Public Defender 101


The following are certain truths that I learned when I was a public defender. By no means is this list complete or will it ever be finished. I have handed the list over to Gideon at A Public Defender for him to keep up and add to the list as he sees fit.

1. You are there to represent the client, and no one else.
2. Your client is a grown man or woman. Don’t treat them like a child, even if they act like one.
3. However, clients do lie, and they will lie early and often.
4. Clients will lie to you.
5. Clients are not your friends.
6. Do not date clients, even if they are attractive, fine or smokin’ hot.
7. Try not to lose your cool with your client.
8. Some of our clients are guilty, and there is not a damn thing you can do to prevent a jury from finding them as such.
9. It is your client that is on trial, not you.
10. Remain Objective. You are not your client’s motivational coach.
11. If you give certain clients an inch, they will take a mile, and usually it will be out of your ass.
12. Clients have spent their life talking themselves into and out of trouble. To expect them to shut up when the police interrogate them is silly.
13. The public thinks that you are a waste of their tax dollars, until they need you.
14. District Attorneys are not your friends, but an adversary.
15. While District Attorneys are adversaries, do not vilify them; at least, be civil with them.
16. Judges will rule against you, even when you are right. This is why we appeal their dumbass decisions.
17. Document as much as you can concerning your client’s case.
18. Make good use of technology to help you save time.
19. Save your prior motions, pleadings, jury charges, et cetera; you will be amazed how the same fact patterns keep reoccurring.
20. Read appellate decisions. It is a pain; furthermore, it is discouraging to see how certain appellate court judges engage in mental and logic gymnastics. However, it is one of the many ways to stay on top of current changes in the law.
21. Be willing to help out a fellow criminal defense lawyer, even if some are jerks. We are in this thing together, and you never know when that asshole private lawyer will take a problem client off your hands for you.
22. Don’t talk like a lawyer, but like a normal person. People hate when lawyers talk in legalese or lawyer-speak.
23. A wise law school professor told me that a legal education sharpens the mind by narrowing it. So, to quote the wise Jedi Master Yoda, “You must unlearn what you have learned.” Free your mind. Don’t let the practice of the law be your life.
24. To continue on the Star Wars theme, Obi-Wan Kenobi told Luke the following: “Luke, you will find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.” The same is true for criminal defense work. Taking the time to view a case from differing points of view will enable you to better assess the strengths and weaknesses with your case.
25. Spell checker is a wonderful thing. Use it, even if it is a page on your blog.
26.  Be willing to accept responsibility for your mistakes.
27. Don’t believe in the no-win scenario
28. Take it easy on the Mental Anesthesia
29. Learn to take care of yourself
30. Don’t believe that you cannot do something stupid.
31. Know when to walk away

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