Are you an aggressive defense lawyer?

As a lawyer, one of the advantages to having a blog is that I can more effectively communicate my thoughts and ideas about criminal defense, and how I go about it on a daily basis to potential clients, than by just having a “static” website.

This is primarily because everything written on this blog is written by me – or, if I’m commenting on someone else’s ideas, they are, of course, properly attributed, with a backlink to the original writer’s post.

Most static websites for criminal defense lawyers are templates that various web site companies sell, where most, if not everything, is prewritten for the attorney, except for biographical information, such as schooling, years in practice, and geographic location.

One of the main buzzwords you see on even the best criminal defense lawyer websites is the phrase “aggressive defense”. I guess this either sounds good, or more likely, whoever wrote the website for the lawyer thinks it sounds good. Either way, I don’t call myself an aggressive lawyer.

On the contrary, I go to great lengths to be courteous and well mannered. In the initial negotiations stage of a case, the prosecutor has a great deal of leeway to potentially offer a better than average deal (which is what all of my clients are seeking). Why would they bend a little if the lawyer in a particular case was acting aggressively?

Prosecutors actually have the upper hand in most cases. Sometimes it feels like an uphill battle when the State has both the facts and the law on their side. But a good defense lawyer will calmly and politely explain the equitable facts that benefit his client. Maybe he’s never been arrested before, or the usual range of punishment will put him out of a job.

Or maybe it’s a borderline case. Take a first offense DWI arrest with no breath test, where the defendant admits to drinking alcohol, and does fairly well, but not perfectly on the standardized field sobriety tests. “Aggressively” coming in and “demanding” a dismissal on the first meeting with the prosecutor is probably going to produce the opposite of the intended result. It may in fact make the State dig their heels in, and refuse to ever negotiate the case reasonably.

Going to trial in the above example would, of course, still be an option, but many clients prefer a guaranteed and negotiated reduction of charges instead of a jury.

On the other hand, I am a very competitive person, and want the best outcome for my client. Not only is that my job description – to get the possible deal available, and otherwise take the case to trial – but it’s my personality. I enjoy games, and game theory, and believe me, I hate to lose.

Perhaps that’s what criminal defense attorneys really mean when they call themselves “aggressive”. Unfortunately, the ones that truly are aggressive are the ones that give lawyering a bad name. And, having seen some of them attempt negotiations, I can tell you this: their clients don’t often benefit from it either.

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Austin Criminal Defense Lawyer - April 28, 2008 11:34 PM
Blogging lawyers in Houston and Forth Worth are posting back and forth on which is the superior quality to be found in a criminal defense lawyer: empathy or ruthlessness.Thought about jumping into the fray, but why rewrite my thoughts when...
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Melissa - February 4, 2007 6:54 AM

I agree with you on this one! On most cases, I end up getting great deals for my client using this technique. My co-workers sometimes give me a hard time about it but it works for my clients so I'm not complaining. I too consider myself very competitive and love trials.

By the way, great blog. I've been reading you for quite some time.

Jamie - May 16, 2008 9:44 PM

Melissa:

Thanks for stopping by, and thanks for the compliment.

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