One would think that several co-defendants in the Georgia 2020 election subversion case are able to represent themselves, such as John Eastman, Sidney Powell, Rudy Giuliani, Jeffrey Clark, etc. due to their extensive experience and long career (example: Jeffrey Clark was former assistant U.S. attorney general).

But in a news article about John Eastman's surrender we read:

Eastman said in a statement provided by his lawyers that he was surrendering Tuesday “to an indictment that should never have been brought.” He lambasted the indictment for targeting “attorneys for their zealous advocacy on behalf of their clients” and said each of the 19 defendants was entitled to rely on the advice of lawyers and past legal precedent to challenge the results of the election.


Lawyers for Clark argued in a court filing Monday that he was a high-ranking Justice Department official and the actions described in the indictment “relate directly to his work at the Justice Department as well as with the former President of the United States.” Shafer’s attorneys argued that his conduct “stems directly from his service as a Presidential Elector nominee,” actions they say were “at the direction of the President and other federal officers.”

What are some of the most likely reasons for John Eastman and Jeffrey Clark to NOT represent themselves considering the cost of hiring other lawyers, the time they need to spend to explain themselves to others (not to mention potential misrepresentation), and that they know full well the laws under which they were charged?

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    There's an old saying about lawyers: "Only a fool has himself as a client." The practice of not representing yourself has nothing to do with Georgia, elections, or anything else. Assuming we don't have one already, asking why that is the case generally seems appropriate. Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 16:40
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    @dan04 I think the question is specifically asking why lawyers shouldn't represent themselves, while the linked question focuses on non-lawyer pro se defendants.
    – isaacg
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 16:43
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    Related Why do lawyers not represent themselves in their own areas of expertise?
    – user35069
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 16:52
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    Also, at least one of the people sued is an EX-lawyer: Guliani's law licensee was revoked.
    – Trish
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 19:52
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    @Trish an ex lawyer has as much right to represent himself as anyone else who lacks a law license. But Giuliani seems to have forgotten his constitutional law (odd for a former prosecutor?) so he is well advised to retain counsel. GratefulDisciple the assumption "they know full well the laws under which they were charged" doesn't seem warranted (neither Clark nor Eastman seems to have had much experience in criminal law) and is furthermore insufficient: a defense lawyer's knowledge of the law is probably among least important qualities. Knowing how to work the system is far more significant.
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 2:29

1 Answer 1


The most famous reason, often attributed to President Abraham Lincoln, although this is likely a misattribution, is that:

A man who represents himself, has a fool for a client.

People who represent themselves are less capable of exercising independent and dispassionate judgment about what the best actions to take are, and there are also procedural advantages to having a separate lawyer (e.g. when you testify as a witness, your lawyer can ask you questions).

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    And, it may depend on their specialist area. I can't speak for American attorneys, but I imagine e.g. a UK probate solicitor would not have the depth of knowledge for a criminal trial
    – user35069
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 16:57
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    @Rick The lawyers involved are plenty smart. But when you represent yourself you make dumb decisions, not because you aren't smart but because the fact that you are personally implicated clouds your judgment.
    – ohwilleke
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 17:19
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    Eastman may be best able to describe his own actions, but not necessarily have the best legal strategy or advocacy skills, or have the most time and resources. Even if he did, hiring someone with more detached and objective perspective could be useful, so as to not be blinded by his own emotions.
    – dan04
    Commented Aug 22, 2023 at 19:09
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    @GratefulDisciple "isn't John Eastman the very engineer of the Jan 6 scheme and thus he is most able to defend himself on the charge of subverting the election?" How? How is this different from "Big Al was the very engineer of the scheme to print $100 bills, so he is most able to defend himself on charges of conspiracy to counterfeit US currency"?
    – phoog
    Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 2:35
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    Yes, knowing the facts of the case is very different from knowing how to try a case. Any decent lawyer knows that know matter how well you know the facts -- and even the law governing those facts -- you'd be an idiot to try a case of any consequence if you aren't also familiar with the procedural rules governing your case. I could be wrong, but I doubt Eastman has any experience with Georgia's RICO statute or Georgia's Rules of Criminal Procedure.
    – bdb484
    Commented Aug 23, 2023 at 16:04

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