So you want to be a criminal lawyer...

Why Rafael Nadal is My Legal Hero

I have always loved watching the tennis rivalry between Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.  I especially loved the contrast between these two tennis legends. Roger Federer is smooth, effortless and always seems in control.  Rafael Nadal is always sweating and exuding intensity on every point. Nadal always seems to me like he is trying to impose his will and wear down his opponent from the other side of the court.

If I had to summarize the Nadal philosophy of tennis in one word, it would be this: one more.

One more shot.  I am not going to let a difficult ball go past me to preserve my energy for the next point.  One more shot and you never know what happens. One more seemingly impossible or useless shot, even if I lose the point, and it is my opponent that gets tired and not me.  Never give up on any ball. Never concede a point. Never preserve energy. Give everything you have on every point and see what happens.

Nadal won countless points with this strategy.  And countless matches. And against Roger Federer, the only times in his career where the smooth Federer did not look in command were against Nadal imposing his will against him from across the tennis court.

Nadal has paid a price for this style of play with injuries. His knees have taken a pounding. He has missed a lot more time and a lot more tournaments than Federer. Federer is still playing into his late 30s. Nadal is unlikely to last as long because of his style of play.

Whatever the costs are, I believe a criminal lawyer has no choice but to try to imitate Nadal. In every criminal case, the stakes are incredibly high. There is no preserving yourself for the next case. 

I always try to channel Nadal when I am in a trial.  Hit the ball back. One more argument. One more. If you live to fight another day, you never know what happens.  Fight everything tooth and nail and see what happens. Win or lose, everyone respects the effort that you put in. Some of the most interesting legal cases that are the focus of study in law school are cases with seemingly terrible facts where a defence lawyer took some aspect of the case and argued it all the way to the Supreme Court and – sometimes – won.  Watching Nadal play tennis is a good lesson for defence lawyers and for life - never give up on anything that comes your way, fight tooth and nail and you never know what happens. More often than not you win.

Congratulations to Rafael Nadal on his astonishing 13th French Open Championship

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