Criminal defense is all about service to clients. How lonely and sometimes power-depriving it must feel as criminal defendants are cut off by police — while still presumed innocent — from their support network of friends and family, and access to a lawyer, during that twilight zone covering the initial police detention to their arrival at the jail or police station.
Like a bleeding victim arriving at the hospital emergency room, criminal defendants want to stop the bleeding, and do it right and soon. The criminal defense lawyer needs the tools, experience, and ability to bring the client back to harmony as closely as possible.
Where I practice criminal defense, the majority of lawyers practice either solo, with a handful of partners and associates. One of the greatest strengths of a good criminal defense lawyer is to help their peers rise as they rise, and to seek out brainstorming and other collaborative help from their peers. As Ben Franklin aptly put it “If we do not hang together, we shall surely hang separately.”
Beneficial innovation in criminal defense calls not only for my mutually reaching out to my local peers, but also to work closely with lawyers beyond Virginia, including those who have learned the great lessons from the Trial Lawyers College, which I attended for a full month in 1995, in Wyoming and the National Criminal Defense College’s Trial Practice Institute in Macon, Georgia, which I attended for two weeks in 1994. Both programs and their attendees push trial lawyers to find and exploit the initially hidden opportunities in their cases in new ways, so that we approach each new case and client from a fresh, inspired and powerful storytelling perspective, rather than looking at the case as just another drug defense case or just another DWI case, for instance. For my clients, their cases are far from just another case.
What a great shot in the arm I get when in a pickup trial workshop or on the phone with such great lawyers who attended the Trial Lawyers College as Chris Flohr in Maryland, Leila Kilgore in Virginia, Anna Durbin in Pennsylvania, Anne-Marie Gering in Maryland, Jerri Peyton-Braydon in Maryland (not a TLC attendee, but she could have fooled me) and Fredi Sisson in Norther Carolina, just to name a few. Many great trial lawyers also are in my own backyard, and I will be delighted to name some of them when I get their okay.
Many times, I have assembled gatherings of great lawyers and my client on a weekend morning to take my client’s cases to the next quantum leap towards victory, and I have joined other lawyers in doing the same for their clients. The collective energy, insights and wisdom that can result from such collaboration, particularly when we are focusing in such a supportive group and environment, is astounding.
Usually these workshops include psychodrama or some other powerful variation of working out problems through role playing and reverse role playing. My clients join in these workshops when for their cases, and I advise them to be open minded about what is to come. They all have benefited from doing so.
Criminal defense lawyers never need to feel alone. Mutual support is just one phone call or courthouse hallway holler away. Victory often is not as elusive as it may at first seem for our initially tough-appearing cases.