedure, it's possible that he had inadvertently brushed up against the patients chest, and that if it happened, it was an unintentional consequence of following standard procedures.
So they get to the deposition, and I guess the first question the doctor gets is something along the lines of, 'Walk me through what happened,' and the doctor says, 'I don't know what you want me to say, man. I'm a chest guy. Always have been.'
"I had a family client whose ex wasn’t letting him see his kid. So we were in court with him explaining how important parenting was to him, how much he loved being a father, etc.
After 45 minutes of this the mother says ‘I don’t know why he’s saying this, he abandoned his other kids’.
Cue me who has never heard him mention having other kids. Turned out, yeah, 100% abandoned them, has had no contact for years, never made any efforts."
"My brother started dating the girl right after he and his first fiancé called things off. From the get-go, this new girl was bat-crazy. He brought her home to hang out, and she burst into my room without warning to introduce herself and tried to hang out with me. She told my brother she wanted him to get me, our mom, and our step-dad together downstairs so we could all meet and play board games. She found our dad and stepmom on Facebook and friended them. She was the weirdest clingy girl I've ever seen. My brother wasn't looking for that kind of relationship, so he ended it with her.
This girl proceeded to mess with our house, his car, his friends; she started making calls to the local police saying she'd seen criminal mischief happening and she thought it was my brother. After months of trying to ignore her and hoping she'd go away, it didn't work. My brother came home and found her sitting on our porch with this other girl. Apparently they were in a relationship and they wanted my brother to sleep with them and get them pregnant so they could have kids. My brother snapped after months of stalking and basically threatened her with violence if she didn't leave him the heck alone.
A few weeks later, he got served to show in court to determine an order of protection against him filed by that girl. He didn't bring a lawyer and he didn't expect her to have one. Anyway, her lawyer started talking about how my brother had threatened his client and she felt like she was in danger and how my brother deserved to be locked up. She also tried to have him banned from being near the local elementary schools, for reasons unknown to us. My brother was entitled to call witnesses so he called our mother, me, our stepdad, and the three friends. Each of us detailed the months of stalking and property destruction. Then my brother presented the photos he had of everything she'd done, the screenshots of messages sent to him, to me, to our relatives, on cellphone and social media.
Based on the look on her lawyer's face she hadn't mentioned (and had probably lied about it) she'd instigated everything. My brother was given an order of protection against her, that she ended up breaking a few weeks later. She moved away after she was released from county jail and last I heard she sells her body for money."
"So we are at a bail hearing for the client, an older guy in his 70s accused of assaulting his granddaughter who is in her teens. We are just wrapping up, have made all our arguments that the client is an upstanding member of the local immigrant community, no priors, and the judge has granted bail with a reasonable bond. All done right?
No. The client insist he wants to say a few things... So he stands up and gives his bit; that he hadn't mentioned to his lawyer at all; about how he doesn't get why there is all this fuss, he didn't even penetrate her with his member after all, and she was asking for it with that short skirt. At this point, the judge tries to interrupt this by suggesting that maybe this comment would be better suited for sentencing, but the old guy isn't done digging. He just has to tell everyone how he really doesn't know why people are wasting so much time over all of this, as he is going to fly back to his home country in a couple of days anyway.
So yeah, apparently that one didn't go well."
"I had a client come in and spin me this yarn about how he owed all these child support arrears, and the payments are killing him and could I file a petition to have the payment reduced? He spins this tale of his spouse alienating the children and that's why he never saw them. I filed the petition and the clerk called me aside one day and said I might want to review his actual divorce file, not just his child support file. That was a wild ride. Orders of protection due to stalking, losing his visitation due to substance use, not making a single child support payment in 14 years.... I do the best I can until he admits on the stand that he smokes a carton a week and drinks over a liter a day .... so that's over $200/week in smokes and drinks (and a little weed sometimes).
It did not go well. I was a baby attorney at the time and I could tell the judge wanted to tear me a new one for even filing this but I was so beaten down by the end of the hearing that it would have been child abuse at that point."
"My aunt is a retired lawyer. She once had to defend a guy who was in the possession of weed and other substances. He swore he didn't have any, but he obviously did because on the days leading up to his trial he looked and smelled worse than the day before. Finally, on the day of his trial, he showed up with a smoke in his mouth and an adult beverage can.
He was high as heck, and there was obviously something in his system. My aunt told me as she was retelling this story, 'As soon as he walked in, I knew it was about time for me to freaking retire'
PS. He lost the case, even though my aunt tried to get him a lower sentence, I think he's serving like 20 years or something now."
"I had a client come in for a driving while under the influence charge. She was about 40, and her mother came with her. She went into this story about her medications and how she wasn’t drinking, and she was framed by her ex that was the supervising sergeant of the officer who arrested her.
There was some difficulty getting the video from the prosecutors, but eventually we got it. Up to that point, she had insisted on a trial. I took her (without her mom) to watch the video. She was wasted. Couldn’t walk straight. Clearly hammered. Admitted on the video she drank half a bottle before driving.
I asked her if she thought we could convince the jury she wasn’t hammered. She then agreed to take the reduction I had worked out for her (thankfully the prosecutor hadn’t watched the video yet). Her mother was furious with me. I told her it was the clients decision; not mine or the moms.
Client eventually reached out to thank me for not showing the video to her mom. Weird relationship."
"My first summer I worked at a criminal defense firm, and got tasked with watching all the police footage from our OWI cases. My FAVORITE involved a woman (our client) calling police on some teens swimming at the apartment complexes indoor pool. She claimed they were drinking, they clearly weren't. So, the cops ask them to try to keep it down and are about to be on their way when, for some insane reason, our client drives up to the community building (her apartment unit was across the street) like a crazy person. You clearly see her almost hit an officer, then have the audacity to start yelling at them to do their job. You see where this is going right? This girl was trashed. It was obvious from her entire demeanor and also she left her home only wearing one shoe. She was legitimately in no risk of police conflict prior to this.... she definitely got an OWI.
Another client, who was a good guy just going through a rough time, got arrested for a OWI and was found wearing sunglasses....in the middle of the night. The officer asked if he needed them for a prescription, to which our client replied 'No, I didn't even realize I was wearing them.'
When he was being booked at the station, the officer asked if he had any priors and he replied 'just a few light murders'. I laughed for way to long at that one. He had some other good zingers, but I can't remember.
There was also the gentleman, who called me at eight am exactly on a Friday, to discuss, in explicit detail, his foot fetish because he was afraid a girl would claim he forced her to let him smell her feet. I was not emotionally prepared to deal with that first thing in the morning.
There are so many more, which is why I love criminal law so much, but it's not for the faint of heart."
"Company I worked for at the time was doing due diligence before acquiring a small tech startup. The COO of the tech startup was a well-liked guy in the company, friendly and outgoing. Though we had heard rumblings that the COO was rather hands-on with the work and with female employees. Apparently there was a walk-away package proposed to the COO that would let him keep a sizable portion of his post-acquisition bonus, because a young woman who worked in their sales department had filed HR complaints against the COO and obtained counsel. I sat in on the meeting with the COO and the company's retained lawyers while they grilled him about his contacts with the young woman. The COO denied ever having contact with her within the company without multiple other people present (those people said his behavior toward her in the meetings didn't raise any flags). The COO emphatically denied having any contact with her outside of work. The lawyers asked the questions a half-dozen different ways, and each time the COO denied any out of work contact.
Later, we meet with the woman and her lawyer with the COO not present. Her lawyer gives us a rather graphic card that came with a bouquet of flowers addressed to her from the COO. The guy had an account with a florist linked to his credit card.
When the company-retained lawyers confronted him he said, 'But I never had contact with her. It's not like I delivered the flowers myself.'
COO got terminated for cause so no walk-away package. At her request, the woman was given PTO until after the acquisition then moved to another one of the companies under our umbrella."
"My house was robbed. In addition to all the stuff the thief took, he also stole a bunch of my suits and all of my neck ties, I had a big collection, like 100 or so. However, the thief left fingerprints on a hard plastic box that I kept spare change in.
Fast-forward three months, the thief is caught in the act of robbing another house in the same neighborhood, same detectives on my case and this new theft. They fingerprint the guy and the fingerprints match the ones from my house. At the thief’s arraignment, I see him stroll in wearing my suit and my tie. I tell the district attorney, he says there’s really no way to prove it.
However, the tie he chose to wear was a one of kind street map of San Francisco and I still had all the documentation to prove it. The district attorney’s eyes widen and he informs the judge. The judge has the thief placed under arrest again for possession of stolen property. The thief’s lawyer was dumbfounded. It was a nice end to a rough situation!"
"Minor traffic cases can be the worst for this, believe it or not, because they are short and simple and often times the client isn't there. So if you get blindsided by something critical there's often no chance to consult with them to turn things around.
I had a simple speeding case, 70 mph in a 55. No big deal, if she does a driving improvement course they court will usually dismiss or reduce those, since her driving record wasn't bad.
When I showed up for her, I found out that she had been driving 70 up an unplowed snow lane, to get around all the others cars travelling in the lane that had been plowed because they were driving too slow. I didn't know it was even possible to drive 70 on fresh snow. The officer stated he'd already cut her a break by not writing the ticket for reckless driving, and the judge politely agreed he didn't feel comfortable reducing it under those circumstances. When I called her up after court to confirm, she did, claimed she'd just forgotten to mention it.
Now maybe I've lived too much of my life in the South, but that just boggles my mind as a detail you'd forget when hiring a lawyer for that incident. I would have told her in advance that hiring us was a waste of money, not to mention the hassle of taking an eight-hour class, and she should probably just go ahead and pay this one. I legitimately do that all the time during consults; give my honest assessment if the case is even worth doing, and so by omitting that detail she harmed herself for no reason. At least she took it well and didn't get defensive."