Criminal Defense: The Lonely Profession?

Criminal defense attorney Earl Rogers (1870-1922)

Look at this poor, lonely defense attorney (Earl Rogers). He's not as lonely as you may think. Image via Wikipedia

A lot of folks say that being a Criminal Defense Lawyer (CDL) is a lonely profession. Until now, I read such articles/posts and moved forward without questioning them.

Today, I read a blog post by Mirriam Seddiq (a CDL from the Washington, DC area), and it caused me to reflect on the plight of the lone defense attorney. She cites the need for mentorship in order to fully develop as a CDL and the loneliness that often accompanies our chosen profession, and she talks about several recent events in her own practice:

I called Scott Greenfield the other day.  Yes, the old curmudgeon.  I needed help on a case.  He spent over an hour on the phone with me walking me through the steps I’d need to take to establish my defense.  He told it to me straight. He didn’t make me think it was going to be a bed of thorn-less roses.  Many months ago I called onTrace Rabern and Mark Bennett for help on a post-conviction motion that will (hopefully) change the way we conduct pleas in Maryland.  They questioned my premise, they pushed me harder.  They helped.  I talk frequently to my friend Matt Kaiser, a fellow criminal defense lawyer who used to be a federal P.D. in Maryland.  He helps lighten the mood when he can, and as another solo attorney, he understands that we need the constant feedback and give and take to get through a case.

Check this out. She cites 4 names in one paragraph that she likely wrote quickly utilizing only her memory. I submit that there are probably other individuals (Brian Tannebaum, for one) she did not mention due to haste or forgotten conversations with other lawyers.

Here’s the deal: we are not alone. Occasionally, I receive calls from other CDLs asking for second opinions, a sympathetic ear, general advice, or a combination of all three. For all of them, I turn off my computer, shut the door, and I take as much time as necessary to help them through their predicament. Why? Because that’s exactly what many kind, experienced folks did for me. What’s more, they continue to support me with friendship, advice, and mentorship.  I was never alone.

Now, I have all of my old friends from the days in the Trial Defense Service along with several new friends I’ve met since embarking on my private venture. My old friend and law school classmate, Jeff Morris (an outstanding patent attorney), told me that the first 6 months of solo practice are a lot like the first 15 minutes of “Saving Private Ryan.” To a large extent, he is right. However, the negative experiences are mitigated by the realization that I am part of a large, proud fraternity of CDLs (as well as a smattering of other folks who understand and support us). Steve Karns is one who comes to mind. He is insanely busy, but we still talk once every week or so about the state of our practices. Much of my current success is attributable to him.

Like Mirriam, I’ve been in contact with the “curmudgeon,” Scott Greenfield. I’ve written him with questions and/or comments in need of validation/invalidation. He returns with meaningful responses that leave me better than I was before.

He never fails to return correspondence, and, as a true CDL, I doubt he ever will.

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