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I had mentally edited CleanHands into the practicing bar also. That's a compliment, yes. But he (she?) indicated graduation was still pending in this thread, earlier, and reminded me.

Regarding SNAILS' post...there was just enough in there that wasn't wildly off-base I was prepared to leave it alone on first read. Sort of like, the core of the thought is valid, however badly it may be expressed. Now that it's been brought into discussion, I'll say a few things and then leave it alone, because this gets into a very big topic.

Something SNAILS hasn't had to deal with at all yet, but the OP probably has, is a lawyer's role in the system generally. Any time you are representing a client - any client at all - this is going to come up. What does it mean to take up someone's legal interests? Any law school will explore this topic. Legal clinics are great for getting direct experience with it. But the problem is general and not at all specific to criminal law - not even hardest, in my view, in criminal law. I'd have much more trouble representing a parent in some kind of custody dispute, knowing the parent and not the children in question were my client, if the parent's instructions ran contrary to their interests.

I will agree that most criminal law practice involves dealing with clients who are involved with lifestyles and issues that may be foreign to many law students. Writ large, I'd even agree most clients I interact with are guilty of at least something. Maybe not what they've been charged with, and even if factually guilty of what they've been charged with maybe they have some great defences. But are most of my clients into some kind of illegal shit? Sure they are. I also love it when people confront me on that topic at parties (remember parties - when you'd be backed into the corner by a stranger with a drink in his hand and an opinion about your life and no one was wearing masks?) because I have a ready answer. Look me in the eyes - I fucking dare you - and tell me that if someone happened to catch you at the wrong time doing the wrong thing there's nothing in your life you've ever done that could have resulted in you being charged with a crime. Almost no one I know lives up to that standard. I sure as hell don't. Sure as fucking hell most cops don't, either in their personal or their professional lives.

How to properly navigate a relationship with a client when you know they've done something you find difficult to stomach is a complex topic and an interesting one. But with due respect to SNAILS, and the context in which this topic was raised, you haven't earned that conversation yet. I'll meet you at your level and take it a step or two farther, but there are layers to this topic and very, very smart people have explored it in the past and continue to do so. Every year at U of T, the late Eddie Greenspan debated Alan Hutchinson, with Eddie taking the position that representing a client was simply a lawyer's job (the plumber-for-hire view of lawyers) and Hutchinson taking the position that agreeing to represent a client is an ethical decision that aligns the lawyer in some sense with the client. They both had fascinating views. They also tended to get asked ignorant-ass questions from the audience, once done, and Eddie in particular would tell someone to shut up when it was deserved. He'd tell SNAILS to shut up.

My remaining point is this. Speaking as someone from a working class background who flogs my class politics in many discussions and who probably has "seen" more shit in my personal life than most law students and lawyers, I happen to believe my experience in the real world is an advantage, yes, in criminal practice. But I also see various of my colleagues who come from privilege (and no judgment behind that, for the moment) who seem to have no problem adapting themselves to criminal practice also. The ones who are going to have a problem interviewing a client in a jail cell when he obviously shit himself at some point the previous day have screened themselves out long ago. I saw some of these kids try to navigate legal clinics in law school. Yes, a few had trouble serving "real" clients like that. Most did not.

I believe this discussion could have benefits to a lot of readers, OP or otherwise, so I have no problem with contributing to it. But to SNAILS, in particular, I'd add this. If you get into law school in your early 40's there's nothing wrong with that. You can have a great second-career from that point. I know lawyers who come from law enforcement, one defence lawyer in particular who is very good. But don't be that middle-aged asshole who thinks that your superior insight from X puts you miles ahead of your classmates. No one likes that guy. Your experience may help you accelerate faster than some. Graduate, get out there into legal practice, and when you're fifty years-old and you've been a lawyer for five years you'll probably start finding that people treat you like you've been a lawyer for twenty. You can justly claim that advantage down the line. But despite your potential advantage in acceleration, right now you're still at the starting line, just like everyone else.

Good luck.

Edited by Diplock
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I have nothing much of substance to add to what has already been said, but I just thought I would chime in as an actual police officer (well, up until a couple of months ago), and completely endorse all 8 of @CleanHands points, though I am not sure I endorse the wording of the preamble. ;)

However, okay, one thing to add, regarding this sub-point:

3 hours ago, CleanHands said:

it goes without saying that criminal defence work involves assisting people who have engaged in unsavory behaviour

Based on my experience of law school so far, I believe there really are some people in law school for whom that does not go without saying.

Some folks are so strongly opposed to police that they would expect, as a presumption, the majority of chargees to be perfectly normal people who have been targeted by police purely on various unjust grounds. I think they would be quite surprised to find that the average charged person is likely to be at least factually guilty of something. I'm not trying to stereotype or straw-man my classmates, and I'm not saying that it's a majority, but the number of people who think that way is not zero.

Super-unsavoury people absolutely deserve* a vigorous defence, and I don't think anyone should feel morally compromised for providing them one. If anything, I think it's a great moral achievement to put aside one's personal revulsion at a client's (factual) actions, in order to provide that defence against an otherwise-unchecked state. I would have no moral reservations about walking straight from policing into defence (though I don't think it's in the cards for me).

But abstract moral principles aside, on a practical level it's important to remember that a lot of the characters will be unsavoury, even scary to someone who's been sheltered. It then becomes important to reflect on what one's comfort level with that might be. I do believe some law students, hopefully not many, have not yet digested this.


*deserve might not be the right word, but they need one if the system is going to be just.

Edited by GrumpyMountie
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11 hours ago, SNAILS said:

How about listening to conspiracy theories from your mentally ill client for 45 minutes?

Damn. I've already been doing this for years free of charge. Please tell me I can put this on my resume as a skill. /s

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LOL @lh22

Seriously though, if your exposure to mentally ill people was part of a volunteer position, and you were helping that person and/or helping an organization which interacts with the person, I might actually try to get it into a PS or something. 

If it's you mother in law or something... lol

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18 hours ago, Hegdis said:

Well, general reminder to be civil. But OP, Diplock and I are actual criminal law practitioners with years of experience. I think CleanHands as well(?). SNAILS is a law school applicant. 

So, you know, take that into account. 

Thank you, Hegdis.

I have been open and honest about not being a law student and not being a lawyer. Perhaps law school (if I get in) will drastically change my views.

@CleanHands suggested (paraphrased) that I have disdain for accused criminals and that I assume their guilt. This is untrue. Instead, I said that, as a group, there are many who are guilty, though I would never make any assumption in any individual case.

The main point of my post was that dealing with them as a group might be unpleasant. @CleanHands pointed out that it is not necessarily unpleasant. These statements are not contradictory.

It was also pointed out that everyone already knows what it is like to deal with criminal law clients. If this is true, then I was mistaken in feeling the need to talk about it. I thought there might be people who has not fully considered this aspect.

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On 10/17/2020 at 11:25 PM, Diplock said:

Okay, well, OP actually did come back with what seems like a reasonable explanation to me. All else being equal, that answer would satisfy me in an interview.

I'll indulge in speculation about how to best present yourself as a candidate for future employment in criminal law, but I'll add this context which I always add. Any time we talk about the "legal marketplace" that's shorthand for talking about everyone in a position to hire you anywhere. We talk like there's some kind of general agreement about what employers want to see, how they want you to present yourself, what they look for, etc. But that's always simplistic and even outright untrue. In criminal law, where you're looking at a lot of small shops and sole practitioners, the search for consensus is even more futile. And that's all to same, you'll get the best advice here that I and anyone else can offer. But even when we outright disagree with each other, the truth is that we're both right at least some of the time. Depends on where you happen to be interviewing that particular day.

Now then, in terms of getting immediate experience, all I can add is this. Get into clinics and experiential settings asap. Join the Criminal Lawyers' Association as a student (I'm almost sure it's free, or just about) and participate in whatever student-stuff they have. Join the CLA listserv. It's incredibly valuable. Figure out what courses you'll enroll in next year when you shouldn't have that same problem, and be ready to talk about those courses you're planning to take to get a properly rounded grounding in criminal law.

Mainly this. Most opportunities in criminal law are going to come in (as noted above) small shops and with soles. There's never really a time when these opportunities open and close. It's just not that organized. Your best bet at making a connection here will be informal. So make sure everyone you know is aware of your interest. Even fellow students. You never know when someone knows someone. It's a very strange time in law right now - in crim more than most areas. Try not to get discouraged. But also ensure you keep making the effort to get out there, even when you'd really rather not.

Good luck.

Thanks so much for the advices! Really appreicate it!  

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