A typical day for a criminal attorney is demanding and varied. Each day might involve speaking with clients either in person or on the phone, making court appearances, attending meetings, meeting with clients in jail, performing research, defending clients at trial, and prepping witnesses. Criminal lawyers, also called public defenders and criminal defence lawyers, represent people, entities, and organizations that have been charged with a crime. Criminal cases they might handle range from sex crimes, domestic violence, drug crimes, violent crimes, drunk driving offences, embezzlement, fraud, and theft.
A large part of a criminal lawyer’s day is spent taking meetings with clients and other members of the defence team. This might include paralegals, investigators, expert witnesses, and more. These meetings help you to form a defence or decide how you will proceed with a case. Meetings with team members are typically used to help you set your plans of action and goals on your cases.
Research is another large part of a criminal lawyer’s day. While the bulk of research might be delegated to paralegals, lawyers will take part in their own hands-on research and case prep. You might visit a crime scene, contact witnesses to carry out interviews, and read the case files to collect background info on a case.
Any criminal lawyer is going to spend some time at court, but how much time spent there will depend on agreements made ahead of time. Most court time is spent preparing and presenting motions before the judge, and arguing for your clients’ rights. Attorneys will also negotiable bargains with prosecutors and then appear in court in front of the judge to present the negotiated terms.
Often times a criminal lawyer will meet with his or her client at the jail where the client is being held awaiting trial. A lot of time spent is spent calming down clients and working to get them released from jail.
Like any other lawyer, criminal attorneys must get a law degree and pass the bar exam in the province they wish to practice. A lot of criminal lawyers start out as public defenders or prosecutors.
Criminal lawyers have to have great written and oral advocacy skills in order to argue their cases in front of a judge and persuade a jury. A lawyer also has to have research and investigative skills that will help build a client’s case and establish a strong defence. In addition, criminal lawyers have to have strong analytical and creative thinking skills to analyze case law, come up with a legal strategy, and litigate the most complex cases.
Criminal lawyers must also have an extensive understanding of provincial, federal, and local rules, evidentiary laws, court procedures, and the local judges in order to successfully navigate the criminal justice e system in each case. They must also have great interpersonal skills so they can develop and build strong client-attorney relationships. Since criminal defendants can be a finicky bunch, it’s important to be able to attract and keep clients in order to build and enjoy a thriving criminal defence practice.
Most criminal lawyers work at a private practice or alone in a solo firm. Some work for the government as public defenders or for non-profit agencies. Hours are long and irregular, and depending on the lawyer and his or her practice, travel may be a frequent work requirement.
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