Monday, March 7, 2011

There are no balancing tests in criminal defense

This past Thursday I began a trial in a DWI case that I expected to take two days. I was a little bit off. We're not even close to being done. The state has yet to rest its case. We have new evidentiary matters to litigate. I spent most of the weekend holed up at my office researching case law, drafting briefs and reworking my cross examinations of the officers involved.

A friend of mine thought I was spending too much time working and not enough time playing and he posted the following comment on my Facebook page:
Work/Life = balance?
It made me think. Now I know that both Brian Tannebaum and Scott Greenfield have written about this on numerous occasions but I figured I'd add my two cents to the conversation.

In a perfect world there would be much to gain by balancing work and fun. But we don't live in a perfect world. If you've got a 9-to-5 job working for someone else then you can probably leave your work at the office and get to it the next day you show up to work. Hell, if you're a transactional lawyer you can get away with it.

I know it's a strain at home when I'm spending my weekends and nights at the office. It's not an easy task to raise two girls by yourself because your husband is working 60+ hours a week. Today would've been a great day to fire up the smoker and do a rack of ribs or a couple of chickens. It was a beautiful morning to cut the grass - or to till up the soil for this spring's garden.

But, if you found yourself before a jury facing criminal charges, would you want a lawyer defending you who is working with his life coach on how to balance the demands of work and home or would you want the lawyer who will spend every waking minute looking for the best way to handle every situation that might arise during trial?

I can be a real bear while I'm in trial. I'm short with people, I'm distant and I don't have any patience. Don't try to get between my client and me during trial. There's no room there and it's going to end badly.

No, I don't even attempt to balance work and home when I'm in trial. Does that make me a lousy husband and a bad father for a few days here and there? Probably.

Defending your constitutional rights and civil rights is not a 9-to-5 job. It's a commitment that takes a lot of time, a lot of energy and, in the end, doesn't always pay all that well. It's what I do and I'm damn proud of it.

Next weekend I can fire up the smoker and work in the yard. Right now I've got more important things to do.


The Defence Brief said...

I hope you don't mind my asking, but when you say you were drafting briefs during the trial, what exactly do you mean?

Here in England, we tend to draft a Brief to Counsel before the trial and then send subsequent ones as necessary. The person conducting the trial wouldn't prepare a Brief as you'd just be telling yourself what you already know!

What does the term Brief mean in the US?

Thanks, just found your blog and am enjoying it a lot.

Houston DWI Attorney Paul B. Kennedy, said...

There were several legal and evidential issues that arose during trial that the judge took "under advisement." We prepared briefs for those issues pointing out why the judge should rule in our favor based on the case law and on points distinguishable from the cases provided by the state.

At its essence, the brief contains a statement why the judge should rule a certain way on an issue and then lays out the case law and statutes backing up our view.