Jump to content


Lawstudents.ca is Canada's largest and most comprehensive law school, legal education, and legal practice discussion forum.

To participate in discussions, you will need to register an account. If you already have an account, make sure you sign in.


Photo

Criminal Defence Lawyer in Sole Practice - Ask Me Anything


  • Please log in to reply
304 replies to this topic

#51 serdog

serdog
  • Members
  • 568 posts

Posted 07 March 2016 - 06:22 PM

How do you figure out what to bill on a private retainer ? (I'm working on getting out on my own and the financial side is worrying more so as I'm in a very small commuity with no real chamber oproutities )

#52 Diplock

Diplock
  • Members
  • 5417 posts

Posted 07 March 2016 - 06:43 PM

Bit of a detour from the original thread, but I can see myself doing small firm work for several years after graduation then trying to move to prosecution work. How feasible would a transition like this be? And did you find much of a difference in the number of hours you put in/how those hours were spread out?

 

I agree with MP, in that I don't necessarily see why you'd look to work for a firm for a while first. I mean, maybe if you can't get a Crown position having another plan is a good idea, but why not start as a Crown in the first place? That said, I do see Crowns coming from a variety of backgrounds, so I certainly think having a general litigation background and applying for a Crown gig you'd be considered a viable candidate. More than that I can't say. MP's insight should be considered far superior to mine on this line of inquiry.


  • Dwarvishleaf likes this

#53 Diplock

Diplock
  • Members
  • 5417 posts

Posted 07 March 2016 - 06:45 PM

I hate to jump in on Diplock's Q&A (which I am finding most informative, actually), but I do a generalist mix of work, including criminal. You'd starve in a small town doing only criminal, and the corollary is that locals need criminal defence as well, so you have to be adaptable. Mind you, virtually all of the crim stuff I do is one of three offences: DUI, assault or drug possession. The key is to knowing when something is above your pay grade and when to walk away from it.

 

I 100% agree that the small town scene is very different, and it makes much more sense to dabble in that context. Though that said, I have no idea how you can dip your toes into DUIs. That's a heinously complex area of law. I know full-time crim lawyers who don't touch it. But I guess if you live in a town with a lot of drunk idgits, you might learn it well of necessity.



#54 Diplock

Diplock
  • Members
  • 5417 posts

Posted 07 March 2016 - 07:04 PM

Firstly, have you ever found it emotionally difficult to represent an accused? I imagine defending some petty charge wouldn't be emotionally difficult, but have you ever done a murder trial? If so, what feelings were you experiencing? Do you become more immune to these emotions as time passes? 

 

I rarely find it difficult, though there are times you question what you're doing. Doesn't have to be a big thing. Might just be your average domestic case where the victim wants the whole thing to go away because he promised he'll change and won't do it again and she thinks it's best for the children. So you're stick handling some resolution with the Crown that you know will result in them staying together because suddenly the reluctant witness has screwed up the case for the Crown. Do I love that stuff? No. But it's part of the job. In situations like these, I usually remember that people are entitled to make their own stupid fucking mistakes, and being a part of those mistakes isn't necessarily my fault. Sometimes people buy a big screen TV instead of stocking the fridge for their kids. Is the sales guy at Future Shop at fault? I know that sounds like justification, and it IS justification, but I think it's also valid. It's a mistake to inflate your role as a lawyer. Yes, we have authority. But not so much that it becomes my job to make everyone's decisions for them. If they want my help to do something I think is stupid, it may still be my job to help them. I don't enjoy it, but it doesn't haunt me.

 

I've never had my own murder trial. That's getting called up to the big leagues. But I'm assisting senior counsel on a murder file. It involves the abuse and neglect and the eventual death of a small child. There are pictures. The file (and the pictures) are a foot and a half behind me as I type this. It makes me think sometimes. I'm comforted (in this case) by the fact that all we're really doing right now is dickering between first and second degree murder charges. I'm not sure it's first. I can get behind this defence. But the facts still make me sick.

 

Again, I think the answer here is a bit of humility. We're doing a necessary job in a difficult system. Someone has to do it. The days when I can't enjoy it, I at least take pride in knowing that I do what needs to be done.

 

I'll let you know if I ever become immune. But I'll tell you what. Black humour is very common in criminal defence circles. I don't know if it's a defence mechanism (hee) or if we're all just tactless jerks. But if you can't laugh at the very clumsy woman married to the badly misunderstood man who's telling the court for the third time that she fell down again and broke her arm and of course he never hits her ... what can you laugh at?

 

Secondly, do you feel that you are, from non-lawyers/non-anyone-that-is-a-legal-actor, negatively judged on the basis of 'representing an accused'? 

 

Sometimes. It very rarely bothers me. Here's an interesting tidbit. My wife has a friend who knows the family that were killed in the Marco Muzzo case. As in, he has pictures with those kids who are now all dead. She's told me flat out - you can't be involved in that. (As if Brian Greenspan might call me up for an assist, but that's not the point). I feel like I could and would defend him. I think I'd defend anyone - or I hope I would. Usually my wife supports me. But she doesn't "get" it. She doesn't get why everyone needs a defence. When it's personal for her, it's personal. She'd also probably stop feeding me if I defended anyone who hurt a dog.

 

Most times, I can't give a shit if people think criminal defence lawyers are bad people. I'll happily tell them why they are wrong and stupid and then get another beer. There's also a lot of people who know we're cool, and have a profession that comes with all kinds of cool stories to tell (and even more we can't tell) and we know dangerous people and do cool shit. And sometimes we get on the news. That's fun. I enjoy the image. It fits with who I am, and that's probably no fluke. When I'm an old criminal defence lawyer I plan on getting a motorcycle and growing my hair long (again) and maybe go around town with a stripper half my age and bring her to inappropriate social events. I mean, if you're going to be that guy, might as well have fun with it.


  • widget, t3ctonics, rziegler and 4 others like this

#55 Diplock

Diplock
  • Members
  • 5417 posts

Posted 07 March 2016 - 07:05 PM

Can someone speak to how you actually get per diem Crown work in the GTA? Are positions posted by MAG like any other job, or is there some other route that you have to take?

 

No clue. I'll try to remember to ask a per diem Crown. Unless someone who does know wants to chime in?



#56 Yogurt Baron

Yogurt Baron
  • Members
  • 1368 posts

Posted 07 March 2016 - 07:52 PM

Here's an interesting tidbit. My wife...

 

My mind is kind of blown right now. I always thought you were married to being a dick to people on the internet.


  • Diplock, almostnot, Hegdis and 5 others like this

#57 FunnyLawName

FunnyLawName
  • Members
  • 554 posts
  • LocationToronto

Posted 07 March 2016 - 08:02 PM

My mind is kind of blown right now. I always thought you were married to being a dick to people on the internet.

 

Diplock's a big softy. This thread is doing a lot to cripple the image of being a no-nonsense hard-ass. 


  • Diplock likes this

#58 Hegdis

Hegdis
  • Moderators
  • 6941 posts
  • LocationBC

Posted 07 March 2016 - 08:10 PM

My mind is kind of blown right now. I always thought you were married to being a dick to people on the internet.


We are his collective mistress. Ranking somewhere below his eventual stripper date.
  • almostnot and beyondsection17 like this

#59 Diplock

Diplock
  • Members
  • 5417 posts

Posted 07 March 2016 - 09:00 PM

How do you figure out what to bill on a private retainer ? (I'm working on getting out on my own and the financial side is worrying more so as I'm in a very small commuity with no real chamber oproutities )

 

I suck at this. I just drastically under-charged someone.

 

Most lawyers will tell you that you figure out what your client is willing to pay and then quote them that much. I may eventually become that mercenary. I mean, I'm doing okay right now, but I'm working insane hours for only a good income with no benefits or retirement plan. I don't want to do this all my life. Hell, I probably just can't - I'd die. So eventually I'll have to slow down and that means being more of a bastard about squeezing the clients you've got. But I'm not very good at this.

 

As a starting ballpark, here are some decent rules. Figure out what legal aid pays you to do stuff. You'll know that very soon. You should quote a private client at least 1.5-2 times that amount. Never work for less than legal aid. And the rest you'll feel you way towards as you go.

 

NOTE - This applies to Ontario. No idea how legal aid pays in other provinces. I've heard some horror stories. Not that Ontario is generous, but there's always worse and better.

 

NOTE ALSO - You don't need to be in chambers to gain local insight. You can probably find this out from a local source for the price of coffee or beer and it won't take more than 20 minutes. Other lawyers will probably be fairly generous with their advice here. New lawyers tend to price too low rather than the opposite, and no one wants you under-cutting the market by too much. So you'll probably find people will be willing to chat, probably especially in a small town where one new lawyer can have a real impact on the market.



#60 PerniciousLaw

PerniciousLaw
  • Members
  • 1210 posts

Posted 08 March 2016 - 01:31 PM

Thank you for the response. Very thoughtful and I appreciate it. 

 

[...] I'm comforted (in this case) by the fact that all we're really doing right now is dickering between first and second degree murder charges. [...]

 

So, despite whatever happens, the accused, in this case, is being locked up for a very long time. I know you said this isn't your actual file, so maybe my question won't resonate to the extent I want it to, but I'll ask anyway. I would imagine, to at least the smallest degree, some sort of connection, between yourself and the client, will be built. Knowing that the accused, in this situation, is being sent to jail for a very long time, how does that make you feel? Do you feel sorry for the person, or have you been able to build some wall that rejects the sharing of emotions between yourself and the accused? 

 

Like I said, I know this isn't your file, so maybe you haven't built a connection with the client. In that case, I'm not sure if you are able to answer my question. But I'm still interesting (edit: interested) in hearing your thoughts. 


Edited by PerniciousLaw, 08 March 2016 - 01:46 PM.


#61 Hegdis

Hegdis
  • Moderators
  • 6941 posts
  • LocationBC

Posted 08 March 2016 - 02:22 PM

I have been counsel on a couple of murder files.

Absolutely there is a relationship that grows between you and the client. But this relationship is focused on trust rather than on sympathy. My sympathies are useless to my client. But his trust in me is critical.

Some people need more handholding than others. But no client charged with murder wants or needs to know that he is just one of many other files on your desk. That will make him depressed and suspicious. So the camaraderie that you foster, the chitchat, the meeting with family etc is all part of making sure your client has confidence in you.

While on one level you feel that connection, for your part it is a very deliberate and strategic choice to create this atmosphere. You can't lose sight of that. This is your job, not your friendship. Emotions cloud judgment. You must avoid anything that makes you afraid of taking necessary risk or too soft to make tough decisions. Your client needs a lawyer. If you care about him that is exactly what you'll be.
  • This_is_Sparta and providence like this

#62 artsydork

artsydork
  • Members
  • 3167 posts
  • LocationSmall town lawyer, big city living

Posted 08 March 2016 - 04:20 PM

No clue. I'll try to remember to ask a per diem Crown. Unless someone who does know wants to chime in?

 

You need to apply to the District office. There is a form to fill out just like to apply to the certificate panel. Talk to the courthouse supervisory duty counsel manager first though. They may just say it's meaningless. I know that London wasn't accepting any new ones while I was based there. We've all heard Toronto is pretty full, though you may be able to get squeezed in.


  • Diplock likes this

#63 PerniciousLaw

PerniciousLaw
  • Members
  • 1210 posts

Posted 09 March 2016 - 06:39 AM

I have been counsel on a couple of murder files.
Absolutely there is a relationship that grows between you and the client. But this relationship is focused on trust rather than on sympathy. My sympathies are useless to my client. But his trust in me is critical.
Some people need more handholding than others. But no client charged with murder wants or needs to know that he is just one of many other files on your desk. That will make him depressed and suspicious. So the camaraderie that you foster, the chitchat, the meeting with family etc is all part of making sure your client has confidence in you.
While on one level you feel that connection, for your part it is a very deliberate and strategic choice to create this atmosphere. You can't lose sight of that. This is your job, not your friendship. Emotions cloud judgment. You must avoid anything that makes you afraid of taking necessary risk or too soft to make tough decisions. Your client needs a lawyer. If you care about him that is exactly what you'll be.


I'm interested in criminal defence, so I thank you for your response. Very thoughtful and much appreciated!
  • Hegdis likes this

#64 TKNumber3

TKNumber3
  • Members
  • 2496 posts

Posted 09 March 2016 - 02:15 PM

I'm curious how you bill for docket appearances. Do you just bill a flat rate to appear? That way you don't have to worry about how many you do in that day, or whether you can get in early or are stuck sitting around waiting for other matters to be discussed before you can get up and do something straight forward? I assume some downtime can be used for emails or reviewing other materials, but for the most part you are there for a client and there can be wasted time.



#65 narutouzumaki

narutouzumaki
  • Members
  • 2 posts
  • Locationontariowe

Posted 09 March 2016 - 02:36 PM

What type of person do you think would be able to handle criminal law? I myself am an INTP-A (https://www.16person...ntp-personality) (https://www.16personalities.com/profiles/56db4d2caa25b). Do you find it easy to separate work from home life, does it ever throw you off when you're out with friends or family? I'm not someone who's easily distracted and I can definitely keep things separate, but I'm just wondering if certain clients ever get to you, or certain cases?

 

What advice would you have for someone who's just starting his undergrad and has his mind pretty set on becoming a Criminal Defence Lawyer?

 

What books should I be buying to read? I read a while ago someone on here read the entire Criminal Code, should I do that too?

 

Since you're in your first year, and doing rather well, how much money do you think is possible for someone new to make in their first year working at a firm vs as a sole practitioner? Do you charge flat fees, blocks of fees, or is it an ongoing thing? I visited Devin Bains a while back and he said his fee system was like you deposit $11,300 into an account they open for you and once that account is used up they ask you to donate another $11,300 and whatever is left over is returned to you. I guess it's like that trust you were talking about. Is this fairly similar across the board? 


Edited by narutouzumaki, 09 March 2016 - 02:43 PM.


#66 Hegdis

Hegdis
  • Moderators
  • 6941 posts
  • LocationBC

Posted 09 March 2016 - 03:47 PM

Think of a trust account as a gas tank. Each trust account powers a single "car", the client's file. If there is no gas in the tank, the car doesn't run. That is the easiest way to understand it and is a great way to explain it to clients.

My only other advice is to put little stock in personality tests. You have no idea what you are capable of. Don't let a pre-determined profile set your expectations or your limitations.
  • Diplock, t3ctonics and pzabbythesecond like this

#67 Hegdis

Hegdis
  • Moderators
  • 6941 posts
  • LocationBC

Posted 09 March 2016 - 03:51 PM

Oh right. No don't read the entire Code. I doubt the other person actually did either.

For one thing it would be boring. For another, it will change (especially the annotations on caselaw) between now and six years from now when you might actually use it.

If you want to read something useful at the very most browse a textbook which will at least provide you with structure and context. But understand the law is a constantly moving target. Consider marijuana legislation!

#68 Diplock

Diplock
  • Members
  • 5417 posts

Posted 09 March 2016 - 03:52 PM

So, despite whatever happens, the accused, in this case, is being locked up for a very long time. I know you said this isn't your actual file, so maybe my question won't resonate to the extent I want it to, but I'll ask anyway. I would imagine, to at least the smallest degree, some sort of connection, between yourself and the client, will be built. Knowing that the accused, in this situation, is being sent to jail for a very long time, how does that make you feel? Do you feel sorry for the person, or have you been able to build some wall that rejects the sharing of emotions between yourself and the accused? 

 

Like I said, I know this isn't your file, so maybe you haven't built a connection with the client. In that case, I'm not sure if you are able to answer my question. But I'm still interesting (edit: interested) in hearing your thoughts. 

 

In the case you were asking about, I don't really have any emotional investment in the client, no. But I can generalize your question to cases I'm more involved with. And again, it really doesn't have to be a murder or a high stakes trial to invoke these issues you are raising. I ran a difficult bail hearing just a few days ago where the client was facing a situation where his life would have been severely derailed if he couldn't get bail. If no bail, he would have ended up pleading guilty of necessity, probably (happens a lot) and would have been in jail with no warning or ability to arrange his affairs. It isn't a federal pen sentence, exactly, but imagine what it would do to your life if someone stuck you in jail today and you didn't get out for three months. This was a serious situation for him.

 

So, to answer, I feel invested in my clients' interests and I want the best for them, but I have a great "not my problem" field, as I said. I'm motivated to do what I can do help them, but if things get fucked beyond my control then it's truly beyond my control. It doesn't keep me up at night that some of my clients are in jail. And I really do think that any profession, where you carry significant responsibility, leads to the same results. I assume doctors aren't up at night either, worrying about the patients they lost. Worrying if it's their fault, sure. But patients are going to die, criminally accused are going to go to jail, etc. It's part of life. If you have a job with serious responsibilities then serious things are going to happen on your watch. I think most people do get used to it, yes.



#69 Diplock

Diplock
  • Members
  • 5417 posts

Posted 09 March 2016 - 04:01 PM

I'm curious how you bill for docket appearances. Do you just bill a flat rate to appear? That way you don't have to worry about how many you do in that day, or whether you can get in early or are stuck sitting around waiting for other matters to be discussed before you can get up and do something straight forward? I assume some downtime can be used for emails or reviewing other materials, but for the most part you are there for a client and there can be wasted time.

 

Lol. You're asking as if we actually get paid like real lawyers.  =)

 

When it's legal aid, they pay a resolution fee for the file if it doesn't go to trial and hourly if it does. Certain significant hearings and events are paid for, such as bail hearings and judicial pre-trials. Nothing else is paid for. Set dates and the like are "included" in the other payments by LAO. Or in other words, you eat it.

 

Even when it's not legal aid, I've learned that clients heavily dislike paying by the hour or by the appearance. And honestly, it's a bad way to pay a criminal defence lawyer. You want a defence lawyer with an incentive to minimize wasted time and appearances. So the way I've learned to bill - and many lawyers do this - is to essentially bill each file in three stages. Stage one is bail. You charge a certain amount to run the bail hearing. This may or may not even be necessary when you get the file. Stage two is carriage of the file until it each resolves by way of some deal (the client pleads guilty or the charge is otherwise diverted in return for something), or the Crown withdraws (settles for nothing, essentially, if the case sucks), or it goes to trial. You charge a certain amount for this also. In many cases the file will end here. If it goes to trial that's stage three, and you charge a fee per trial day. In this case I suppose you're eating set date appearances also, but you're setting a good price otherwise (or should be) so it isn't charity work at least, the way LAO can be.

 

Don't even hope or pretend you can get away with billing all the time you spend doing things. It will never, ever, ever be like that. Not until you're Brian Greenspan. These aren't corporate clients who put down five or six figure retainers. These are individual people often with very limited funds. Remember to stop thinking about bottomless pools of money and think in real terms. Could you afford to hand a lawyer $20,000 right now and say "come back when you need more?" If you can't do it (and I could barely do it) how many clients out there do you think can do it? That won't be your practice for a very long time, if ever.


  • realpseudonym likes this

#70 Diplock

Diplock
  • Members
  • 5417 posts

Posted 09 March 2016 - 04:29 PM

What type of person do you think would be able to handle criminal law? I myself am an INTP-A (https://www.16person...ntp-personality) (https://www.16personalities.com/profiles/56db4d2caa25b). Do you find it easy to separate work from home life, does it ever throw you off when you're out with friends or family? I'm not someone who's easily distracted and I can definitely keep things separate, but I'm just wondering if certain clients ever get to you, or certain cases?

 

Agree with Hegdis. Personality tests are ridiculous. They are fun and help generate self-insight sometimes. But they can't be used as an absolute guide to career choice. Personally, I find myself thinking of work constantly, as do many lawyers I know. It isn't that I'm emotionally invested in it - it's that I'm intellectually invested in it. So no, it doesn't "get" to me exactly. But it's definitely the centre of my life.

 

What advice would you have for someone who's just starting his undergrad and has his mind pretty set on becoming a Criminal Defence Lawyer?

 

Try to be aware that having your mind set on criminal defence, at this stage in your life, is incredibly speculative. When I was starting my undergrad I didn't even know I wanted to be a lawyer. When I started law school, criminal defence was an area of some interest but hardly a goal. Take stuff in school you want to take, keep your mind open to other interests, get extremely good grades, and then write a strong LSAT. That'll get you into law school. Then get through first year law school (if you even get that far) and get some related clinical experience and then reassess. Anything before then is just incredibly speculative and probably detrimental. You'll be in first year history or something and you'll be day-dreaming about how all you really care about is learning criminal law and your essay on the War of 1812 will be shit. That's not the way to get into law school.

 

 

What books should I be buying to read? I read a while ago someone on here read the entire Criminal Code, should I do that too?

 

You should be reading things that contribute to doing well in your undergrad, rather than obsessing on law school. See above. Seriously.

 

Since you're in your first year, and doing rather well, how much money do you think is possible for someone new to make in their first year working at a firm vs as a sole practitioner? Do you charge flat fees, blocks of fees, or is it an ongoing thing? I visited Devin Bains a while back and he said his fee system was like you deposit $11,300 into an account they open for you and once that account is used up they ask you to donate another $11,300 and whatever is left over is returned to you. I guess it's like that trust you were talking about. Is this fairly similar across the board? 

 

I semi answered this above, in terms of how billing works. And please try to avoid dreaming about clients that "donate" (I think you mean deposit) large sums on money on request. I'm not remotely there yet. Almost no criminal defence lawyer is there. We're talking about the top 5% of the profession at this point. That's about 15 steps in the future from where you are right now.

 

Quick note. I've been in sole practice for a year(ish) but I'm not a first year call. I'll answer your questions below based somewhat on year of call.

 

What's it "possible" to make as a lawyer working for a criminal defence firm (or another lawyer) in your first year? I'd say maybe $40-70k, depending on market, demand, and how well your employer is doing. Yes, this is less than other areas of law. Get used to that. This isn't an area of law your go after when it's all about the money. On your own (at any year of call) you might make anything from subsistence level income or less to topping out at maybe .... $50k? I suppose more is possible. Hell, anything is possible. But even generating $50k after expenses in your first year is incredibly optimistic. Far too much wasted time, too much establishing the business, getting clients, etc. Again, this isn't something you do for the money. It has a strong late upside if you are among the 5%. Your unasked question about how well one could do eventually? I'm pretty confident Brian Greenspan is making seven figures, as are some other major players. But the rest of us are still living in the real world.

 

Hope that helps. Now be an undergrad, for the love of God.


Edited by Diplock, 09 March 2016 - 04:31 PM.


#71 serdog

serdog
  • Members
  • 568 posts

Posted 09 March 2016 - 05:41 PM

]From my understanding if money runs out its a good idea to withdraw a soon as possible what do you folks thing about how quick a withdrawal should happen?

Edited by serdog, 09 March 2016 - 05:47 PM.


#72 Hegdis

Hegdis
  • Moderators
  • 6941 posts
  • LocationBC

Posted 09 March 2016 - 06:15 PM

As early as possible. You have obligations under the professional code of conduct as well as the common law. See R v Cunningham.
  • beyondsection17 likes this

#73 Diplock

Diplock
  • Members
  • 5417 posts

Posted 09 March 2016 - 06:21 PM

]From my understanding if money runs out its a good idea to withdraw a soon as possible what do you folks thing about how quick a withdrawal should happen?

 

I don't understand the question. Especially because there are a couple of potentially relevant topics, above.

 

If you mean the money runs out in your practice and you are not supporting yourself, you're probably better off seeking alternative employment sooner rather than later. I find that sole practitioners who are literally starving (or, more likely, running negative income and racking up debt to pay their bills) aren't likely to reverse that trend any time soon. There's a big difference between survival income and thriving. You want to thrive, obviously. But if you can't even survive, do something else.

 

If you mean if the money runs out on a retainer, criminal law is different from other areas of law in that your client's rights are at stage to a degree not present in, say, civil litigation. If you're in the middle of a trial, or so deep into a file that you can't reasonably pull out without prejudice to your client, the court may not allow you to withdraw from the case. In other words, yes, you can get stuck with a client who isn't paying you simply because (a) you said you would represent that client, and (b) you didn't get paid up front. While this obviously sucks (and hasn't happened to me, yet) consider that landlords can get "stuck" for extended periods with tenants who aren't paying them also. Rights matter. And you don't assume a critical responsibility in someone's life lightly. No one made you take them on as a client, so when you did, you should have done so with your eyes open.

 

Hope that helps. And yeah, more than anything, I'd like to emphasize that for anyone who is considering sole practice in criminal defence and does not have an established practice and profile already, these questions about private retainer are really premature. I mean, you'll want to be ready when you do get your first one. But the backbone of any new criminal defence practice is legal aid. Everyone wants the private, cash clients. You'd have to have some extreme professional edge that I can't easily imagine to attract those clients in preference to the lawyers out there with 20-30 years of experience. That's your competition. So of all the things to worry about, going in, how to deal with clients who are ready to write big-ass cheques for your fees in advance is a "problem" that can wait.



#74 serdog

serdog
  • Members
  • 568 posts

Posted 09 March 2016 - 06:44 PM

just note I'm working in a region that is under a staff lawyer legal aid system so for the private bar legal aid work is much less common (only really co-accused files)

#75 PerniciousLaw

PerniciousLaw
  • Members
  • 1210 posts

Posted 09 March 2016 - 06:50 PM

In the case you were asking about, I don't really have any emotional investment in the client, no. But I can generalize your question to cases I'm more involved with. And again, it really doesn't have to be a murder or a high stakes trial to invoke these issues you are raising. I ran a difficult bail hearing just a few days ago where the client was facing a situation where his life would have been severely derailed if he couldn't get bail. If no bail, he would have ended up pleading guilty of necessity, probably (happens a lot) and would have been in jail with no warning or ability to arrange his affairs. It isn't a federal pen sentence, exactly, but imagine what it would do to your life if someone stuck you in jail today and you didn't get out for three months. This was a serious situation for him.

 

So, to answer, I feel invested in my clients' interests and I want the best for them, but I have a great "not my problem" field, as I said. I'm motivated to do what I can do help them, but if things get fucked beyond my control then it's truly beyond my control. It doesn't keep me up at night that some of my clients are in jail. And I really do think that any profession, where you carry significant responsibility, leads to the same results. I assume doctors aren't up at night either, worrying about the patients they lost. Worrying if it's their fault, sure. But patients are going to die, criminally accused are going to go to jail, etc. It's part of life. If you have a job with serious responsibilities then serious things are going to happen on your watch. I think most people do get used to it, yes.

 

 

Thanks for the response. 

 

The reason I asked is because my question stemmed from a story my ex-Professor, of whom is a lawyer, told us. He was basically talking with a superior court judge about stuff (I'm not really sure what the conversation consisted of besides what I am about to type). The judge ended up telling my ex-Professor that, before he would send someone to jail, he would often go to his father's grave and just.......talk. He would basically just talk freely. He would, I guess, tell his father that he is going to imprison someone tomorrow (or the day after, or next week, or whatever). The purpose in this, my ex-Professor told us, is that this free talk served as a platform to relieve his emotional distress. Noticeably, then, the judge was experiencing emotional difficulties. 

 

I would imagine degrees of emotional difficulty varies conditionally upon the role of the legal actor, so the reason I asked you the question I did is because I wanted to hear an opinion surrounding whether such emotional distress is "normal", or common, among criminal legal players. 

 

So yeah, I appreciate your comments greatly. 


Edited by PerniciousLaw, 09 March 2016 - 06:53 PM.