While prosecutors are often hired for the most high profile gigs like Supreme Court, criminal defense attorneys are imperative to the balance of the judicial system.
No matter what the crime is, everyone is entitled to a strong defense. With upwards of 4-10% of the accused being wrongfully convicted, a criminal defense law firm can’t afford to hire anyone but the best candidates.
With someone’s life, well-being, or livelihood at stake, the work of a criminal defense isn’t always rewarded to the relative degree that it’s needed. But for people with love for justice coursing through their veins, work for a criminal defense law firm might be their calling.
Passion is important for a criminal defense lawyer. It will sustain them through the harder cases and more devastating losses.
Here are 10 more skills that are essential if you want to become a criminal defense lawyer.
1. Understanding What Success Means
Success as a criminal defense attorney doesn’t necessarily mean being the richest lawyer on the block. A wealthy lawyer isn’t necessarily a lawyer who has won the most cases. They’re the lawyer that charges the most.
The most driven criminal defense lawyers don’t charge the kind of fees you hear about in high-profile celebrity cases. That’s because, while they will charge relative to their experience, they want to be within reach of the accused.
Those who are defending themselves are often up against city or state district attorneys who have been a part of the system for decades. They’re often regular people who can’t afford superstar lawyers but deserve a defense nonetheless.
If someone is misleading or tells falsehoods in their professional or personal life, they can face serious consequences. Lying in the courtroom can lead to disbarment, a bad reputation, or distrust from judges regarding any further cases.
Honesty is important for the integrity of a criminal defense law firm and every client they represent.
It’s important that a criminal defense attorney builds a reputation of respect for not only the judge but also the clerks and staff of the courts. Even in the biggest cities, a small community of people work in the court system. You’ll see everyone again and again.
Disrespect can not only affect the outcome of your cases but it can actually be a violation of the rules of the courtroom.
4. Find a Mentor
A criminal defense lawyer has a hard and demanding job, where changes happen in a case minute by minute basis. As they juggle multiple cases, it can be easy to feel overwhelmed.
This is when a mentor can come in handy.
Every good lawyer, no matter their experience, has a peer or a mentor who they can go to for advice. It’s important to have someone who can put difficult cases or clients into perspective. This can help attorneys make better-informed decisions, no matter their experience.
You can find a mentor at your criminal defense law firm or someone who you worked with at another job. It doesn’t matter who they are so long as you can trust them and they give the perspective you need.
5. Build A Relationship With The Courts
There are norms and customs that are important to the court system in general. On top of that, each judge and clerk has their own style and way of working. Getting to know the general customs and specificities can only benefit a criminal defense attorney.
To abide by the rules, behave respectfully no matter what the prosecutor is trying to sabotage your case with. This will only benefit you in the eyes of the judge.
6. Become a Better Writer
It’s very important to be able to communicate your ideas clearly as a criminal defense attorney. Leaving holes in your arguments or ideas can cause doubt in the judge and jury.
A powerful writer can impress everyone in the courtroom with a confident tone of writing. The power of the criminal defense attorney to express the position of the accused can influence the outcome of the case. Clear writing can take care of a lot of the work of expressing ideas about the case in a way that can win cases.
7. Be Comfortable Researching
No matter how strange your case may seem, there’s likely a precedent that can help to influence a judge’s decision about your case. With each passing day, new amendments are passed to existing laws and new precedents are set.
It’s important for anyone working at a criminal defense law firm to feel comfortable spending long hours researching old cases. Being blindsided by the prosecutor’s research can be embarrassing and swing a case in the wrong direction.
It’s important to stay on top of developments in law and cases like the ones you see on a daily basis.
8. Be Critical
Working at a criminal defense law firm will require attorneys to have good critical thinking skills. As they build a case for the accused, they should also be able to build a case against them. This will help predict outcomes and how to avoid playing into the hands of the prosecutor.
Being self-critical shouldn’t end when the judge bangs their gavel. Be self-aware when arguing your case and when you’re about to give evidence. Perhaps the witness you’ve been leaning on the whole time isn’t the one that will win this case.
9. Speak Confidently
Oral arguments are where you set the tone for the case. It’s important that any criminal defense attorney can speak with authority about their case. The prosecution is sure to come forward confidently, no matter how untrue you know their “facts” to be.
Even a great argument will suffer if argued poorly or without a strong orator behind it. Look at the way great orators like Lincoln or Obama present their ideas. Take notes and try to fake it until you can make that voice your own.
10. Be Informed
It’s important that everyone at a criminal defense law firm knows the law. If you’re looking to become a criminal defense attorney, you need to know the basics.
You should always have adequate knowledge to converse about ideas even when they’re new. Once you’re informed of the law, you’re ready to look for a job in the legal industry.
Get Yourself A Job At A Criminal Defense Law Firm
If you’ve got what it takes to fulfill all 10 of these skills, then you’ve got what it takes to be a criminal defense attorney.
To find the right law firm to suit your style, contact us so we can help fit you where you belong.