To ask how defending Lawyers/Solicitors sleep at night.

(461 Posts)
lollilou Tue 09-Oct-12 10:43:43

When they are defending someone who is accused of a horrible crime and that they know are guilty yet have to come up with a defense to try to get a not guilty verdict? It must happen a lot, how could you live with yourself in that situation? What if the accused gets off then commits another crime?

Spero Tue 16-Oct-12 13:48:23

So amillionyears what do you think would be better than the current system of a presumption of innocence and robust defence lawyers?

Guilty if looks creepy? Guilty if your 'instinct' tells you? Guilty he if or she has precious convictions?

Don't really understand what your beef is, to be honest.

lljkk Tue 16-Oct-12 13:10:24

By the time a case reaches trial the odds are high that the defendant will be found guilty. It would be a waste of resources to get that case that far, otherwise. So the police & CPS understandably focus on cases that only have the best chances of conviction.

The reason the defendant is probably guilty at this point is because the defence lawyer is presumed competent and will contest the evidence as much as possible. The only way you can have faith in any conviction is by having good quality counsel available to the accused. If convictions are made on poorer quality evidence, then the odds increased that the real guilty person(s) will get away with it & commit the same crime again, or worse. I find that a horrifying prospect. I made this point aaaaaaaggges ago on this thread.

There are justice systems which don't start out with a presumption of innocence for the accused. That don't automatically offer good quality legal representation to suspects. They tend to be in countries with rather poor reputations.

amillionyears Tue 16-Oct-12 10:25:58

Didnt know most defendants are guilty.

It sounds to me that being a defence lawyer can be somewhat of a dirty job

You are forgetting the satisfaction of getting a truly innocent person off. Not all defendants are guilty and the ones who are innocent need defence lawyers too.

Spero Tue 16-Oct-12 09:20:44

amillionyears - it is almost as if you assume ALL defendants are guilty and anyone trying to defend them is complicit in their guilt?

Apologies if that is not what you think, but it is certainly how I read your post.

Most defendants are guilty but some are not. But that is really irrelevant - the point is - as many have said repeatedly - you either have a rule of law that applies to all, or you don't. And without the rule of law, presumably the only other option is gangs of people deciding to administer 'justice' to people they 'know' are guilty?

I know which society I prefer to live in.

wordfactory Tue 16-Oct-12 07:54:13

To me being a defence lawyer is no more a dirty job than being a copper or a prosecutor (who are both aware that oon some occasions innocent people are charged and convicted). You either believe in the rule of law or you don't. You either accept the rule of law as part and parcel of a civilized and intelligent society or you don't.

lljkk Tue 16-Oct-12 07:39:37

I feel sorry for the lawyer "advising" Radovan Karadzic. If it were my job I would have to view it as an important court role for its technical value and just concentrate on procedures and steps of what to do. Because as a human being, RK is as scummy as they come.
Thing is, the conviction won't be sound without good legal advice and proper legal procedure, so we (humanity, justice) need a decent lawyer on RK's side.

amillionyears Tue 16-Oct-12 07:36:27

It sounds to me that being a defence lawyer can be somewhat of a dirty job that someone has to do. And that currently there is no viable alternative.
I do wonder if the defence lawyers,when 1 of their family is a witness to a crime,or is involved in a car accident that was not their fault, and the other person gets off on a technicality,its sounds like they would be ok about it because the prosecution were better than the defence.

Has the system ever hurt any of you personally?

thebody Mon 15-Oct-12 23:17:23

Because we live in a democracy and in our country it's up to the prosecution to prove guilt.

Yes obviously some bastards slip through the net but that's not the fault of the defence barristers rather the fault of the prosecution, police, and forensics not proving a case.

I speak as a parent waiting for a case to come to court where my dd was badly injured. Not here though abroad so not sure how this translates.

CelticPromise Mon 15-Oct-12 23:09:13

In that situation your only professional duty its to the client and you are professionally obliged to act in their best interests. It couldn't possibly be in their best interests to answer questions admitting an offence when there isn't the evidence against them. You wouldn't last long as a defence solicitor giving advice like that!

I have no ethical problem with it at all. Professional ethics are different to personal ethics.

ThatVikRinA22 Mon 15-Oct-12 22:47:33

i dont mix up compassion with personal involvement - but the stresses of the job do bother me.

when i go to jobs, i rarely find out what happens, and i think its much as WF says - i do switch off when i go home, i think by now, having been to many different and some very harrowing things, if you really got personally involved it would hurt., that has never stopped me from hugging someone who needs it, or doing what i can to help in a horrible or difficult situation.

the problem for me is the workload, watching my crime list grow, taking on more and more work without managing to sort anything out due to lack of numbers on group/time - i worry that i cannot give my best when im trying to do so many things at once.

its that i find difficult and stressful. its lack of time to do those things because the radio is going again.

sometimes though - solicitors must know they have someone guilty but know if they go no comment, they might get off on a technicality? i had a shoplifter caught red handed, but the witness didnt leave details with the store detective, and due to no one having seen the theft, they got off. it was my first shoplifter, i didnt have a clue about stock check evidence, so a member of a large criminal gang walked free. no one can tell me the solicitor didnt know that, she knew i didnt have stock check evidence, she knew if he went no comment he walked. im not sure i could do that with a clear conscience.

amillionyears Mon 15-Oct-12 17:27:40

Understand and I think agree with your last post until I came to your last but 1 sentence. Then I became lost. Happy to answer the question I think,once I understand it.

Thistledew Mon 15-Oct-12 14:38:38

Sorry if I have been unclear. I had lawyers in mind, but the same would apply to a doctor, or any professional person who is tasked with solving problems for their client.

What you now seem to be saying is that problems that your family and close friends have do not worry you any more than you would be worried by a stranger having the same problem. You would not therefore find it difficult or problematic to bear the responsibility for solving that problem for someone who you knew well. However, in relation to someone helping you, you would expect that they would put more effort in to solving the problem if they knew you than if they did not, as they would have a reason to "go the extra mile".

You asked the rhetorical question earlier as to whether you are "made differently". I would suggest that if indeed you do not worry or suffer any anxiety when you bear the responsibility for solving difficult problems for your loved ones, then maybe you are "made differently" to the rest of us! I am not sure then why you would think that someone who knew you would be more inclined to become emotionally involved and "go the extra mile" if you find it peculiar that such investment would cause them worry.

I feel like I am getting drawn into a personal dissection, so don't feel you need to answer my post if this is getting too personal.

amillionyears Mon 15-Oct-12 13:56:38

I do not understand your first paragraph.
Are you talking about lawyers or doctors?
Also, I have come to realise,from your posts and others, that although I maybe, if I was a defence lawyer,because I dont worry much,could take on a case of someone I know, but other people may not be able to do that,without it causing them sleepless nights.

Thistledew Mon 15-Oct-12 13:12:39

But you yourself raised the idea of personal involvement by saying that you would prefer to be represented by someone who knows you? That suggests that you do envisage a difference between how you might act in relation to a person you know as a friend/relative and a person you only know professionally. Surely you do recognise in yourself that it would have more impact on you personally if you were told that your sister/mother/best friend had XYZ serious problem than if you heard that Mrs Smith who lives at the end of the road, but whom you only know to say hi to, had the same problem?

It sounds like you have made a previous inconsistent statement and are amending your evidence to suit the case to me! wink

amillionyears Mon 15-Oct-12 13:00:49

I suppose I am not really a worrier. But I havent been put to the test with all of this,so I cant say for sure how I would react in a professional situation with someone I know.

Spero Mon 15-Oct-12 12:17:00

Completely agree wordfactory. Once I walk out of court I forget my clients. Not because I am a heartless bitch because the next day I have to do it all again with another client. How can I do a good job for her if I have been up all night worrying about the previous client?

I hope that when with clients I always show proper compassion, sympathy and interest. But you have to focus on the case and the client in front of you so you need a clear head.

Some cases and clients do stick a bit because the are so sad, and as I said earlier a lot of people invovled in child pornography cases etc just can't carry on after a certain time because it is all so horrific.

I once worked on something involving an acquaintance. During the course of the process of reviewing the evidence I found out he had cheated on his wife through some unfortunate boastful emails he'd sent to his work colleagues (not relevant to the case). It took a fair bit of effort not to let them colour my view of the case because I it put a slight doubt in my mind about his credibility. Funnily we are not good friends and I would have really rather not known that about him.

wordfactory Mon 15-Oct-12 10:33:08

Personal involvement is when the professional has a vested emotional attachment to the outcome.

This is simply not a good thing fir any professional as it hinders judgement.

I know it seems counter intuitive, but any professional I've met who was good at the job would agree. That is why not many people are actually cut out to be good police officers/layers/doctors etc. Too many are attracted to these careers because of what they think the job entails.

Thistledew Mon 15-Oct-12 09:41:21

As in the example you gave earlier of wanting someone to represent you who knows you- I would define personal involvement as having a particular worry for the outcome and being upset for the other person if things are not going well. I would probably spend some of my personal non-working time thinking about how you are feeling.

The police officer who showed you care probably enjoys the side of her job which allows her to give emotional reassurance to the people she helps, but once her work on your case is finished she will probably walk away and forget about you. You may pop into her mind for time to time and she will think "I wonder what happened to that lady- I hope it all worked out ok for her", but she won't be troubled if she doesn't get to find out how you are getting on after the case is finished, and she won't be lying awake at night thinking about you.

That is what professionalism is about- yes, you care for your clients when you are working on their case, but you switch off that care when you are not working for them. And beyond that - that you treat each client's case with the same care and the same hope for a good outcome regardless of whether or not you care for them as a person. It would be wrong of you as a professional to put more effort and care into a case when you like a particular client than when you don't.

amillionyears Mon 15-Oct-12 09:06:45

What do you mean by personal involvement then.
Perhaps I am just made differently from others.
Or perhaps I have just not been tested in that way.

wordfactory Mon 15-Oct-12 08:32:44

Concern and compassion is perfectly fine, indeed a requisite part of the job for all professionals...but that is very far from personal involvement. Had she needed to make a difficult judgement she could have done so.

I'm sure that officer went on about her business after she left you, able to go on and help others. As it shoud be.

amillionyears Mon 15-Oct-12 08:24:48

A month ago,I had to use the services of the police. And they had to send for paramedics.
While 2 police officers waited with me and some members of my family for the paramedices to arrive,1 poice officer dealt with phone calls,liason with the public etc,while the other one showed what I accepted to be genuine concern and compassion,for which we were all grateful.
Are you saying that the emotion that 1 police officer in particular showed,would not have been genuine, and she shouldnt have done it?

Or have I got the wrong end of the stick of what you are trying to say.

wordfactory Mon 15-Oct-12 08:15:21

Of course emotionally involved coppers and lawyers make terrific fiction wink.

wordfactory Mon 15-Oct-12 08:13:45

All good police officers/lawyers/doctors [insert professional of choice] have once thing in common; an ability to remain objective.

Only by reanining objective can you make rational and analytical judgements.

Once you allow the personal and the emotional to creep in, you lose your objectivity. In doctors this can result in mistakes, in coppers and lawyers in can result in the bending of rules ie corruption.

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