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In criminal defense, take nothing for granted & seize the opportunities

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Many criminal & DWI defendants at first may feel like they have been thrown to the lions. Beyond the veneer of smiling prosecutors, police and judges in the courthouse, is a criminal justice system ready to eat alive those who go to court alone or without the right lawyer.

It is empowering for the criminal defendant and his or her lawyer to seize all available opportunities on their side, but can feel disconcerting for the defendant when expectations or hopes about the prosecutor, judge or jury do not materialize. Those, like I, who used to get into fistfights and wrestling matches as children benefit from a realistic view of court combat and all other life conflict. We do not expect fairness in the boxing ring, although we welcome and encourage it.

Daily, I work on myself to get the best possible results for my client, without getting upset about trespasses from police, prosecutors and judges. When I let myself get upset about my opponents, I am losing sight about the opportunities for victory, many of which are right in front of my nose.

When my clients are feeling obsessed or down about their cases, I encourage them to redirect that energy to our working together as a team to finding the best possible outcome for them. That does not mean to deny any troubled feelings my client is experiencing, but instead to know those feelings, embrace them, and ultimately send them on their way.

Among the approaches I take for victory and persuading on that path, are being open and curious.

A person who walks down the street steeling himself against others potentially taking advantage of him will not get a very favorable reception from others. On the other hand, a person who can effortlessly neutralize any attack is able to walk happily down the street, ready to attract the good, persuade and win.

A fellow lawyer once recounted letting loose his most venomous diatribe against an opposing lawyer. The opposing lawyer did not get angry nor did he steel himself with armor. Once the vituperative lawyer ran out of steam, the opposing lawyer simply replied unsarcastically: “Are you finished?” Somehow along the way, the two lawyers became good friends. We never know from where our allies will come, whether they be lifelong friends or temporary even unknowing allies.

Speaking of allies, we can get more disappointed over the trespasses of friends than trespasses of enemies. We call them enemies because we expect little from them. From our friends, we expect much. What happens, then, when my gleeful dance over getting assigned a great judge leads to rulings from the bench that seem as if the judge’s soul has been kidnapped and replaced? My solution is to remember that this judge still has the seeds of greatness, but to realize that if I get all frustrated that the judge is not acting according to my imagined script for him, the judge will sense that negative energy, and nothing good will come of it.

When a client — or anyone else for that matter — poses a cockamamie-seeming question or cockamamie-seeming idea, the last thing for me to do is to slam the question or idea down as cockamamie. Instead, at worst I need to approach the question or idea with curiosity, being fully open to the speaker about my thought process in viewing and answering the question or idea, and engaging the other person in conversation about it. We all know too well the frustration and irritation that we experience when we start asking or saying something very simple (and even non-confrontational) and the customer service person or other person interrupts us and starts answering a question that we were never asking in the first place. People want to be heard, and a big part of persuasion is paying full time and attention to the person who is speaking. Better still is when both people fully engage together in communication.

If we let ourselves go down that hole, we will see and smell a lot of sh*t in life, starting with the moment we awake in the morning. When we instead remember that today is a gift in our finite life, and approach the day with a grateful and open heart that welcomes the abundance that is available to us, the possibilities are virtually limitless. This has nothing to do with empty aphorisms and everything to do with winning by transcending all the seeming sh*t littering the path ahead. No matter how challenging a criminal defendant’s situation looks, s/he has no choice but to work with the criminal defense lawyer to achieve the best possible result.