White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

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Systematic1
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White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

Postby Systematic1 » Thu Apr 12, 2012 4:29 am

Just wondering if anyone could explain to me a little bit more about working as a white collar defense attorney. I realize if I decide to go this route that I'd mostly be working for scum of the earth type people, but something about that intrigues me. Oddly enough, most of the intrigue came after I started researching Enron, Madoff, Kozlowski, etc. I'm also addicted to American Greed.

I've spoken at length with an attorney who teaches at my school about his experience in white collar defense. He's always really negative about the whole thing when I bring it up. In fact, just yesterday he told me a story about a case he worked on a couple years ago where he defended a guy that bilked investors out of millions of dollars through a complex and elaborate scheme (hiding debt in shell companies, quite similar to what Fastow did at Enron actually.) While he was telling me the story he kept bitching and moaning about having to defend such a shady character, but at the same time, I was fascinated by the intricacies and it really seems like something I could see my self leaning towards in law school.

Right now I'm majoring in business law minoring in economics and due to graduate in December. Are there any schools recognized as having particularly good white collar crime programs (particularly any t14's)? Are job opportunities good? How's the pay (I assume it would be markedly lower than IP or corporate law)? What's the lifestyle like? Are job prospects better for those who work in the gov prosecuting white collar crime first, or are they the same if you go straight to defense (I'd actually be pretty interested in either)? Anything I should know about this line of work?

rad lulz
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Re: White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

Postby rad lulz » Thu Apr 12, 2012 4:55 am

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Last edited by rad lulz on Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:46 am, edited 1 time in total.

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dingbat
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Re: White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

Postby dingbat » Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:22 am

rad lulz wrote:1. There are no programs, at least none that translate to increased job prospects
2. There aren't that many jobs. It's a fairly niche practice.
3. If you work at a large firm (large firms handle a lot of the big financial shit), you'll get paid market like everyone else in your class year. If you work at a boutique, compensation varies, but there's not a lot of info available about those. Some solo duders in solo practice or small firms do some white collar work. Again, hard to say what the compensation is.
4. You're gonna have to be more specific than "lifestyle." I will say you're never going to trial though. Like ever. If your white collar case goes to trial, you did something wrong.
5. USAO prosecutes most of the big federal shit under federal statutes (ex. mail fraud, wire fraud). You can't get USAO out of school. They don't hire fresh grads. A common path is firm -> USAO and then sometimes back to firm again. State DAs offices don't tend to prosecute a lot of white collar stuff.

Hope you like accounting and documents brah. Lots of numbers and docs. The crimes may sound sexy, but the way to prove them is by looking at a fuckton of bank statements and checks n shit. Some people are into this. Many aren't. See also qui tam defense, False Claims Act violations.

Credited.
I have a friend who is, in layman's terms, a fraud inspector. A CPA is very useful here, because you need to be able to follow the money and understand what's going on (we're talking sophisticated shit here, not small stuff)
Then there's a LOT of document review - and I'm not talking interesting stuff, either.
Have you ever read a prospectus? You're basically looking for a needle in a haystack - these things are fairly standardized, but an extra word here or there can give a sufficiently different meaning, such that what should be criminal is completely legit (eg how Perelman legally "stole" nearly a billion dollars from Marvel Comics)
What most people don't realize is that a lot of the shenanigans going on at Enron were completely legit, no matter how shady.



Edit: if this is a bit incoherent, it's because I started writing for the prosecution side, before I realized you're interested in defense

CanadianWolf
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Re: White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Apr 12, 2012 9:35 am

Criminal defense is much easier regarding document review because prosecutors & their investigators have already combed through the documents to establish a case. Plus, as a criminal defense attorney, you should enjoy the help & guidance of the defendant in navigating documents & systems.

P.S. You'll still have to represent drug dealers (the folks with lots of cash), however, because there isn't enough consistent white collar defense work to sustain a practice.

P.P.S. Plus, if you practice primarily in the federal courts, the feds will own you. Fight 'em too hard & they just might find a money laundering case against you. Interesting article documenting a dramatic surge of federal prosecutions of federal criminal defense attorneys was written in the late 1990s after new federal money laundering legislation came into effect.

Also, disagree with the statement above that these matters never go to trial. That's just factually incorrect even though most are settled by plea deals.

CanadianWolf
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Re: White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Apr 12, 2012 10:05 am

OP: Referring to federal criminal defendants as "scum of the earth people" suggests that you are ill suited to be a defense attorney. While defendants are usually portrayed in the press as bad guys, if you believe everything that you read in the newspapers or watch on TV, then you're in for a major eye-opening. Remember that reporters get most of their info. from the prosecutors (feds have full-time information/PR folks to deal with the press) in the vast majority of cases because defendants & their attorneys are keeping their mouths shut.

CanadianWolf
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Re: White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Apr 12, 2012 10:44 am

For an eye-opening perspective on the federal criminal justice system, read the years long series of articles in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette newspaper by Suschy (if I recall correctly). He's probably retired by now (last time I spoke with him was about 10 years ago).
Read the archived stories.

Also read Three (3) Felonies A Day.

Feds win cases because they have all the power & know how to use it. Many are forced into plea deals because the feds threaten to indict defendant's spouse & children. A favorite tactic threatens to indict defendant's college age children on a conspiracy money laundering theorey because the college tuition was paid for, allegedly, with ill gotten proceeds.

Additionally, many law schools have Wrongful Conviction clinics or Innocence projects. Many innocent folks have been executed by states & many have been released after serving lengthy amounts of time for crimes committed by others.

rad lulz
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Re: White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

Postby rad lulz » Thu Apr 12, 2012 11:03 am

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Last edited by rad lulz on Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

rad lulz
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Re: White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

Postby rad lulz » Thu Apr 12, 2012 11:04 am

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Last edited by rad lulz on Mon Apr 22, 2013 11:44 am, edited 1 time in total.

CanadianWolf
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Re: White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Apr 12, 2012 11:05 am

Yes, they go to trial much less in the federal system than in the state system. And, yes, it is clear that you have no idea what I'm talking about.

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Systematic1
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Re: White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

Postby Systematic1 » Thu Apr 12, 2012 5:52 pm

Thanks guys, I really appreciate the responses, and I'll definitely check out those articles. However, I'm not sure I see the correlation between being a good defense attorney and pretending like all of my clients are little angels of the highest moral turpitude. I'm not referring to how I would represent them to the public or in court, but rather being cognizant (in my own mind) of the fact that a lot of my clients would be, well...scum. Do you think an attorney who defends child rapists thinks all of his/her clients are saints an is inviting them over for dinner all the time? Obviously not. And personally, I hold someone who rapes investors in the same regards. Both groups of people are scum, but both need representation. They are in need of a service and my job would be to help them the best way I can, but I reject this idea that somehow not being naive about what type individuals I'm representing makes me ill suited to practice in this area. Just my 2 cents, I do kind of see your point though; I may be better suited for a government gig.

For CanadianWold, is Three (3) Felonies A Day a book?

CanadianWolf
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Re: White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

Postby CanadianWolf » Thu Apr 12, 2012 5:54 pm

Yes, it is a book. Ususally available at Barnes & Noble. Amazon should have it as well.

Cinderella
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Re: White Collar Criminal Defense Attorney

Postby Cinderella » Thu Apr 12, 2012 6:33 pm

Systematic1 wrote:Thanks guys, I really appreciate the responses, and I'll definitely check out those articles. However, I'm not sure I see the correlation between being a good defense attorney and pretending like all of my clients are little angels of the highest moral turpitude. I'm not referring to how I would represent them to the public or in court, but rather being cognizant (in my own mind) of the fact that a lot of my clients would be, well...scum. Do you think an attorney who defends child rapists thinks all of his/her clients are saints an is inviting them over for dinner all the time? Obviously not. And personally, I hold someone who rapes investors in the same regards. Both groups of people are scum, but both need representation. They are in need of a service and my job would be to help them the best way I can, but I reject this idea that somehow not being naive about what type individuals I'm representing makes me ill suited to practice in this area. Just my 2 cents, I do kind of see your point though; I may be better suited for a government gig.

For CanadianWold, is Three (3) Felonies A Day a book?


Scum is too strong, I think. Any sort of strong emotional reaction to criminality would impair your ability to properly represent your clients. It's not about loving them, it's about remaining unemotional. Not that criminal defense attorneys condone criminality; it's just that any moral repugnance strikes them at a more intellectual level than an emotional one. So, you can recognize that what someone did was wrong without hating them. Some people just have strong feelings about crime, and they're better suited to prosecution.

As for the topic of white collar crime, I think it’s important to recognize that there are many different practice types and niches within the field of “white collar crime.” There’s big firm and small firm, FCPA (Foreign Corrupt Practices Act) and corporate investigations and all kinds of other things, like tax, espionage, computer crimes, simple fraud, etc. The “lifestyle” of a white collar criminal lawyer would be very different depending on the area.

My advice to OP is to do a lot of research. Books, articles, professors, everything you can get your hands on. Figure out how the lawyers who work on the stuff you’re interested in got there. Get lots of opinions and perspectives, and remember that whenever someone gives you advice, they are usually giving you advice on how to get exactly where they are.

My understanding is that AUSA is the best way to get into the field, but there are other ways to break in, depending, again, on what type of practice interests you. I don’t know much about the big time fraud stuff OP mentioned, but from what I’ve read, they’re usually former AUSA’s. I know Madoff’s attorney was.




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