Malicious Prosecutor

So You Want To Be A Crown (criminal)

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I was thinking more along the lines of what is involved and first hand experience by someone in the field etc. Like the first post on this thread. Salary is easy enough to find.

 

I'm a front line Crown with 10+ years experience.  What do you want to know?

Edited by Hegdis
Spliced from the So You Want To Do Criminal Defence thread.
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I'm a front line Crown with 10+ years experience.  What do you want to know?

What did you expect going in and how were those expectations met by the actual experience? Was it what you expected it to be?

 

On average how much litigation do you do in a given month?

 

How people intensive is the job? Do you get to interact with people and/or operate in a position of leadership?

 

Do you generally see a lot of people who you feel good to be prosecuting (e.g. your rapists, pedophiles, murderers etc.) or is it mostly people who break parole/prostitutes/people who are just down on their luck? I've heard the latter from criminal defense lawyers but I'm considering my source.

 

How many hours do you generally work each week?

 

What benefits are included in your job?

 

How much advancement is available?

 

In your mind is crown prosecution a good fit for an ENTJ personality type?

 

Relative to other positions in criminal law or law generally do crowns get a lot of respect? Is the position considered prestigious in legal circles?

 

What is the hardest thing about being a crown? What is the best thing about being a crown?

 

Thanks, really looking forward to hearing what you have to say.

Edited by AspiringCrown

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Let's see what I can say...

 

Is it what I expected?  Well, I didn't dream of being a Crown in law school.  I wanted to be a corporate solicitor.  Long story short, after working as a solicitor, I switched into general litigation.  I found the criminal files I had (defence side) were the most fun.  So by the time I applied to the Crown's office I had run several files, knew real-live Crowns and had a decent idea what to expect.

 

How much litigation?  I'm in court 4 days out of 5.  Some days may only be an hour setting a date, others might be full-blown trials.  But if you want time spent in courtrooms, there's no other job that'll give you as much of it.

 

People intensive?  Very.  You have to interact with defence lawyers, judges, witnesses and police constantly.  You do not need to be a gregarious, outgoing personality to be a Crown (I don't think I am) but you'd better be comfortable dealing with people from a variety of walks of life.

 

The people I've prosecuted... I can count on maybe one hand the number of just downright evil people with (as far as I could tell) no redeeming features that I have prosecuted.  Almost everyone has something positive that can be said about them - even the rapists and murderers.  But you can be a fundamentally good person who made a big mistake, and the system has rules on how we deal with those kinds of mistakes.  So I focus on the offence, not the offender.

 

This is government work.  Most weeks, I work my government mandated 37.5 hours.  Now big trial on the way I may work many, many more.  But day in and day out it's pretty regular hours.  Benefits - full government benefits.  Medical, dental, pension - the usual.

 

Advancement?  hmm... depends where you want to go.  Lawyering in general isn't great for "advancement".  It's like being a doctor - you can move from being a junior to senior doctor, but you're still working as a doctor.  My only room for advancement is to try and move into a management role within the Crown's office, and maybe hope for a judicial appointment down the road.

 

Don't have a long of time for Myers-Briggs so I won't comment on that.  Also don't have a lot of time for "prestige" - you have to enjoy what you do.  It doesn't matter what other people think.  That being said we are treated differently than defence lawyers, even though we're just opposite sides of the same coin.

 

Fire away with any other questions you might have.

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I really don't know much about how one becomes a Crown.  What do you find is the most common path to Crown positions?  Through articling placements? Get experience defence-side before switching over?  I realize you can only speak to your area but I'm curious.

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I always wanted to be a Crown.  Sit up high all day, front row seats to all the big events, plus I'm sure someone shines you up on the regular.  And how about all those jewels, hot damn!

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I always wanted to be a Crown.  Sit up high all day, front row seats to all the big events, plus I'm sure someone shines you up on the regular.  And how about all those jewels, hot damn!

 

But you can only manage if you're really on top of things.

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How many years of experiencing does the typical hire have before they start working as a crown? (I'm under the well-informed assumption that provinces rarely hire the freshly article'd).

Is civil litigation experience a smooth or decent transition to crown counsel?



 

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I don't know that there's a "most common" path to becoming a Crown.  It isn't by articling here - most of our Crowns did not.  It's kind of a shame really - the hiring cycles don't match up well with the articling cycles, so when out articling students are looking for jobs we often don't have any open positions (or at least it looks like that to me - I'm uninvolved in the hiring process).

 

It's best to get some criminal law experience prior to working here, but it's not required.  We have hired people straight out of civil law firms.  We will hire both very junior, and experienced counsel.  Some of our better Crowns had worked in civil lit for 10-20 years before starting here.

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I have a few friends who are crowns, and I think they all got there differently. One or two through articling, one after clerking, a couple after doing civil litigation and one from defence.

 

I think the ones not straight out of school all did per diem work in the GTA first.

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I don't know that there's a "most common" path to becoming a Crown.  It isn't by articling here - most of our Crowns did not.  It's kind of a shame really - the hiring cycles don't match up well with the articling cycles, so when out articling students are looking for jobs we often don't have any open positions (or at least it looks like that to me - I'm uninvolved in the hiring process).

 

It's best to get some criminal law experience prior to working here, but it's not required.  We have hired people straight out of civil law firms.  We will hire both very junior, and experienced counsel.  Some of our better Crowns had worked in civil lit for 10-20 years before starting here.

Thanks for all of this, really helpful. So would you say the best approach is to go into civil litigation (or whatever interests you and has employment opportunities) and look for opportunities as they emerge? I'm getting the sense that there aren't as many crown jobs out there and that one should expect to work elsewhere prior to getting that job.

 

Also I heard from a lawyer here at home that the territories are really looking for crowns these days and you can get experience there pretty easily if that's the direction you want to go. Do you have any insight into this? Would putting in a few years as a crown in the NWT help me secure a similar job somewhere warmer and more urban?

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Not just the Territories! www.cbc.ca/news/canada/newfoundland-labrador/happy-valley-goose-bay-crown-s-office-left-3-people-short-1.2900236

My understanding, as with any legal job, is that there's more opportunities if you're willing to get away from the larger centers. MP, can you comment on the staffing of the different offices in your province, i.e. is it easier to get in as a Crown if you're willing to live in the north?  

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Thanks for all of this, really helpful. So would you say the best approach is to go into civil litigation (or whatever interests you and has employment opportunities) and look for opportunities as they emerge? I'm getting the sense that there aren't as many crown jobs out there and that one should expect to work elsewhere prior to getting that job.

 

Also I heard from a lawyer here at home that the territories are really looking for crowns these days and you can get experience there pretty easily if that's the direction you want to go. Do you have any insight into this? Would putting in a few years as a crown in the NWT help me secure a similar job somewhere warmer and more urban?

 

If you want to be a Crown, my advice would be to focus on criminal law and try to get a job straight away with the Crown's office, or failing that, at a crim defence firm.  Yes, absolutely look for opportunities as they come, but you do need to try and make yourself attractive to the Crown's office if that is your goal.  And just because we don't hire a lot of people out of articles doesn't mean we don't hire any.  

 

It isn't that there aren't a lot of jobs - there are.  My office just hired 10 people all in one go.  It's just that hiring is... unpredictable.  You never know what they might advertise.  There might be a hiring freeze from time to time, but those are invariably lifted at some point.  If you're a strong candidate and you are patient there's no reason to think you can't eventually get a Crown job.

 

Not just the NWT, but any remote community is an excellent "back door" way into the Crown's office.  Heck, it's something I did - took a job in a rural office, worked for a few years, then left for better opportunities.  You do need to be prepared to put some time in though - while it's understood you may not spend your entire career there, it would be frowned upon to take a rural/northern job and then immediately start applying to go back to the city.  2 years is probably a respectable amount of time.

 

Remember of course I'm from Alberta.  Things will be slightly different in other provinces.  I understand in Ontario you might have to do some ad hoc work for the Crown, where they hire you just for a day here and there.  In many places you may be hired on a short term contract at first.  It's best to try and talk to recent hires in the Crown's office you want to work in to find out their experience.

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Ad hoc work is extremely common in BC too.

 

There's also the difference between federal and provincial Crown; in some cities an actual firm gets the contract to prosecute federal offences.

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The last couple of crowns newly hired in our office got there like so:

A) Articled with provincial justice, then practiced criminal defence for a year or so before getting hired by the Crown;
B) Articled then practiced for around six months with a small firm (primarily criminal defence) then hired to northern crown office, worked there a year and transferred into larger city crown office;
C) Clerked at the Superor Court and then hired by the Crown after bar call; and
D) Articled with provincial justice, hired by Crown after bar call.

Overall, I would say the majority of lawyers in our office started as crowns in a smaller centres first before transferring into the larger city office.

Edited by Redmen62
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The people I've prosecuted... I can count on maybe one hand the number of just downright evil people with (as far as I could tell) no redeeming features that I have prosecuted.  Almost everyone has something positive that can be said about them - even the rapists and murderers.  But you can be a fundamentally good person who made a big mistake, and the system has rules on how we deal with those kinds of mistakes.  So I focus on the offence, not the offender.

 

So does that mean that you are putting away the rapists, murders etc. or defending them? If it is the former, does most of what Crown prosecutors do focus on putting away rapists, murders etc.? Clearly I am a 0L, but I've been trying to figure out what is the best career for someone who would want to focus on representing the victims of crimes, not the criminals?

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So does that mean that you are putting away the rapists, murders etc. or defending them? If it is the former, does most of what Crown prosecutors do focus on putting away rapists, murders etc.? Clearly I am a 0L, but I've been trying to figure out what is the best career for someone who would want to focus on representing the victims of crimes, not the criminals?

 

Your sympathies probably lie with Crown, but it's important to note no one "represents" victims in the sense you are thinking. Crown represent the public interest, which includes victims but is not always in accord with the victim's wishes. When Crown prosecute they are held to the charge approval standard (public interest in proceeding + substantial/reasonable likelihood of conviction) and to the law. Weak cases are frequently dropped or pled down to no jail time. Sometimes the standard range of sentencing involves no jail time. This seldom makes victims happy.

 

If you were to practise criminal defence, you could do some work representing victims, but that work is frequently to do with getting criminal charges dropped against the accused (very common in domestics when the complainant just wants the accused to come home and pretend nothing ever happened). While it's important work to do to protect complainants from themselves (it's not a great idea to march into the police station and claim you filed a false police report; a lawyer can help navigate the waters here while offering some protection to their client) the fact is you're frequently frustrating the trial process rather than facilitating it.

 

The only other way to represent victims is to be a civil lawyer who brings suit on their behalf (for example, as with the residential school system). I know next to nothing about how to get into that kind of career. But class actions might be something worth looking into if you want large-scale victimhood (for lack of a better term).

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Step aside, boys and girls.  MalPro works in the land of black gold.  I'm gonna give you insight into the poverty-stricken world of the Ontario Crown system. 

 

How do you get in?

Article there.  Honestly, that's the best way to get in - virtually all the Crowns I know got in this way. 

Second way - per diem (what Hegdis calls ad hoc).  You get on a per diem contract, you work when they need you, up to 30 days per quarter.  The pay is shitty but you might get a short contract if you impress people. 

Third - make friends with judges, Crown Attorneys, or Deputy Crowns, or have a relative that works there and can secure you a contract. 

Fourth - work for a Federal Crown Agency in a smaller community.  They're firms, so they don't generally have the same financial constraints. 

 

How much litigation?

The Ontario Crown Attorneys Association limits us to 4 days out of 5 (with the occasional weekend bail court).  Realistically, you probably do court 4-5 days per week when you start out.  You'll be kept out of court more if you're assigned to a Superior Court case or something big like that. 

 

Do I feel good about it...?

Even the rapists and people who kill other people I don't exactly feel "good" about it when they go to jail.  Do I often think I'm doing the work of the righteous?  Yes, but that doesn't mean that I feel good about it.  When you see a convicted person's wife weeping in the courtroom, or you see a letter written to the judge by their young child asking that their daddy not go away, it doesn't exactly feel awesome. 

The vast majority of our cases are minor offences committed by accuseds with mental health concerns or addictions.  But you can't just allow a crack user to run into Zehrs and stuff his pants full of havarti bricks and run away unpunished (a real guilty plea of mine); you can't let a decent person with no record go free when he's blown 160 and driven his car into a fence.  So no, you're not going to mostly prosecute the really bad guys.  You - as MalPro said - are going to prosecute people who make mistakes, and you're probably going to feel a lot of sympathy and compassion for them. 

 

Hours

A lot more than I'm supposed to.  But I like to read caselaw and I like doing written submissions, so I'm a bit of a weirdo that way. 

 

Benefits

What are those?  I'm a contract Crown, so none. 

 

Prestige

I don't know.  It's a tough, grinding job - I've described it as the McDonalds of lawyering, because it's generally about quick turnaround with little paperwork and prep (mostly).  There's a real culture of being tough, and a huge problem with alcoholism and depression (at least, according to some stats I saw from the Ministry's health insurer).  It can also be an awfully sexist workplace (take a look at how many female Crowns or Directors are in Ontario, then compare those stats to the non-criminal lawyers in government).  But if you love the work, it's worth it, IMHO. 

 

Advancement

You advance by becoming a manager or a judge.  That's about it. 

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