most criminal trials, the defense loses.
That’s the way it should be; if a prosecutor’s office isn’t winning a big majority of the cases it brings, it is bringing
cases it should not and putting a lot
of innocent people in jeopardy. Most
prosecutors show proper restraint in
charging and compromising cases, so
defense attorneys must learn to endure
rejection by juries.
Even though prosecutors are always
defense lawyers’ adversaries, rela-
tionships with opposing counsel are
not as vicious as they are frequently
portrayed in popular fiction. In real
life, defense lawyers hope to face off
against excellent prosecutors — law-
yers with a sense of proportion, at-
tention to nuance, and empathy that
embraces crime perpetrators as well
as crime victims. And it happens more
often than TV shows would have you
think. Encountering such prosecutors
is one of the satisfactions of the work.
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Medical Malpractice / Personal Injury /
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Criminals are not popular people,
not as a group, at least. But we find it
easy to care about our clients — even
when we know they have done terrible
things. Often, we even like them. That’s
because we get to know them. Like ev-
eryone else, they are complex mixtures
of strengths and weaknesses, virtues
and vices. We look for the good, and we
usually find some.
Most criminal defendants are easy
to work with. They are in deep trouble,
so they are scared. They know they
depend on our help and they often express gratitude for it. Of course, there
are some exceptions — for example, the
mentally ill, many of whom become
criminal defendants. But divorce lawyers often have more difficult client
relations than we do.
Civil litigation, in our experience,
can get nasty. We’ve seen some very
low blows struck there. For some reason,
this doesn’t happen as much in criminal
law. Maybe it’s that the criminal bar —
prosecutors and defense attorneys to-
gether — is smaller. Its members see
each other around the courthouse often.
In small professional communities like
the criminal defense bar, most people
find the price of acting like a jerk is too
high. Or maybe it’s that a lot of crimi-
nal practice takes place in court, where
judges are on hand to deal with bad be-
havior. Whatever the cause, we appreci-
ate the civility of criminal practice.
Ask any 10 civil litigators what they
dislike most about their work, and 10
will say, “Interrogatories!” In criminal
litigation, there are no interrogatories.
In criminal cases, court rule obliges
both sides to provide discovery — for
prosecutors, quite a lot of discovery; for
defense lawyers, a lot less. Both sides
escape the case-after-case grind of an-
swering routine interrogatories.
"Most criminal defense
attorneys spend the
bulk of their time on the
road — in the courthouse,
and visiting clients in