Compassion is a necessary part of being a criminal defense lawyer. We meet people on some of the worst days of their lives. Regardless of whether or not they are guilty, being charged criminally is a scary situation. My first job when meeting a new client is to reassure them that all hope is not lost, and they are taking the right steps to secure the best outcome possible for their case.
The next step is to dispel misconceptions. Criminal law is unusual in that unlike other legal fields, most people think they have a pretty good handle on the legal process. TV shows generally cut out the tedium of court appearances, filing motions, or waiting for the next court date. TV shows also tend to focus on the most serious crimes, which are a small percentage of all criminal cases prosecuted. I see it as my job to explain the law to my clients and explain possible outcomes to them with compassion and understanding.
During that conversation about the law, I let my clients explain to me about their personal lives. There is no greater expert on what clients want than the clients themselves. People have different expectations and desires when they hire an attorney. Some clients want to see a case concluded as soon as possible. It is my job to explain the possible drawbacks and balance their desires against the need to have a favorable outcome. Other clients want to fight every step of the way. Because I enjoy going to trial, that is a desire I am willing to accommodate. All people charged with a crime should make sure they hire a lawyer willing to listen and willing to walk them through the legal process. A good lawyer has the ability to make the worst day of someone’s life just a little bit better.