William Tell’s Second Arrow

Happy Friday everybody. I hope you’re having a great week. I want to do something a little bit different for today’s video and tell you a story that most people know but most people don’t know the full version of and that’s the story of William Tell. Now, most people know the legend of William Tell as it goes. He was an expert Austrian marksman with a crossbow and he shot an apple off the top of his son’s head. Most people know that, that’s the given. But the full story of William Tell is actually a little bit more interesting and something that I think is analogous to the practice of law and something that I try to live by when I represent clients.

So William Tell was actually a Swiss resident when Albert Gessler, who was a tyrant, came in and overtook his village. He hung his hat on the top of the flagpole and he forced all of the residents of William Tell’s village to bow to it as they passed. One day, William Tell was walking by and did not bow. He refused to bow. So he was arrested, he and his son. Gessler then ordered both of them executed. He had heard stories of William Tell’s marksmanship so he decided to devise a pretty cruel punishment in which he told Tell, “I will spare the life of you and the life of your son if you can shoot the apple off the top of your son’s head in a single attempt.” So everybody knows William Tell did that, split the apple in two and his son and he were spared.

However, what also happened after the apple had been split Gessler looked down and realized that Tell had pulled two bolts from his quiver. So Gessler asked William Tell what was the second bolt for and William Tell reluctantly finally answered, “Well, had I missed the first shot and killed my son the second bolt would have been for you.” And the reason that I tell this story is because I think that it’s important as we represent clients and as we practice in this area of law always hold two arrows in your quiver.

It’s usually the case that we especially as defense attorneys find ourselves in a position where we don’t have that much leverage in a case, we don’t have that much bargaining power. We’re going against either the federal government or the state government who holds really all the cards in a case. And so, we’re forced sometimes to go down avenues or go down paths that are in our client’s best interest but are not the most advantageous just like Tell did. But that’s not to say that we simply roll over and succumb to exactly what the state wants or what the government wants. We always make sure to hold that second arrow and make sure we have a backup plan if we need it. That second arrow and knowing that we have it when the state or the government knows that we have something in our quiver that we can unleash if we need to, that we’re willing to fight, that we’re willing to go to trial, that we’re willing to dig our heels in on the case if necessary becomes that bargaining power. It becomes that advantage that we otherwise don’t have.

The other part of the story that I think is interesting that William Tell did have two arrows, he did have that backup plan, but he didn’t use it first. He very easily could have with that first shot just turn around and assassinated Gessler but he didn’t because he recognized just like it’s important for us to recognize that sometimes to best represent your client and your case you need to go along for a while. You need to figure out and play by the rules of the game that the state has set out. Because only then can you get the resolution that you’re looking for.

So like I said, this is a story that many people know bits and pieces of but nobody’s really dove in to the full legend. Now, whether or not this story actually happened is up for a whole bunch of historical debate but that’s not really the point. The point is when you’re representing clients, when you’re practicing law, always hold that second arrow, always keep it in your quiver. Always remember that you have it to fall back on if things go south. Hope y’all have a great weekend. Stay safe out there. And I look forward to talking to you next week.

Author Bio

James P. Whalen

James P. Whalen is the managing attorney and founder of Whalen Law Office, a Texas criminal defense firm offering personalized legal representation for various federal criminal charges. With a commitment to providing comfort and guidance during challenging times, Mr. Whalen serves as both an attorney and counselor to his clients, helping them navigate their cases while striving to restore normalcy to their lives.

In an inherently unbalanced criminal justice system, Mr. Whalen takes on cases with unwavering dedication. With decades of legal experience, he offers representation across various criminal charges, including white-collar crimes, violent crimes, drug charges, and more. Mr. Whalen’s numerous accolades, including Super Lawyer recognition and board certification in Criminal Appellate Law and Criminal Law, reflect his unwavering commitment to ethical and high-quality legal representation.

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