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Devoting the lawyer’s heart and soul for the client

Fairfax/Northern Virginia criminal defense attorney Jon Katz on giving his all to clients

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Criminal defense lawyers are obligated to defend their clients zealously, effectively, and with full time and attention. This is no 9 to 5 job. Moreover, when lawyers visualize and internalize their clients’ cases as being as important as representing our closest loved ones, we can bring ourselves closer to victory.

In 1995, I met acting teacher/actor/screenwriter Josh Karton while struggling over how to pull off my chosen role as a prosecutor of O.J. Simpson for a mock jury trial at the Trial Lawyers College. I chose the prosecution role knowing the importance of understanding my opponents on the ongoing road to successfully defending my clients in criminal court.

During my practice session with the opening argument, Josh Karton took me aside and asked how I was feeling. I told him I was feeling deep obstacles putting myself in the role of a prosecutor when I believe so strongly in my role as a criminal defense lawyer. He asked me about people I care most about in my life, and then asked me to imagine that that person’s life relied on my performance in prosecuting this case. I will not say that this fully transformed me, because an instant metamorphosis was not to have been. However, Josh did have an uncanny ability to quickly discover my roadblock and to help me find my passageway around it.

Josh aptly speaks of moving people to action to the benefit of the lawyer’s case. When the judge, jury and prosecutors feel like mere spectators to the action, it is easier for them to disregard the lawyer’s client, than when they feel like they are essential players in the action. Critical to moving people to action is for the lawyer also to feel fully invested in the case and to be an essential player in the action. It may feel more comfortable to be in the role of a mere spectator, but making a positive difference for one’s criminal defense clients is not about guaranteeing armchair comfort, but instead is about getting right into the storm to fight for the client, pouring and investing the lawyer’s entire heart and soul for the client.