The military criminal defense community is an extremely fractured and decentralized one. This explains why I’ve never heard of the “well-known” attorney featured in this article at the Army Times. Of course, I qualify as a “lesser-known” or “least-known” military lawyer, so I must bow to his earning of the title. My last court-martial was a year ago this week, and, while the result was overall favorable to our side, I haven’t had a trial since. Competition for the few-available clients who are capable of adding civilian counsel to their defense team is fierce and typically goes to the well-known folks (or those who are adept at search engine optimization).
Essentially, this well-known practitioner made a name for himself as a military criminal defense lawyer, representing several high-profile defendants for the better part of the last 20 years.
Now, he is out, frustrated. Left for the land of greener pastures as in-house counsel for a corporation specializing in the disposing and/or recycling of inedible animal byproducts for the food industry. It really doesn’t matter what the corporation does. He is now in the safe, secure, and allegedly happy environment of in-house counsel. According to a couple of articles I’ve read, these lawyers enjoy a high quality of life, whatever the hell that is. I have yet to see an in-house job that pays less than my average yearly take.
As his reason for leaving the military CDL community, he cites frustration with the rules and procedures of military justice–particularly recent changes in the field of Sexual Assault. He commends those who continue in the military criminal defense community, even calling them “heroes” for doing the “Lord’s work.”
I don’t buy this. My opinion, as worthless as it is, is that he found a comfortable, relatively BS-free job and jumped on it. Free from soliciting clients. Free from continuously earning business. Free from dealing with the frequent calls from individuals who have “just a few questions” or “just need a little direction” or “need a consultation.” He is now rid of bargaining cases with 26-year-old prosecutors who lack perspective. Someone else issues his W-2, and he doesn’t have to groan at every expense deduction. If it is a busy month, he gets paid. If it is a quiet month, he gets paid the same.
Many of us criminal defense practitioners complain when laws tighten the screws on our current and future clients. Some of the laws are just. Others are reactionary BS. Many fall somewhere in-between.
We thrive in an environment where we take rules, bend them to our favor, run around them, or work within them in a manner that benefits our charge. Sometimes, we succeed. Many times, we fail. While the goal is always to achieve success, sometimes we must settle for the door prize of failing brilliantly. When we can, we change rules. When we can’t, we do everything possible to get a good result.
It is frustrating and heartbreaking while also being rewarding and heartwarming.
We love every moment.
I’m sorry that he stopped loving the moments, but I can’t blame him for wanting something that causes fewer gray hairs. Just don’t blow smoke about it.
H/T to Army Scott