‘How do you represent the people you represent?’
I have represented everyone from accused drug traffickers, to accused sexual assaulters, to accused murderers. The stock answer to this question from most criminal lawyers goes something like this: “Because I believe that every person is presumed innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and because I believe every person is entitled to a fair trial. Because I believe that advocating for accused people facing the power of the state is the best way to preserve civil liberties in a democratic society and because I believe challenging the power of the state is fundamental to a democratic society.” Of course, I believe these things as well and will fight for these principles until my last breath. But I cannot say this is the main reason that I love criminal law or became a defence lawyer.
The truth is that, for the most part, I really get along with my clients. I often really like my clients.
I don’t know what it is but part of the reason I love my job is that I really enjoy the interaction with people that are accused of criminal offences. Maybe it’s the ability to separate the person from the alleged offence. I can’t really explain it, other than to say that there have to be people like me to make the system work. I just happen to be one of those people.
I would turn this question around on people that ask me, particularly on other lawyers. How do you represent the people you represent? Is it not boring? Do you enjoy discussing how to avoid taxation or how much the termination of a lease is worth? I think to be good at your job you need to like what you do but it makes it so much better if you actually like the client you’re helping (realizing, of course, this can’t happen all the time). Becoming a defence lawyer makes civilian life difficult to endure sometimes. Most of the conversations that I have with friends simply cannot compete with the ones that I have at work.
On one occasion recently, I was at a Sunday brunch and had a meeting later that day with a new prospective client. One of the people at the brunch started asking about ways to avoid paying taxation upon the sale of a condominium investment property. After that conversation began, I immediately excused myself to go to my meeting. It was the perfect metaphor for my life: a lot of the time, I would rather interact with my clients than with my friends. So how do I represent the people I represent? It is the only thing I could ever do.