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5 Major Mistakes A Lawyer Begins To Conduct Criminal Cases

A little over a month ago, we asked the representatives of the lawyer community the question: "What mistakes did you make at the beginning of your lawyer career and how did you fix them?" Thanks to the answers we received, we were able to collect and summarize information that, it seems, will be useful not only to novice criminal defense counsel but also to experienced lawyers at the ladan law firm, P.A.

Of course, for many professionals, the list of errors presented may seem incomplete, and someone will say that they still encounter pointed errors from their colleagues, who are far from beginners. Right, apparently, will be those and others. However, with this study, the journal is only beginning the path to a more detailed study of the practice of all participants in the criminal process.

The collected information allowed conditionally dividing the "errors of lawyers" into three groups. The first includes the so-called "professional" errors. Despite the name, the mistakes in this group allocated to this group are in many respects, not related to direct knowledge of the law and the skills of its application. Indeed, to describe at least some of those that are encountered in practice, even the volume of one book would hardly have been enough. It most likely refers to organizational and tactical mistakes made by defenders at the beginning of a career.

The second group includes “psychological” errors. Here, shortcomings are indicated, which, probably, first of all, were made even by yesterday’s university students or any other jurisprudence experts who are little familiar with the peculiarities of working with clients.

The last, third, group is formed by a mistake that is inherent in lawyers who came to the profession from law enforcement agencies. It was decided to isolate this group for the simple reason that although the lion's share of lawyers has experience working in investigative bodies and (or) prosecutors, etc., as the reviews showed, it often allows it. Of course, it cannot be said that the defense lawyers, who had gathered evidence yesterday for the prosecution or supported the prosecution in court, only make the mistake that is mentioned in this group. As a survey of lawyers showed, despite their experience, many former operatives, investigators, or prosecutors face the same difficulties as others and (or) discover “new sides” in the criminal process.

Mistake 1: trying to do a lot of things

Probably, the main question asked by most lawyers at the beginning of their careers is related to the source of work, namely, criminal cases, references from principals. After all, helping clients is the main source of income for a lawyer. In this sense, the risk of a lawyer is akin to the risk of an entrepreneur: no one gives a lawyer a job and does not pay a salary. He finds a job himself and accordingly, earns his livelihood on his own. 

Due to the fear of being left without work or the desire to earn as much money as possible, beginning defenders are very tempted to take on as many cases as possible. However, most often, this leads to the opposite effect. The defender is not able to devote enough time to study the case, preparing documents on it and even simply being in different places including courts, pre-trial detention centers, etc. at the same time.

All these and other factors can lead to an undesirable result for the principal on the case, and further to loss by the lawyer of a reputation, which will inevitably be followed by a refusal of his services.

The recommendations from the series “Don’t Take Too Much”, “Evaluate and allocate time correctly,” are not exactly the advice that novice lawyers obviously would like to hear. It seems that the two main issues are related to how to organize the search and obtain a sufficient amount of work and psychologically overcome the fear of losing earnings.

As practice shows, to find a “cold head” and get rid of stress, it is necessary to find psychological support.

In addition, it is important to take care of the future place of work in advance: to find a lawyer education that at first could “provide” with cases, including those in which the defense attorney participates as appointed by the state. In addition, it is better to start the practice by participating in not too complicated cases, if simplicity in the criminal process can be said at all.

Mistake 2: conviction of a fair trial

The wording of this error will probably cause anger among the judges, who are also readers of the magazine. Probably, to some extent, this anger will be justified. However, we could not help highlighting this error. Firstly, because the lawyers interviewed by us pointed to her, and secondly, even judges will certainly not be able to deny having met with unjust decisions, violations committed in a criminal trial by a court, or low qualifications of colleagues.

If we turn to the essence of the error, we can say that the confidence in a thorough examination of precisely “his” (lawyer) case is fully explainable. Indeed, in comparison with the court, the defender spends disproportionately more time, psychological and mental efforts when working on the case. Of course, he hopes for an adequate assessment of his work by the court. Hope for a court is strengthened if, at the stage of the preliminary investigation, the defense counsel is faced with “deaf” sabotage: unreasonable refusal of motions and inclusion of evidence submitted by the defense, inability to participate generally in the process, etc. But if the judge is initially more favorable to the accusation (remember the percentage of acquittals!), the disappointment of the defender comes inevitably.

In addition, a novice lawyer needs to remember that a particular case is not the only one for a judge, and he treats this process (meticulously or superficially) as well as hundreds of others. Finally, due to the heavy workload, the large number of cases, the judge may not physically have time to delve into every detail of the case.

Mistake 3: Consent "with the investigation

Uncertainty in their abilities is inherent in a novice in any profession, and the lawyer is double, because he often has to be left alone with the state "machine". In this situation, the novice lawyer may succumb to the persuasion of the investigator to resolve the trifle case as soon as possible despite "small" violations of the criminal procedure law, persuade the defendant to plead guilty and agree to a special procedure for the consideration of the case by the court, etc. In return, the investigator can promise that he will attract lawyer for the defense of suspects and accused in cases that are in its proceedings. Having entered into such persuasion, "conciliation", establishing the "necessary connections", the defender strongly risks not only his reputation but the trust and respect of his colleagues.

To overcome fear and self-doubt, you can turn to colleagues, who at one time, also began to work from scratch. The main thing to remember is that any road begins with the first step, and the profession of a lawyer, in any case, requires courage, and sometimes courage.

Mistake 4: former law enforcement officers are overly confident in their knowledge and experience

The name of this error speaks for itself. Most investigators or prosecutors are confident that they know everything about the criminal process. But as soon as they encounter a “different” reality, many of them begin to realize that condoning violations of the law by the court, the prosecutor's office can play against them. Understanding that the client and the suspect (the accused) are not just different concepts, but also a different approach to participation in the case, and the collection of evidence by the lawyer is faced with more difficulties than the investigation’s work. Well, and most importantly: yesterday’s colleagues in the workshop are not always happy to help, because their work is evaluated according to entirely different criteria than the work of a lawyer.

Mistake 5: Emotional Attitude

This error is similar to that indicated above, with the only difference being that the emotions and experiences of the lawyer are usually not related to the principal, but are caused by flagrant violations of the law by the investigation and the prosecution, as well as the lawyer’s attempts to indicate his superiority over the prosecution, to enter into some rivalry with him, etc. Such an approach to the case can not only prevent the defender from adequately assessing the circumstances of the case and develop a consistent defense tactic, but also adversely affect the relationship with representatives of the accused those who by no means always deserve criticism.

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