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get to the point

Can Lawyers Be Consistently Authentic?

By Theda C. Snyder

Regardless of whom you represent, when you act in accordance with your oath, you are being an authentic lawyer.

authentic lawyer

The word “authentic” seems to have morphed from referring to an objective status to a subjective one.

The word was first defined as “entitled to acceptance as factual” in the mid-14th century. “Authentic” traditionally meant something was worthy of trust, reliance or belief. Authenticating a document or work of art meant holding it to an objective standard (at least theoretically). In law, it meant executed with due process.

Most recently, authentic has come to mean true to oneself. In a recent interview, actor Henry Winkler who gained fame on “Happy Days” playing Fonzie, the ultimate cool guy, said, “Cool is being authentically yourself.”

We Hide Our Real Feelings

The landlord-tenant dispute was ordinary in many respects. The landlord said he was entitled to put the plaintiff-tenant’s belongings out in the street even though the rent was paid through the end of the month because the premises had been abandoned. My job as mediator was to stay neutral and help the parties settle.

As discussions progressed, I learned that the tenant’s residency was interrupted because he was arrested for breaking the conditions of his parole as a convicted child molester. I displayed no reaction to this information, and the mediation progressed.

As lawyers, we encounter clients, witnesses and other professionals who may arouse our strongest negative emotions. Whether we are representing individuals in a custody battle or monolith corporations accused of illegal pollution, we adhere to ethical advocacy for our clients regardless of our personal feelings. Can we say we are being authentic in those actions?

The answer is yes, you are being an authentic lawyer.

An Authentic Lawyer

When you were admitted to the bar, you took an oath. For example, as is typical throughout the United States, Texas lawyers swear to:

(1) support the constitutions of the United States and this state;

(2) honestly demean [behave] oneself in the practice of law;

(3) discharge the attorney’s duty to the attorney’s client to the best of the attorney’s ability; and

(4) conduct oneself with integrity and civility in dealing and communicating with the court and all parties.

Texas Government Code Section 82.037

You are not required to personally espouse your clients’ causes.

On the contrary, many of the nation’s best lawyers are renowned for advocating unpopular positions. David Boies’ clients have included tobacco companies, Theranos founder Elizabeth Holmes, and Harvey Weinstein, as well as Al Gore in Bush v. Gore. A lower-profile example is the daily caseload of the more than 9,000 public defenders who toil less glamorously and for much less compensation.

Regardless of whom you represent, when you act in accordance with your oath, you are being an authentic lawyer.

Lawyers Are Like Fusion Cuisine

Chefs put together the best parts of dishes from different cultures to produce delicious, unusual fusion cuisine. Beef steeped in Korean seasonings and served in a tortilla may not be authentically Korean or Mexican, but the inventors of the Korean taco acted according to their own motivations. They were authentic to themselves.

You don’t need to feel guilty about advocating for a cause you don’t believe in. The lawyer is not the party. So long as you are true to your profession, you are authentic.

Now go out for some ramen carbonara or a falafel cobb salad.

Image ©

Order of Adjectives

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Teddy Snyder Theda C. Snyder

Theda “Teddy” Snyder mediates civil disputes, workers’ compensation and insurance coverage cases, including COVID-19 related coverage disputes, in person or by video. Teddy has practiced in a variety of settings and frequently speaks and writes about settlements and the business of law. She was a Fellow of the College of Law Practice Management and is the author of four ABA books, including “Women Rainmakers’ Best Marketing Tips, 4th Edition” as well as “Personal Injury Case Evaluation” available on Based in Los Angeles, Teddy can be found at and on Twitter @SnyderMediation.

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