There are upsides and downsides to every profession, and if you’re a lawyer, I’d guess that the hours – along with not getting to always choose your clients – must be two of the worse parts of the job.
After you read about what these 15 lawyers say is their most shocking case ever, you’ll have to decide for yourself whether or not the great pay is really worth it.
15. Not a small-time arrest.
I’m an immigration lawyer. I do mostly VAWA and asylum, but I handle other stuff on occasion.
I had a prospective client come in a few weeks ago. He’s interested in pursuing a relatively straightforward application. He tells me that he might have a criminal history that could affect his immigration. It’s only one arrest though, he says. It happened in 19XX. And it’s not serious.
“OK,” I say. It happens. Nobody’s perfect, and a single arrest is generally not a deal-breaker.
So, as I’m talking with him, I decide to Google his pretty unique name. A news article comes up, from his country, in his language. It’s dated the same year he said… 19XX. Hm.
I ask him: “what kind of crime did you say it was?”
“Oh,” he says, “I think it was drug related.” I figure, alright, marijuana arrest or something: nothing we can’t overcome.
I click through to the article. The photo on the article sure looks like a lot like the prospective client. Turns out, prospective client’s arrest was not for marijuana at all. It was for cocaine. And not a little cocaine. This guy was caught attempting to smuggle XX pallets of cocaine. I must have looked a little bug-eyed, because the guy gave me a sort of sheepish look and a shrug.
I tell the prospective client, maybe we should start by filing a few FOIA requests (Freedom of Information Act Requests) to see what comes up, and we’ll go from there. He agrees, and that’s that.
I’ll double check my suspicions against the government record, and let the client know what can, or cannot, be done.
Suffice it to say, getting caught smuggling multiple pallets of cocaine is not a small-time arrest. But, you never know what is or isn’t true, and you should always do your due diligence.
14. Not in the budget.
I used to work as a legal secretary for a personal injury lawyer.
He told me about a case where his client had radiation burns from an x-ray machine. In the avalanche of documents he received from the defendant during discovery, he found an internal memo.
The memo described a serious problem with the machines and continued: “This is an issue we can’t ignore… unfortunately, it’s not in the budget”.
When the case went to trial, he told the jury, “Show them they need to put this in the budget next time.” The jury complied, handing down one of the largest verdicts California had ever seen.
13. It can always get worse.
Client of mine is an extremely nice guy: he was a green card (permanent residence) applicant, and worked on a fishing boat in Alaska.
When he’s out on the boats though, fishing for crab or whatever, there’s no way for anybody to communicate with him and he’s out there for months at a time. Phone calls and letters aren’t reaching anybody out in the middle of the Bering Strait.
One such a time when he was out there, he apparently got stabbed all the way through the chest with a huge hook thing in a freak accident. Nobody state-side knew, of course. Client was taken (somehow) to the hospital, and survived, but I didn’t hear from him for literal months.
Well, the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services) happens to issue this guy an interview notice. He’s nowhere to be found. The USCIS mark him absent for his interview. I try to reach out to him, but cannot find him.
The USCIS then denies this poor guy’s case.
But, it gets worse: he calls me about a month later. He tells me all about the hook on the ship, but also tells me that after he got home from the hospital, his wife was upset that he didn’t earn her any money due to his injury, and then basically beat the hell out of him with a baseball bat, took all of his money and things, and left him for dead.
So, he’s back in the hospital.
This guy was like, the single most mild-mannered, nicest guy ever. I ended up putting in huge amounts of unpaid work for months to turn this guy’s application around: we switched up his green card application and filed a self-petition through the Violence Against Women Act.
That was its own fiasco, but not nearly as interesting a story. We ended up getting his green card approved in what felt like a miracle, and he’s now back in Alaska, happily fishing and living his best life.
He still calls me once in a while, just to say hello and thank you. Such a nice guy.
Immigration work is brutal, exhausting, and soul-sapping. But, sometimes, you do something really good, for somebody who really deserves it. And that makes it all worthwhile.
12. Grief is so powerful.
I’m not a lawyer but I worked in a foreclosure mediation/diversion court as a counselor.
Usually it was people with bad luck, unemployment or addiction that lead them there. Heavy stuff but became run of the mill.
One guy I will never forget. He comes in and at first it looks like a standard unemployment deal. There are programs with mortgage companies to deal with. He was a dock worker, made pretty good money, but hadn’t worked for 6 months and was about to lose the house.
I ask for his story and he tells me it all started 20 years ago. His older son was in the army in Korea at a base on deployment and his younger son was at a high school party in their town. Apparently he gets into it with another kid over a girl, and the kid grabs a barbecue fork and stabs the son in the neck. His youngest bleeds out before an ambulance arrives. The older son is devastated because he wasn’t there to protect his brother.
The father and mother end up divorcing over the grief. But older son returns, makes a life. Has a couple young kids and it all seems good. But six months prior he just walks into his garage and shoots himself in the head. Leaves a note that he can’t live with not having been there for his baby brother even after all these years.
So my client goes into a depressive state, stops working, stops paying bills. Just can’t deal with the grief and destruction of his family that that one event emanated. What pulled him out of almost killing himself was that the guy who killed the younger son came up for parole. He went and spoke against him getting out and then realized he had to live for his grandkids.
I still think about that dude regularly, grief is so powerful it pulsates out and destroys if you don’t have the right support.
11. What on earth?
NAL, my brother and multiple other kids were part of a case where a lady showed up to a children’s football practice and sprinted after several of them screaming that she was going to kick their a$$es and started screaming at my brother “YOU WANT A PIECE OF ME?!” while chasing after him.
These kids were as young as 8 years old. The extra crazy part was in court when her lawyer asked a witness at the stand, one of the coaches that we’ll call “Tim Jones”, “Sir, what is your relationship with Tim Jones?” Tim responded, slightly confused, “I **am** Tim Jones.”
10. Not just a mistake.
A family law matter. I was a newly-minted attorney who couldn’t find work in the early 2010s and took anything that came to me.
Custody battle. I represented mom. Dad lived with his father (grandfather) who had been convicted TWICE of violently raping other grandchildren.
Easy case, right? No.
Because mom absolutely forbade me from bringing grandfather’s convictions before the judge. Said he made “some mistakes” and while she wanted full custody, of course, she felt bad that grandfather’s “past mistakes” might be used against him in the future, forever.
I brought it up to the judge anyway. She fired me on the spot, during oral arguments.
She ended up suing me. It was a mess. Would do it again.
9. As strange as it gets.
Back in the day I investigated and later in my career prosecuted lots of arsons so I worked a lot of fire cases. One time the crews roll up on a garage fire. They are met by the home’s resident holding a blood-soaked towel to his crotch.
The medics get him stable and transported. He later tells us the voice told him to eat a whole box of saltine crackers without drinking any water and he was like ok, and did that. Then the voice told him to eat the newspaper and he was like check. Then the voice said to cut off his testicles with a can opener and he was like yep. Then the voice said set the van on fire in the garage and he was like you got it.
He did all those things in that order, and there were the scene photos of the testicles right there on the garage floor.
We got him into mental health court and he did pretty well.
8. As he should have.
She told me “Well, we are defending a doctor who made a mistake. One of his patients was suffering from an eye condition that required a unique recovery.
After surgery, the patient had to lie face down for the entirety of their day to prevent further eye damage. It had something to do with eye pressure and a gas buildup near the back of the eye.
As it turns out, the patient wanted to fly on a plane and would intend to keep their eyes down through the whole flight. The doctor we’re defending didn’t tell the patient that they couldn’t fly during the recovery.”
The next part definitely sucked.
When the patient took off on the plane, everything was OK. During descent, which people with ear problems can attest, the rapid change in pressure messed up this patients condition.
They went completely blind in both eyes due to the descent of the plane. The doctor lost.
7. I have no idea what’s wrong with people.
I was clerking at the time. Little kid fight club. Bunch of mom’s put their kids in a circle and made them fight each other gladiator style. Real dark stuff.
Video included two 10yo girls beating the crap out of each other. Bets were taken but not on all fights. Some were just for entertainment. No fathers involved.
6. Do you need to see it?
TL;DR: lady wanted to show me her vagina, it just happened to not be attached to her body.
I already told one shocking story in this thread, but I got another that is a different kind of shocking.
I was pretty new to the practice and was meeting with a lot of clients. The firm I worked for had a lot of walk-ins and I was processing the potential clients.
I called in the next person and a mid-30s women walked in carrying a red and white cooler. She pops in down on my desk and the spends about 5 mins trying to sit down in the chair. My first thought was “must be some kind of personal injury.”
First words out of her mouth after she sits, “I need to sue my doctor because my vagina just fell out.”
My eyes immediately lock onto the cooler.
“Yes. I brought in with my just in case you needed to see it. Do you want to see it?” She begins to open the cooler.
Not gonna lie..I was curious but I stopped her and convinced her that a hospital was her best option at the moment.
Turns out she had vaginal reconstruction and the mesh came out in one big blob. Now, this is not my area of expertise. I am a corporate attorney. So I sent her to someone with more expensive.
5. Of course she knew.
I normally defend construction defect and personal injury matters, nothing too crazy. Early in my career we got a case involving a husband and wife who ran a foster home and one kid was alleging the husband had molested them. I was assigned to defend only the wife under their homeowners insurance policy.
The allegations against the husband were bad, but the wife had no idea what was going on. Here was this poor woman, who was also a former foster child, trying to give back and help other foster children in the system, and now she finds out her husband is a child molester. It was heartbreaking and we just wanted to get her out of the case.
Then we get more documents and learn this isn’t the first child to make allegations. The dad had been doing this for years and she knew it.
Maybe she was involved, maybe she just ignored it, either way the whole thing turned gross. I instantly wanted nothing to do with it.
A few weeks later, my boss (the coolest guy ever) comes in and says he gave the case back to the insurance carrier, thank god. That was the only case I’ve ever felt morally opposed to handling.
4. That’s not what lawyers are for.
I had a client one time who called me for everything. I was handling a mold case in her house but she was always asking questions. It was not a big deal, but it got a little tedious.
One day she calls me to tell me that there is smoke coming from the wall behind her stove and it smells like burning plastic. I tell her this isn’t a legal problem, but that she should really hang up right now and call 911 and ask for the fire department. She asks if I’m sure. I assure her that yes, this is the thing to do right now.
Turns out, wiring had caught fire and her apartment was burning, and all was saved by the FD. But, I just remember being flabbergasted that someone saw smoke in their house and thought “I gotta call my lawyer!”
3. Dark and mysterious.
Did an alleged Arson case for an insurance company once. The insured had to provide a list of all items he had lost including over 1000 book titles. Every book was the biography of a serial killer, we figured it was probably every book ever written about a serial killer.
Insured gave off serious dark and mysterious vibes
Who knows the truth
2. A family matter.
A mother sold the family farm out from under the son who was supposed to inherit it. Someone shot her (nonfatally).
There were so many suspects that almost every lawyer in the county was assigned to defend one of them. Forensics eventually narrowed it down to two suspects, but each so adamantly pointed at the other as the shooter that it was going to be hard to convince a jury beyond a reasonable doubt of either one’s guilt.
They both pleaded guilty to a lesser charge and served two years.
1. You don’t want to be here.
I am an attorney but the case that stuck with me most was one I sat in on during undergrad. I was a criminal justice major, and frequently had to go watch trials for class assignments.
I was in the military at the time so I had to cram these hours in randomly – if we had a light day, or I could take a long lunch, I would go to the closest courthouse and check what was available. One day I went down to the federal courthouse in Baltimore and checked the list – one criminal case, nothing else going.
I head upstairs and quietly walk in. Despite that, clearly everyone checks me out, which is odd – usually no one pays attention to the gallery. At the first break, a guy comes over and asks me who I am and why I’m there – hes office of special investigations with the air for e so I show him my id and explain I have to watch criminal trials. He gives me a weird look but doesn’t push.
As I’m sitting there, I slowly realize I SHOULD NOT BE HERE.
Air Force couple has a son, gets divorced. She takes son with her to her duty station in Japan, and remarries a civilian employee there. Dad is deployed, and then moves station, and keeps bugging her about when he can see the son; at some point she just stops responding.
A few months later, after dad has filed a report with her command requesting they make her communicate with him, dad gets a call from an OSI agent who he knows, asking him for his sons full name and DOB. Dad gives it to him, and agent says “look I didn’t tell you this but you need to call OSI on her base.”
Mom had gone to the field and 8 year old son had been bugging the step dad while he was gaming. Step dad got pissed off at beat the kid with the first thing to hand – a piece of bannister from the stair he was working in. Mom came back from the field two days later and found the son unconscious, still on the floor.
Because step dads last home of record was in Maryland, he was tried in federal court in Baltimore. I sat through the ER doc who treated the son, who talked about seeing the internal crush injuries and the coroner who talked about how hard you would have to hit a 8 year old on the front to cause bruising on his back.
I also sat through the dad talking about finding out his son was gone. After that day, I always went to misdemeanor court for my hours.
I’m not sure, y’all. I don’t think I would be able to hack it.
If you’re a lawyer, answer this question for us in the comments!