Having a positive impact on client’s life ‘most rewarding’
By Paul Russell, AdvocateDaily.com Contributor
His passion for defending the rights of others stems from a law course he took in high school, says Toronto criminal lawyer Mitchell Huberman.
“We studied cases where the sentences had dramatic impacts on people’s lives,” says Huberman, an associate with Hicks Adams LLP.
“I was especially interested in criminal law, where the consequences are significant for those who are convicted. I knew right then that I wanted to become a lawyer, to ensure that the circumstances warrant the sentence,” he tells AdvocateDaily.com.
While studying at the Schulich School of Law at Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia, Huberman worked with the local branch of the 7th Step Society, an organization that assists with reintegrating offenders back into the community.
“It’s a support group for people who have been let out of jail and are trying to lead normal lives again,” he says.
As a law student, Huberman says his role was to gather logistical information to assist in their integration, such as how to find a place to live, set up a bank account, or the best bus routes to take in various circumstances.
“When you are in jail for a long time, then get released, you don’t know where to go, or what to do,” Huberman says. “It’s tempting to resort back to whatever got you there in the first place, which is why transition assistance is so important.”
Part of his schooling included a semester at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam, where he studied international human rights law.
“It was amazing to connect with people from all over the globe, and to see how the justice system works in other parts of the world,” Huberman says. “We learned about human rights abuses going on that I wasn’t aware of, and I gained an understanding of how rules of law are applied in different contexts.”
In his role with Hicks Adams LLP, he focuses primarily on criminal trials and appeals, with cases ranging from mischief to murder.
“Someone who’s charged with a crime is in a powerless position at the behest of the state,” Huberman says. “They often have minimal resources at their disposal, so they need someone who can represent their interests.
“The allegations against them are unproven, so they are entitled to due process within the system, without being bullied by the more powerful side,” he says.
Based on his experience, Huberman says most people facing criminal charges are not monsters.
“They are human beings who have stumbled upon rough times, and they resorted to doing something drastic to try to improve their situation,” he says. “They don’t always think about the consequences that flow from their actions, and that leads to their involvement with our justice system.”
Huberman says he is fascinated to discover what led to an offence being committed, giving examples of crimes motivated by the need to provide for one’s family, or those where a spur-of-the-moment bad decision resulted in a criminal act.
“There is always more to the story. Everyone has their own vantage point and observations to contribute to the narrative,” he says.
Huberman says the most rewarding part of being a lawyer is seeing the impact his work can have on a person’s life.
“Oftentimes when I meet a client, they are behind bars, but then later that same day I get to walk out of the courtroom beside them. That’s a great feeling, knowing that I made a significant change in someone’s life that day.”
Everyone facing a criminal charge deserves effective legal representation so they can tell their side of the story, he says.
“Especially if they’re maintaining their innocence, they are entitled to their day in court. Ensuring they are given fair process, and a voice in the courtroom, is my key motivation as a lawyer,” Huberman says.