Why I picked Criminal Defense

Here’s a question that I get asked on a regular basis from people I meet, clients, and other lawyers. It usually goes something like this…

“So I have a question for you. What made you get into criminal law?” Most of the time it’s followed up with “I could never do it” or “I find it so fascinating.” Either reaction, I can say that real life is stranger than fiction.

I’d be lying if I said I was interested in criminal law early on. My interest started after I finished college and planned to go to law school. I grew up in Upstate New York and at the time I was exploring my options. I reached out to some family and friends in the area to see if I could find an internship somewhere.

Eventually I wound up at the Broome County Public Defender’s Office in Binghamton, New York. While at the Public Defender’s Office I did mostly intakes on potential clients who could not afford to hire an attorney. Some clients had no criminal records at all. Others were repeat offenders. One thing that they all had in common was that they needed help. It’s easy to vilify others and seek swift punishment. For some crimes, it’s hard to show mercy. Sadly, our most vulnerable members of society generally need help the most.

There is a look of relief and that comes across someone’s face when they know someone will fight for them. Some clients even cried because they felt so helpless. It’s hard to describe, but there is a deep satisfaction knowing that you’ve eased someone’s suffering.

Here is one of my favorite quotes. I keep a copy of it taped to my bathroom mirror:

To laugh often and much; To win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; To appreciate beauty, to find the best in others; To leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch, or a redeemed social condition; To know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.” – Emerson

It’s impossible to try and explain why humans do what we do. However, it’s important to keep in mind that we all have rights. Imagine a world where we could pick and choose who was given rights and who wasn’t. Now imagine that you or someone you love or care about was denied those rights – “just because.”

That wouldn’t give you much faith in our legal system, would it? At the end of the day I want my clients to feel that they were given a fair shake. I want them to feel that their rights were protected. I want them to feel that their case was pushed as far in their favor as it could go. Helping them not only helps the individual, but also their families and friends.

The weight of the criminal justice system on your shoulders is a heavy burden to carry. I’ve seen my clients and others breathe a huge¬†sigh of relief after their criminal case is over, and that makes it all worth it.

That’s why I picked criminal defense.


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