There seems to be quite a bit of discussion on the roles of prosecutors and defense attorneys. At the extremes, people are saying prosecutors are out to get everyone and defense attorneys use lies and tricks to return murders and rapists to the streets.
That is so Hollywood, and so misleading.
But perhaps it’s time for people to talk about what they do.
I am a lawyer. I work for myself. I like what I do.
When people are in trouble, they call me.
When people have made a mistake, they call me.
Families turn to me to help one of their own that they can’t help.
Parents place their children’s future in my hands.
Some of my clients have done very little wrong, and yet, their lives are consumed by an upcoming court date. My job is to put them at ease.
Some of my clients have been accused of horrible things and have not done what they are accused of. My job is to save their life and return their life to them. When I am successful, it is the greatest feeling in the world. When I am not…well thankfully, I can’t really think of a truly innocent client who’s case I have lost. Actually, there may be one. It was an economic crimes case. And even in that case, the client knew he was associating with people he should not have gotten into business with. But I lost the case in Federal court and he went to prison (he’s out now) and it still bothers me almost ten years later, even though we have stayed in touch and he has put his life back together.
Some of my clients have done horrible things and I can’t find one piece of common ground to communicate with them. They take their anger out on me. I pity them and curse myself when I can’t think of a way to help them.
Some of my clients have done horrible things, and are otherwise very nice. These are the most dangerous people, as these clients try and overwhelm me with their apparent decentness, thus obscuring the facts of the case. You can never lose sight of the facts, no matter how nice your client seems.
At the end of a rather long period of working for myself, this much I can say: Even though I do a decent amount of defense in serious and capital cases, the number of people I have met who were truly dangerous can be counted on one hand. In none of those cases was an “injustice done”. Take that for what you want it to mean.
Many clients who I have successfully helped were thrust into a truly amazing set of facts and circumstances that resulted in a serious criminal case. In most of those cases, my clients have never again been arrested and I am happy that I helped them resume a productive life.
What I find most troubling about my business is that I have a talent that I find difficult to use. I can try a case. I can plan a cross examination to last four hours or two days, and have every point hit home. I pick a good jury, and give a good closing argument. I win most of my cases. But I try between 2-10 cases in any given year.
The rest of the time is devoted to the worst part of my business-
the business end of being a lawyer.
I hate it. I'm probably not that good at it. Better than some, worse than others.
Maybe, just maybe, I will apply to the Public Defenders Office some day. If they will have an old grumpy lawyer like me.
See You In Court.
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