Emotion All Around
Most of my clients have either never been charged with an offense in their life, or have been involved in the system for years and years. Both types of clients feel stress about their situation when I get involved, but for different reasons.
For the first-time client the stress is obvious: The fear of jail time, the fear of having a criminal record, and the general unease of being in such a foreign environment. I try to put my clients at ease during this stressful process. I explain each step of what is going on in their case and also what I am doing for them to help matters along. I hope it helps, but I know for many of these folks the stress never completely goes away.
On the other hand, “repeat customers” have their own stresses. Many of these clients have had unpleasant experiences with law enforcement or government agencies in their lives, and they may be worried the latest charge will be one more time that they don’t get a fair shake. They may be afraid a judge will see their past history and assume the newest charge is “business as usual,” no matter if the defendant is actually innocent of this charge.
But my clients aren’t the only ones with invested feelings. You see, no one escapes being affected by this work. Lives are in the balance, sometimes literally. Being the victim of a crime can affect aspect of a person’s life for years, and being wrongfully convicted of a crime can be equally devastating. The lawyers have a lot on their shoulders as they try to balance respect for the criminal justice process, and the people involved.
I was reminded of this when two articles from The Marshall Project landed on my desk (Side note: If you care about criminal justice issues, The Marshall Project is a fantastic site and worthy of your support).
The first article was about a prosecutor who had to tell a victim of sexual abuse that her assailant obtained a new trial. Which meant the victim had to testify once again about her painful experience. The prosecutor featured in the article had the unenviable job of telling her this. A short, powerful read about the pressures a prosecutor faces.
The second article focused on a defense attorney also taking on a difficult task: representing those on death row. And as the article makes clear, a great many of these people die despite the best efforts of their lawyer. As you may suspect, watching someone die when you threw yourself into the job of saving them can take real toll on the survivors. Again, a short and powerful read.
I know potential clients read this blog and they may be saying to themselves: “Interesting stuff but what does that have to do with you being a lawyer for my case?”
And the answer is because you should know everyone cares about the outcome of these cases. The defendant cares. The victim or alleged victim cares. The prosecutor cares and the defense attorney cares. Criminal justice work has very high stakes and if there is someone involved (attorney, cop, judge) that doesn’t care, they’re in the wrong profession.
In fact, I’ve taken over cases from other lawyers before and the most common complaint I’ve heard about other attorneys is “they just didn’t seem to care.” And that’s a tragedy, because this job requires your lawyer be absolutely invested in the outcome. While I am not personally risking jail time, being blasé about the stakes for everyone does a disservice to everyone. You do not want a lawyer who doesn’t see the big picture and acknowledges all of the interests at play.
If you or someone you know needs a lawyer, feel free to give me a call.