Sunday, December 14, 2008

Prosecutor, defense counsel jobs substantially differ

Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Robert Guest has worked as both a prosecutor and a criminal defense attorney and says there are more dissimilarities between the jobs than you might imagine. "Does my prosecution experience help my current clients?," he writes. "Yes, but not as much as more defense work would have." See his insightful analysis of the major differences.

RELATED: Scott Greenfield at Simple Justice elaborates on Guest's epiphany. Mark Bennett adds his comments regarding Guest's post and the biases of prosecutors.


Anonymous said...

I can't wait for A Harris County Lawyer's perspective on this.

I think he'll find himself evermore alienated by his prosecutor buddies who think that God put them on this earth to lock people up.

Anonymous said...

I saw this topic being argued on the Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog. I always felt a little uncomfortable when I read criminal defense lawyer ads playing up the fact that they were previous prosecutors. IANAL, so I really can't claim to know about how the experiences would relate to competence. Nonetheless, I am swayed by the argument in the other blog about how the skills are not related, although the system is the same. Prosecutorial experience might provide an understanding of the system, but it was argued by Robert Guest on The Dallas Criminal Defense Lawyer Blog that criminal defense requires an attitude and philosophy that prosecutorial experience can't provide. I would think the only thing prosecutorial experience would provide is knowledge of the law and the system, but there would need to be equally convincing evidence of something else beyond that.

Anonymous said...

I couldn't agree more that being a former prosecutor does not necessarily equip someone for defense work. That kneejerk tendency to stand in judgment over people doesn't help. Nor, in many cases, does their work ethic. But worst of all is their apparent ignorance of the ethical rules governing both prosecution and defense. Defense lawyers are much more frequently under attack and tend, in my experience, to pay more attention to the rules. Prosecutors are simply too used to having everything their own way and find it a terrible shock when suddenly they are the underdog, and representing some difficult, mentally ill, indigent guy, who is even more of an underdog, for a pittance. Don't do criminal defense work unless you can suspend judgment and treat every client with respect and a tad of kindess and compassion while being prepared to take on the state - and the judge - on a daily basis. Defense work is profoundly satisfying if it suits your temperament, but I see too many former prosecutors who are unhappy people with even unhappier clients.