Why is criminal defense looked down upon on this site?

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utlaw2007
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Re: Why is criminal defense looked down upon on this site?

Postby utlaw2007 » Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:01 pm

Personally, I have dabbled in criminal law right out of the gate because I participated in the criminal defense clinic in law school. It's the best way to gain trial experience. I stayed away from the prosecutors office because they overwork you for so little pay.

The clinic was ok. Out in the real world? Criminal law sucks and it sucks badly! If you do not have connections to potential clients who can afford to pay you, you are not going to make any money. If you do not have a network of lawyers who can refer you potential cases, you are not going to make any money.

The clients you will get without a decent rep are clients that can't pay. If you are not savvy enough to collect money from your clients by playing hard ball, you will be broke.

My stint with criminal defense lasted all but 1 month. Criminal clients are notoriously irresponsible. They NEVER fulfill promises to pay you. You'll perpetually get the "I can pay you $250 now and can pay you the rest when I get my paycheck." If you are naive enough to take a case before even receiving the $250, you will never get paid a dime. That case you just accepted is now a pro bono case because you will work for free.

If you learn to receive payment before accepting a case, the actual cases you receive will be few and far between because a paying criminal client is going to the lawyer with the rep or the referred lawyer who knows tons of attorneys in order to get referrals.

You could work at a criminal law firm. But the partners at that firm aren't going to pay you anything. And why should they? You can be easily replaced.

The lawyers who do well in criminal law have practiced for years, so they have reps. Or they know LOTS of attorneys who can refer cases to them. If you are neither of these, don't practice criminal defense.

eric922
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Re: Why is criminal defense looked down upon on this site?

Postby eric922 » Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:22 pm

utlaw2007 wrote:Personally, I have dabbled in criminal law right out of the gate because I participated in the criminal defense clinic in law school. It's the best way to gain trial experience. I stayed away from the prosecutors office because they overwork you for so little pay.

The clinic was ok. Out in the real world? Criminal law sucks and it sucks badly! If you do not have connections to potential clients who can afford to pay you, you are not going to make any money. If you do not have a network of lawyers who can refer you potential cases, you are not going to make any money.

The clients you will get without a decent rep are clients that can't pay. If you are not savvy enough to collect money from your clients by playing hard ball, you will be broke.

My stint with criminal defense lasted all but 1 month. Criminal clients are notoriously irresponsible. They NEVER fulfill promises to pay you. You'll perpetually get the "I can pay you $250 now and can pay you the rest when I get my paycheck." If you are naive enough to take a case before even receiving the $250, you will never get paid a dime. That case you just accepted is now a pro bono case because you will work for free.

If you learn to receive payment before accepting a case, the actual cases you receive will be few and far between because a paying criminal client is going to the lawyer with the rep or the referred lawyer who knows tons of attorneys in order to get referrals.

You could work at a criminal law firm. But the partners at that firm aren't going to pay you anything. And why should they? You can be easily replaced.

The lawyers who do well in criminal law have practiced for years, so they have reps. Or they know LOTS of attorneys who can refer cases to them. If you are neither of these, don't practice criminal defense.

I just wanted to thank you for this post it was rather eye-opening. My father works as an investigator for criminal defense lawyers who do very well so I assumed it was a pretty lucrative business, but it seems he just got in with the few successful ones. I've never had much desire to do criminal work, I'd rather do white collar litigation one day, but I did enjoy hearing about your experiences in criminal law so thanks again.

Cinderella
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Re: Why is criminal defense looked down upon on this site?

Postby Cinderella » Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:27 pm

BeenDidThat wrote:
scifiguy wrote:
timbs4339 wrote:More likely, you'll be working for low wages but lots of stress (there was a great post somewhere about how law is one of the few professions where the work was both high stress and boring), dealing with generally uneducated and violent clients, doing a lot of rote work and from what I've heard have a tough time collecting your fees. The work is not like on TV, where every case is neatly wrapped up in a bow after 30 minutes.

I'm curious about this too.

When dealing with alleged criminals, do you lawyers ever have to fear for their own safety? Criminal law seems maybe the least appealing to me out of them all.

I don't know how I'd emotionally handle working with people alleged to have commited crimes like rape or murder. Do you have to talk to your clients outside of the job in the community if you see them?

cynthiad wrote:I think it depends on the type of criminal defense. If you're defending DUIs for peanuts, that's shitlaw. If you're defending rich white-collar criminals (or even rich people accused of other crimes) that's a different story. Plenty of biglaw lawyers do criminal defense, but it's as different from "shitlaw" criminal defense as writing wills in shitlaw is from doing T&E in a biglaw firm.


What's T & E?


You don't have to fear for your own safety doing crim defense. I'd be much more fearful of handling divorces. Of course, crim defense probably carries a higher risk of client-caused violence hurting the lawyer than, say, doing M&A work, but unless you're talking about severely mentally ill clients (where fear may well be a good instinct to have), the vast majority of defendants (and yes, most of them have committed crimes) understand that: (1) you're the only one on their side; (2) they benefit from your continuing survival; (3) people know of your relationship; (4) it's harder to get away with a crime against somebody who you have a known relationship with; and (5) it's not worth the risk.

As a general note to the OP, I don't think people really look down on crim defense that much. Some prosecutorial-minded folks might talk shit about the other side, but who cares? If anything, crim defense gets short shrift here because it generally doesn't pay well right out of the gates. When you can make 160k, making 40-50k sounds downright miserable. And understandably so. But if you can persevere in practicing crim defense, you can do quite well for yourself. Most of the crim defense lawyers I know do DWIs but also handle more serious crimes, though they may not handle the real bad ones (rape, kidnap, murder). I don't know their finances exactly, but if you're handling 30 DWIs at 5k each, each of those lasts about a year, and you handle maybe 10 felonies at 15-20k each for 2 years, you're talking about revenues of 475k over two years, or 237.5k/year. Cut half out for administrative & overhead, then tax that half, you're ending up somewhere around 100k/year. That's not a bad living. After 20 years of practice, start handling cap murders, and you can charge hundreds of thousand for each case and end up quite wealthy.


I disagree with a lot of this. Criminal defense attorneys definitely fear their clients. A lot of PD offices have more security than their DA counterparts. I work at a private criminal defense firm, and I sit closer to the door than any of the attorneys. There’s kind of a joke in the office that if a deranged client comes through the door with guns blazing, I’m going to have to take one for the team. It’s mostly a joke, but I can see the legit fear in their eyes when they talk about stuff like that.

Also, criminal defendants don’t always act rationally, so you can’t assume that, as a defense attorney, you’ll be ok because your clients “know you’re on their side.” Of course, the vast majority of clients would never hurt their lawyers, but it only takes one. I don’t think it can seriously be doubted that criminal defense is the most dangerous practice for a lawyer to specialize in.

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dingbat
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Re: Why is criminal defense looked down upon on this site?

Postby dingbat » Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:29 pm

Cinderella wrote:I don’t think it can seriously be doubted that criminal defense is the most dangerous practice for a lawyer to specialize in.

try prosecuting drug cartels

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Why is criminal defense looked down upon on this site?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:32 pm

I'm not saying that there's no risk to criminal defense, but if you're talking disgruntled clients, I'd be much more nervous about doing family law.

Cinderella
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Re: Why is criminal defense looked down upon on this site?

Postby Cinderella » Sun Jan 20, 2013 2:33 pm

dingbat wrote:
Cinderella wrote:I don’t think it can seriously be doubted that criminal defense is the most dangerous practice for a lawyer to specialize in.

try prosecuting drug cartels


Try defending them.

dixiecupdrinking
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Re: Why is criminal defense looked down upon on this site?

Postby dixiecupdrinking » Sun Jan 20, 2013 3:59 pm

A. Nony Mouse wrote:I'm not saying that there's no risk to criminal defense, but if you're talking disgruntled clients, I'd be much more nervous about doing family law.

Agreed.

I also think you guys are generally way overestimating how "scary" the average criminal defendant is. They're just people who messed up, for the most part.

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FlanAl
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Re: Why is criminal defense looked down upon on this site?

Postby FlanAl » Sun Jan 20, 2013 4:29 pm

dixiecupdrinking wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:I'm not saying that there's no risk to criminal defense, but if you're talking disgruntled clients, I'd be much more nervous about doing family law.

Agreed.

I also think you guys are generally way overestimating how "scary" the average criminal defendant is. They're just people who messed up, for the most part.


yeah i bet family law and dealing with a dude who's already abusive etc. would be way sketchier. Also, how often do you even hear stories of disgruntled clients attacking their attorneys? Am I just really sheltered? I have a hard time seeing this as happening enough to persuade someone to choose a different area of law.

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A. Nony Mouse
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Re: Why is criminal defense looked down upon on this site?

Postby A. Nony Mouse » Sun Jan 20, 2013 4:50 pm

I've heard of criminal defendants attacking their attorneys (saw one story of a guy stabbing his attorney with a pencil. In court. Good move), but I've heard more about prosecutors getting killed. (But I agree it's not a reason to go into a different area of law. It makes the news because it's not that common.)

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Hattori Hanzo
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Re: Why is criminal defense looked down upon on this site?

Postby Hattori Hanzo » Mon Jan 21, 2013 12:06 am

A. Nony Mouse wrote:I've heard of criminal defendants attacking their attorneys (saw one story of a guy stabbing his attorney with a pencil. In court. Good move), but I've heard more about prosecutors getting killed. (But I agree it's not a reason to go into a different area of law. It makes the news because it's not that common.)


I represent inmates in institutional disciplinary hearings and I must agree with the guy who said we're their best friends. Even the most scary looking inmates in state supermax are usually very grateful to have someone on their side. That said, our supervising attorney who's been doing this since the late 1970s has a few stories of being attacked by clients/inmates but what's a couple of times in 4 decades?

eric922
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Re: Why is criminal defense looked down upon on this site?

Postby eric922 » Mon Jan 21, 2013 12:13 am

Hattori Hanzo wrote:
A. Nony Mouse wrote:I've heard of criminal defendants attacking their attorneys (saw one story of a guy stabbing his attorney with a pencil. In court. Good move), but I've heard more about prosecutors getting killed. (But I agree it's not a reason to go into a different area of law. It makes the news because it's not that common.)


I represent inmates in institutional disciplinary hearings and I must agree with the guy who said we're their best friends. Even the most scary looking inmates in state supermax are usually very grateful to have someone on their side. That said, our supervising attorney who's been doing this since the late 1970s has a few stories of being attacked by clients/inmates but what's a couple of times in 4 decades?

Honestly I wouldn't be surprised if people working in retail had more violent stories, especially the ones who work Black Friday.

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Kronk
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Re: Why is criminal defense looked down upon on this site?

Postby Kronk » Mon Jan 21, 2013 12:21 am

Cinderella wrote:
dingbat wrote:
Cinderella wrote:I don’t think it can seriously be doubted that criminal defense is the most dangerous practice for a lawyer to specialize in.

try prosecuting drug cartels


Try defending them.


Yeah...I'd rather be defending them than prosecuting them. I think that's pretty self explanatory.

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johnnyutah
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Re: Why is criminal defense looked down upon on this site?

Postby johnnyutah » Wed Jan 23, 2013 1:21 pm

I'm starting my criminal defense job in a couple weeks, and I've never felt that anyone on this site looked down on me for it.

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bk1
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Re: Why is criminal defense looked down upon on this site?

Postby bk1 » Wed Jan 23, 2013 3:06 pm

johnnyutah wrote:I'm starting my criminal defense job in a couple weeks, and I've never felt that anyone on this site looked down on me for it.

Tall thread might be looking down on you, bro.




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