My Lawyer Made Conflicting Arguments In My Case


If your case goes to trial, you may be surprised to find your attorney follow a well-made legal argument with an admission that, if that argument fails, he can propose another. Why would a lawyer admit that one argument may lose, and put forth a second or third argument?

While many people would expect this to be weak lawyering, the reality is just the opposite. In fact, a party in a lawsuit is not limited to one argument, and is better served by fully developing and encouraging each potentially successful arguments. Rather than make all arguments appear weaker, as many believe this tactic would do, it is an understood method to arguing legal points, and any less would be a disservice to a client.

These alternative and often conflicting arguments are called “Arguments in the alternative” in the legal world, and can serve many purposes. For one, they can preempt objections that may appear from the judge or the other side in the case.

For instance, if you are on trial for murder, you may argue that the case was one of mistaken identity, and that although a murder occurred, you were not present and did not commit the crime. But in the alternative, you argue, you were the one there accused of the crime, but your actions did not amount to murder, and were in fact only self-defense.

But don’t such arguments lead a jury to believe you are guilty? It certainly depends on the circumstances of the case. For a bench trial, one in which a judge tries your facts and determines whether you were guilty, these arguments are generally expected and less dangerous. But even in a jury trial, if used correctly, arguments in the alternative can be useful and successful, and often extremely important to a successful trial.

This information is not intended to be legal advice.

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