Lessons Learned: Criminal Defense Edition, 0319 COBJ, Vol. 48, No. 3 Pg. 16

Position:Vol. 48, 3 [Page 16]

48 Colo.Law. 16

Lessons Learned: Criminal Defense Edition

Vol. 48, No. 3 [Page 16]

Colorado Lawyer

March, 2019



I went to law school to become a public defender and will always think of myself first as a criminal defense lawyer. In fact, I receive many solicitations to buy plaques and certificates that say I am a criminal defense lawyer. (How good I am seems to depend on the level of check I am willing to write!) But if it is true that we learn from our mistakes, I ought to be considered a genius by now. I've learned each and every one of these lessons the hard way:

1. Lawyers who don't have to try the case are the first ones to bravely advise you "I'd take it to trial."

2. Judges' rulings are not debatable, only appealable.

3. Of your 10 greatest victories, seven will be deals. Nobody will hear about the deals, but they count just as much.

4. Never act on a brilliant inspiration in the midst of trial.

5. Do not interrupt a judge who is ruling your way.

6. Your worst disasters will be caused not by bad facts, but by surprises.

7. If we were as dedicated to our families as we are to our clients, both would be better off.

8. Preparation is still the greatest technique for winning.

9. Lawyers of high ethical standards never brag about it.

10. The private bar has no right to look down on public defenders. Public defenders have no right to look down on the private bar. We all lose when this happens.

11. If you steal a great deal, shut up about it, or you will never steal another.

12. If the press finds out you stole a great deal, protect your prosecutor.

13. Don't ever take a case for the publicity. When press coverage becomes your pay, you will be tempted to make tactical decisions that ensure you will "get paid."

14. Clients benefit from your reputation. It's not in their interest or yours to do anything questionable, even if they think it is.

15. Your reputation for integrity will win you more motions than the case law.

16. Be as quick to publicly praise honesty in your opponents as you are...

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