Well, it has been more than a month since you walked into our fair courthouse. How are you doing? Is your job exceeding your expectations? Do you think this is the career for you?
Why do we see dozens of new ASA’s crowding into each courtroom, but not any new PD’s? Are we missing something?
You should try and spend some time in Au Bon Pair. If you see a private defense attorney that you saw in court, walk over, say hello and chat. It’s a wonderful way to find out about your new career.
If we could give you one piece and only one piece of advice, it is this: no one case is worth your career or reputation.
When we were a young lawyer, Fred Moreno, who is now a Federal Court Judge, and was a County Court judge at the time, used to tell us “you’ll lose bigger cases than this.” He was trying to give us perspective, which is something that normally takes time and experience to get.
The quicker you develop perspective on your cases, the better lawyer you will become.
Try and be the type of lawyer who is known as someone whose word is their bond.
Judge’s and lawyers talk to each other. If you develop the reputation of announcing ready on cases you are not ready on, the word will pass on you as you move though your office and the REGJB. Keep telling yourself that no one case is worth a lifetime of damage to your reputation.
Another story: When we were a young lawyer, we had a case with Manny Crespo. He was a defense attorney at the time and went on to become a much beloved Judge who recently passed away. We were talking about an upcoming case and I promised to do something and said I would send him a letter to confirm it. He smiled, grabbed my hand and looked me right in the eye and said something to the effect that I had been a lawyer in the building for two years and had a reputation for honesty. My word was good enough for him. It was one of the nicest things a lawyer with his experience could have ever said to me. I never forgot it.
Honesty and Perspective. Keep those two ideas in the forefront of your mind.
Perspective also means being gracious in winning. If you’re a defense attorney and lucky enough to get an acquittal, see it for what it is- a confluence of luck and facts more than superstar skill. Skill comes with experience and only with experience.
If you’re a prosecutor and you win a trial, that does not automatically mean you should ask for the maximum sentence. Have perspective. It may have been a hard fought battle, but don’t hold that against the Defendant. Rather celebrate the fact that you live in a country that allows the accused to give you a good fight and make you prove your case.
Prospective. Most people live week to week. Pay check to pay check. Many defendants have families. Try and not forget the devastating effect even a day in jail will have on them.
Remember that mistakes will happen. Own up to your mistakes and learn from them.
A loss at trial can be a very valuable tool. Do not pass it off on “the dumb jury.”
You picked them, its your responsibility.
Examine everything you did.
If you do not learn something from each and every case you try, you’re doing something wrong. We lost our first two jury trials, and won our next fifty or so.
But more importantly, we learned from everyone of them.
We are still learning every time we try a case.
If ever there comes a time when you don’t feel that tingle of excitement when you stand up in court to speak on behalf of your client ( a person or the state) then it’s time to move on. What we do is important. We affect people’s lives everyday.
If there ever comes a time when a loss does not hurt; when a loss does not sting you to your very core, then it’s time to go. You need to learn to let go of your losses, but you need to make sure you care about every case you handle.
This is a tricky business.
You need to care, but you need to have perspective.
Losses hurt, but it’s better to lose than to do something unethical.
When the system works and you lose, then…the system worked.
See You In Court.