Wednesday, November 12, 2008

What would make you a GREAT defense attorney?

This week I competed in the Don Turner Criminal Trial Competition. In all honesty, due to several mitigating circumstances, my team did not do as well as we hoped. But we will be ready next year! Anyway, the moot court judge for the evening asked us each what we wanted to do. I said I definately wanted to litigate and be a prosecutor. To which this attorney responded, "What would make you a GREAT defense attorney?" I sat there stunned. He went on to explain that I needed to figure that out because part of being a great attorney was to know how to play the game of prosecutor, defense, and judge.

Interesting perspective for sure. And it definately got me thinking. Why do I despise the thought of criminal defense. I instinctively go "Ew." Which makes it hard for me to think about how I would do that job, play that role. If it is just because I don't want to deal with "icky" people---this makes no sense. I will deal with icky people in prosecution to, often times as witnesses.

So, I have been thinking about it alot. No matter what role I play, I have a great abiding love and respect for the law and the constitution. I believe that it applies to all people, no matter whether guilty or innocent. I am great, and I mean great, of picking apart arguments and seeing the other side. I can instinctively anticipate where the other person is going. When I analysis a case at work, I often find myself thinking about what I would do if I were defending the parent, rather than working to terminate the parental rights. I think hard about what the defense attorney is doing, and what I would do differently (one thing I have learned is I would NEVER surf the web, bidding on Ebay for bicycle wheels). I look hard at the weaknesses of our arguments and work hard at gathering evidence. After thinking this all through, I came to the conclusion that I could do defense work. Legal defense is not always about getting your client off, it is about making sure that their constitutional rights are not denied. That does not mean that I would ever represent a sex offender---NEVER. But I could see myself doing other defense work.

To sum it up, I guess the key is flexibility. Don't box yourself into something. Instead be willing to review, change, adapt, and attack again. This should be about life in general, but should also be about the practice of law.

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