More Questions Than Answers

Please allow me to kick the horse that may already be dead and follow up on one comment to More On Defending The Guilty...

Gidge, a (former?) prosecutor, comments:
I'd rather have the hypothetical "how could I get out of..." questions than someone make assumptions why I'm in my job. What kind of follow-up questions would defense attorneys prefer?

That reminds me of a funny story. I guess it was last summer, I was at an event where I was pretty much the only female in a large group of men, many of whom were drunk.

At some point the topic of me being a criminal defense lawyer arises.

To which, one of the guys asks, "Ok, so, let's say I didn't want to get arrested, but I wanted to start a business... you know, like, an "escort service"... but a "legit" one, you know? You know? Like totally "legit." Right...?" Complete with air finger quotes around the word "legit."

I guess the best follow-up questions are, "Wow, I bet you see a lot of interesting things..." That leaves the door open for me to either say, "Yeah, I do, thanks," quickly closing that door, or to say, "Yeah, recently, I had a case..."

I guess the other awkward follow-up that I get is confusion over what I do. Like, my doctor. Who, every appointment, asks me, "What kind of lawyer are you?" I think the first time I just said, "criminal defense." Every time since then, I've tried to explain what I do with a little more detail. Most recently, I think I said something like, "Let's say you got arrested. You'd want a lawyer who would help you tell your side of the story and try to help you avoid going to jail. That's my job." But, no matter how much I break it down, she always gives the same response, "Yeah, that's good, put them all in jail! Right? Right?"

Let's hope she pays more attention to my symptoms than she does to my career choice.

Anyway, back to the question: What kind of follow-up questions would defense attorneys prefer?


  1. So, was your answer to escort guy, "Thanks, but I already have a job"?

    Because it totally should have been.

  2. Back when I was doing criminal law on a regular basis, I'd rather them ask me about any funny stories. That I always had a few... and they usually explained the whole criminal defense thing.

  3. I am so sick of people (family and friends most often) asking me "how can you defend someone you KNOW is guilty?"
    Because the obvious implication is that I am amoral- and I am tired of defending myself and/or explaining the US criminal justice system and the Constitution, etc.

    So now I simply answer, "Oh, it's easy. I'm morally bankrupt."

    Let THAT one float like a foul odor...
    Seriously, it is a crass question.

  4. I am so tired of the doesn't-it-bother-you-to-represent-the-guilty-question. "No" is my response, short and sweet. If they persist, I tell them that the tough cases that keep me up at night are the cases where I believe my client is innocent, and that it happens more than they think.

  5. I just got asked this question for the first time after 10 months as a PD. I was at a cousin's wedding, and no fewer than FIVE family members asked me this. after knowing me for a lifetime, and (I think) knowing how important social justice is to me. At the reception, I gave each person the brief answer ("no, I don't have any moral question about doing my job.") and left it at that. and came home and followed up with a six paragraph email to each person...whew. I was tempted to close with asking each of them to provide me with the moral justification for their career choices, but resisted in the name of family harmony. still considering doing it though...