Sometimes lawyers get a bad rap. People can think that lawyers are just money hungry flakes that will lie and deceive people and bend the laws to get their way, but there are many that are practicing law for the right reasons. It can be quite difficult preparing everything needed for a case and requires a vast knowledge of the laws. Both of these put together when losing a case can result in an extremely unhappy lawyer, but when they win, it can one of the most satisfying things for them. Here are stories from real lawyers about the most satisfying moments they had in court. Content has been edited for clarity.
"The complaining witness accused my client of harassment/stalking. Said she told him numerous times that she wanted nothing to do with him. My client claimed they were dating, but whenever she got mad at him, she'd call the police and say he was harassing her.
On the stand, she testified that she'd never dated him, never invited him into her home, wanted nothing to do with him. She presented a photo on her phone of him sitting on her porch to prove that he had come to her property.
I asked the judge permission to look at the photos on her phone that appeared before and after the porch photo for context.
This girl had dozens of photos of the guy, who was clearly her boyfriend. I showed her one such picture:
'This is Mr. So-and-so, right?' (yes)
'In this photo, he's on a bed?' (yes)
'The bed is yours?' (yes)
'The bed is in your bedroom?' (yes)
'You took this photo of him?' (yes)
'He's smiling in the photo?' (yes)
'And in this photo, he's wearing your brassiere?' (yes)
'No further questions, your honor.'"
"As a young attorney, I had stated a claim that an insurance company was dragging out a case in bad faith, in hopes that my elderly client would die before they had to pay him. I was requesting that the trial date be given priority due to my client's advanced age.
My client would have been a very important and very sympathetic witness at trial. While his video deposition could have been introduced if he were unavailable, it likely would not have had the same gravity as in-person testimony, especially if the jury had reason to know he was deceased and would never see a damage award.
The judge was no spring chicken himself, and seemed skeptical when he asked exactly how old my client was, maybe thinking that he was in his 70s and must merely seem ancient to a baby lawyer like me. When I responded that my client was 92, and the case has already gone on for 5 years, the judge was visibly shocked, and immediately granted my motion for priority, shutting down the insurance company's attorney's attempt to respond. They wrote us a check for a million dollars the next week.
To be fair, the check would have been a lot smaller if they hadn't tried to wait him out. His actual damages were only a few hundred thousand max, but the bad faith insurance claim opened the door for a much higher recovery, in excess of the policy limit. So when they saw we had a fighting chance at getting that, they just gave us the entire policy limit to settle.
Getting a million bucks was a really good day for us, but it's small beans for any insurer."
"I represented a man in a slip and fall case in a national chain that grills chicken. The restaurant is not supposed to clean the grills until after they close because it is a huge sloppy mess that involves using a garden hose after applying chemicals to remove all of the grease. The close down process can take up to two to three hours that involve packing up the food for the next day, scrubbing the grills, mopping, etc. Even though the corporation knew this, they refused to pay more than one hour worth of wages after closing time. Thus, the shift managers and cooks decided that they would start the closing process two hours before closing while there were still customers in the restaurant. This is really dangerous as employees delivering food can track the greasy water into the lobby where the customers were.
On one fateful day, two hours before closing, one of the cooks was cleaning the grills and using the hose to wash them down. This slurry is so slick that the cook has to wear a plastic smock and slip resistant shoes for the process. While he was waiting for the chemicals to remove the grease which takes about 15 minutes, the cook goes into the lobby, tracking this stuff into a hallway, to wipe down some tables. My client walks out of the restroom and slips in the greasy water. He hits his head so hard that it causes a subdural hematoma which requires surgery to relieve the swelling and blood from the brain. Go figure, the video system wasn't working that day.
In any case, right after that the cook was fired and the corporation claimed that they could not locate him during litigation. I did some research and found a relative of the cook which eventually led to me finding him. He admitted that he was cleaning the grill, but denied that he was the one that tracked the greasy water into the lobby as did all of the other employees. The corporation during the entire three week trial testified that cleaning before closing was against their policy and it NEVER happens. Thus, it had to be anything else that caused my client to fall.
I was talking to the cook before trial because we were going to call him as a witness. He was ticked that they fired him. I asked, 'Do you think they are still cleaning before closing because they are denying that they do.'
He told me, 'Absolutely.' On the first day of trial, I sent my investigator to the restaurant at the time my client was injured which was two hours before closing to record video on his cell phone whether they were cleaning or not. Guess what, they had the hose out and everything. I couldn't believe that they would continue to do this at the restaurant at issue in the case. I told my investigator to go back up there when there is a different shift manager and cook to see if they are doing the same thing. They were.
At the end of the trial, the defense put on their general manager for the region. He swore up and down that this never happens. He was their last witness. We get up and say, Judge we need a side bar. In the Judge's chambers we revealed the videos to the other side. The attorney for the corporation was freaking out. The Judge let it in for rebuttal.
The last thing the jury saw before going into deliberations was five minutes of video with audio of the hose as they were cleaning the grills two hours before closing. We completely wiped out their entire defense in a three week trial with that video. Needless to say, we prevailed.
I should add, using sub rosa video against a defendant like this is very rare. They usually stop doing what they are not supposed to be doing during the trial. I guess the restaurant didn't get the memo."
"I represented a company that was sued for breach of contract by a former independent contractor. Dude basically alleged that my client wasn’t paying him correctly in accordance with the contract.
During his deposition, the dude admits that he never reviewed any documents to make sure his allegations were true, never reviewed his complaint before filing it to make sure the allegations in it were true, and had no idea whether or not my client actually failed to pay him in accordance with the contract. Basically, he tells me that he was suing my client because he didn’t think their agreement was fair (even though he agreed to the terms when he signed the contract). The kicker is that he admitted that he OWED my client money.
At arbitration, he tries to flip his story and starts giving testimony that is the exact opposite of his dep, so I whip out his transcript and undermine his testimony bit by bit. Needless to say, I won that case."
"I was on the losing end of this one. I was representing a pro bono defendant who was attempting to regain custody of her children. The Family Division attorney was laying out his case to the judge for why my client wasn’t ready, and his final point was that my client had refused emotional counseling to avoid violent fits of rage that she had inflicted on her children.
On cue, my client jumps up screaming: 'EFF YOU JUDGE LADY! YOU A STUPID expletive! EFF Y’ALL FOR TAKING MY EFFING KIDS YOU EFFING expletive!'
I just caught the opposing attorney’s smirk of satisfaction as I got up to usher my client out of the courtroom."
"My friend was defending a client (who we'll call Bill) who was being sued for causing actual bodily harm through negligence - A young guy had been working for Bill and tripped in the storeroom, landing on his shoulder. He rang in sick for several weeks and then complained that he could no longer work due to the injuries sustained and wished to sue for lost earnings. Despite a suggestion from other workers that the guy had purposely been disobeying safety rules when he tripped, Bill offered to pay all medical expenses but the offer was rejected and a lawsuit was filed.
Whilst the guy was giving evidence to the judge, my friend was taking a last minute look through the doctor's notes and realized he could prove the guy was lying. He asked the guy why his arm was still in a sling several months afterwards, and then asked him to explain how debilitating his injury was. The guy spent several minutes going into great detail as to how his life had been affected.
My friend then asked him to describe the nature of the injury and if the medical notes were correct. The guy looked everything over and confirmed that everything was correct. My friend then pointed out to the judge that the guy was right handed and would have probably used his right arm to break his fall, and the medical notes said the guy had complained of pain in his right arm. However he was now wearing a sling on his left arm and had continually been using his right arm to drink water and gesticulate whilst talking to the judge.
The guy had no answer for it and the case was dismissed immediately."
"One time we had a lawsuit against the owner of a Mexican restaurant for not paying his employees and keeping the waiter's tips. He was just a terrible all-around guy. He created these fake handwritten schedules and payroll records going back years to try and prove that his employees didn't work but a few hours each week and were paid for what they did work. It was difficult to prove they were fakes. But we managed to trap him during his deposition.
I made the guy go through random bits of his work schedule and asked him to confirm they were correct. We did a random week in February, March, April... Then we got to May.
'So here in early May, you had two servers working every night, one hostess, one bartender, and two cooks?'
'And that didn't fluctuate. You didn't have a need for extra staff on, say, weekend nights?'
'No. It was very steady no matter the day.'
'What about on this Wednesday? How much staff did you need?'
'Just the two servers, my hostess, the bartender and two cooks. The same as every other night.'
'And if you would indulge me, what date are we looking at?'
'Okay. So it's your testimony under oath that you had the same staffing needs on May the 5th as you did on May 4th and May 6th.'
Opposing counsel's head begins to hang while shaking.
'So you are comfortable telling the judge you didn't do extra business on May 5th.'
'Yeah. Or June 17th or whatever date you pick. It was always steady.'
'You have no problem walking into court and telling the judge and the jury, under oath, that your Mexican restaurant didn't need any extra help on May 5th. That these schedules and payroll records you've produced are 100% accurate. For Cinco de Mayo? You are totally comfortable with doing that?'
'Yeah, I... Oh.'
The case settled within a week."
"I was in court for a ticket for getting pulled over on my cell phone, except for the little fact that I wasn't on my cell phone.
For the background, I was leaning on the arm rest in the center of the car stopped at a red light so the mirror would block the sun while still letting me see the traffic light (visor would have blocked both). I drive a little further and get pulled over. It goes something like this:
Cop: 'I pulled you over for talking on your phone.'
Me: 'I wasn't on my phone.'
Cop: 'Don't lie to me, I know you have a cell phone.'
Me: 'Yes I have one, but no, I wasn't on it.'
Cop: 'See! I knew you had a phone.'
Me: 'Can I show you my call logs? They'll prove I wasn't on it.'
Cop: 'No, those can be faked. Here's your ticket, if you don't like it, I'll see you in court.'
Cop pulls away and I realize I'm going to fight this to the end. Not worth hiring a lawyer at this point, but I realize I need to establish the timeline. So I make one key phone call, leave a message, and wait for my day in court.
I show up at court and get in line to talk to the prosecutor. I try to show him my evidence. He dismisses it saying I can't get this tossed because of a slight time discrepancy on the ticket. I can either pay the full thing or go to court. I say ok, I guess we're going through this.
Finally the big moment. I'm up before the judge (honestly nervous as all get out since I've never been before a judge in my life and I'm barely out of my teens). Judge reads the details of the officers complaint.
Judge: 'It says at 6:17pm on xx/xx/xxxx you were talking on your phone while driving. You say that's not true. Can you explain what happened?'
Me: 'I had just left my dad's house and was driving to the local Blockbuster. I was on Main Street when I was pulled over. I tried to explain that I wasn't talking on my phone to the officer, but he didn't believe me and gave the ticket to me anyway.'
Judge: 'Do you have anything to show you weren't on your phone?'
Me: 'Yeah, I have my phone logs printed from the carrier. They'll show I wasn't on my phone at the time.'
Judge: 'Has the prosecutor seen those?'
Me: 'I tried to show them to him before, but he didn't seem to think they mattered.'
Prosecutor: 'Let me see those again.... Here, Judge, it says he made a call at 6:17PM.'
Me: 'Yes, I did make a call at that point. If you notice the number I called, it was to this court. I made that phone call after I was pulled over. I left a message with the court explaining I had just been pulled to find next steps. You'll see my previous call was 45 minutes prior.'
The judge found me not guilty."
"I do mostly solicitor work so if I'm doing my job right, I don't get a whole lot of these type of moments. That being said, I had a long-time client who was being sued and I got to shut down the guy suing him in a very satisfying way.
So my client had hired a guy, we will call Kevin, as basically a right-hand man for his company. The employment contract wasn't done yet but they had an agreement that Kevin would work six weeks at a lower wage and then sign the contract and get the agreed upon wage. So the guy works decently for 5 weeks and then is given the contract to sign. He comes back to the owner (my client) and says that he has some small changes he would like to make.
When the owner gets the contract back he finds that the 'small changes' involve removing the 'Duties and Responsibilities' section (basically the job description) and the non-compete/confidentiality clause. Not only that but he has written in a higher salary than agreed and added a bunch of new benefits for himself.
Obviously, my client tells him that he can either sign the contract as it was originally laid out or he can find himself another job. He takes the latter option. But he starts a lawsuit against the owner wanting to be paid for the six weeks he was supposed to work (which had already been paid), two weeks in lieu of notice and FIVE weeks vacation pay.
I got the enjoyable job of telling Kevin, in front of a judge that he was not entitled to anything under the employment legislation and the only way he could get any of that would be if he had signed the contract. Judge dismissed the case and awarded costs to the defendant but not before giving Kevin a lecture on wasting the court's time."
"I helped the prosecution rest his case.
I got jammed up during spring break doing dumb spring break shenanigans. So there I was in court to face the music (misdemeanors). As I sat there waiting for my turn, I watched person after person go before the judge. The prosecutor read their charges and some information from the police report, stating what the potential max sentence was for each/all (I don't remember exactly). Then the judge asked what plea they wanted to enter. Almost everyone said 'Not Guilty' and I could see that both the judge and prosecutor were getting tired of their shenanigans.
FINALLY, my turn came. I was probably 2nd to last after what seemed like hours, but may not have been.
The prosecutor read off my charges and cited the police report. The judge looked at me with this 'let's just get it out of the way. tell us you're not guilty' look and asked how I pled.
'Guilty, your honor.'
The judge and the prosecutor both looked at each other and the judge said (I kid you not) 'I beg your pardon?'
'Guilty your honor. I did it. Just the way officer so-and-so's report reads.'
They exchanged looks again and the prosecutor held his papers at arms length as if to get a better look at them and did the unthinkable.
'Your honor, this all reads to me like a case of college prank gone bad. The county moves to reduce charges to XYZ.'
I walked in there expecting some jail time and walked out paying like $110 plus costs.
I didn't really know how to feel about the scariest day of my life turning into one of the happiest ones."
"I was on the losing end. Represented a guy who had bought a company and the company failed spectacularly within months due to a number of reasons I could attribute to the seller, and they had clearly lied about the company’s finances to induce him to buy. I was suing to rescind the deal, have your dumb company back and give my guy his money back. I laid out my huge case and thought I had it in the bag, and then opposing counsel asked my guy:
'Isn't it true that you listed this business for sale a month ago' He replied, 'Yes.'
Then I asked, 'And you did sell it correct? You signed a purchase and sale?'
'Yes, but he never finished paying me, he has more payments to make. I’ll just give his money back when you guys give me my money back.'
My idiot client had me suing over a company that he had legally sold. The IDIOT never told me. Game over on the spot.
I was speechless. The judge immediately called us into chambers and asked me if i knew about this. He was ticked. We had to finish the trial though because they had counterclaims, and they won on one of those. So basically by trying this he cost himself $75k, they weren’t going to sue him until he sued them first. Nightmare case.
He said he thought that since the guy hadn't paid in full yet then he still owned the company. However the fact that he hid this whole thing from me makes me think he knew that wasn’t correct. My trial prep was exhaustive, it would have come out if he wasn’t trying to hide it.
I changed my contingency agreement after that dude, now if I lose because you lied or withheld information then you owe me for all my time. That lie cost me about $50k in expenses and time, would have been $175k if I had won. Judge told me if my guy hadn't lied he was ruling for me."
"So I call up my client's disgruntled former employee about a contract dispute that he started and that got my client into litigation. After two questions, it was obvious he was a lying jagoff. I didn't want to call him as a witness; he was prone to act unpredictably. I took down his story as we talked, which was easily proven false by documents and which cast my client in a false and bad light. I did not tell him how I'd caught him in lies.
Fast forward one day: I submit a list of known witnesses to opposing counsel, as required by the rules. Witness number one was the lying idiot.
Fast forward to trial: My opposing counsel calls the lying idiot as his first witness and the lying idiot acts like a lying idiot. He tells the same story on the witness stand that he told me on the phone. I took emails that he wrote and entered them into evidence and proved him a clear liar. My client didn't breach the contract, the party suing did.
After the lying idiot left the witness stand, I asked the court for a brief recess -- granted. I approached opposing counsel. My client was still willing to sign on to the walk-away settlement where no money changes hands and no fault was admitted. We offered the deal two months before and it was angrily rejected. Now, suddenly, it was accepted.