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A Day in the Life of a Criminal Defense Lawyer

Trying to detail what I do every day as a criminal defense lawyer is like trying to predict what the weather will be like two weeks from now. It varies so much; but that’s what makes it exciting. I never know what the next week will be like. Now keep in mind that my job isn’t like the typical Hollywood blockbuster and I’m no big shot where I just walk around in a custom suit and yell at a judge all day. (Although I would love to get paid to do that. Who wouldn’t?)

I kept a journal yesterday to show how my day went down, which is more or less a ‘normal’ day in my life. ‘Normal’. Ha.

6:00 AM: Wake up, throw myself into the shower, get dressed and eat some breakfast. Exercise would be nice at this point, but I don’t really feel like waking up an hour early to sweat my butt off.

7:00 AM: Check e-mail and make a few phone calls. Just got word of a new case and have to drive 40 miles away to check out a crime scene regarding one of my clients who was involved in a shooting incident. I’m pretty pumped.

9:00 AM: Arrive at the scene. I’m not trying to play around like I’m on an episode of CSI, but I do ask some locals on the scene about what they saw and heard. Keep in mind that not every criminal defense lawyer does this, but I do to get a better grasp of the case. (Plus I kind of feel like a cross between Sherlock Holmes and Jack Bauer, so that’s always good for the ego.) And, at the end of the day, I would feel guilty if I just sat in my office all day and got paid for it.

11:30 AM: Time for my first case of the day at the courthouse. I’m working with a client who never paid restitution back in 2010. Since my client lost his job because he was arrested over a year ago and consequently can’t find any work, I request a change in the restitution payment plan. If the onetime payment sticks as is, my client will also lose his house.

The judge and I go back and forth like Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier – sans blood, sweat and tears, obviously – until he hands down his decision. (Okay maybe it wasn’t that intense, but I’m still in Jack Bauer mode.) I feel pretty pissed off as I disagree with the ruling and talk to my client about appealing.

I was confident going in because if a defendant cannot make restitution payments due to a lack of assets, the court CAN grant a change in the payment plan. I proved that his lack of payment was not a consequence of avoiding it (stigma of a jail sentence when seeking employment, weak job market); but the judge ruled that my client was not doing everything in his power to gain necessary funds/assets for the payment to warrant a restructured payment plan.

I’m confident that an appeal will go through, but it’s time to move on to my next case

1:45 PM: Head to another courtroom for a case involving my client’s inability to appear in court and perform the required community service. We plead guilty, and I make my suggestion for jail time; the judge lays down his decision, which my client and I feel happy about. Chalk that one up in the ‘W’ column.

2:30 PM: Grab some fast food for lunch that my wife has been trying to get me to ‘quit’ (but hey, it’s fast food for a reason, and I’m a busy guy), head back to the office, and spend the rest of the day answering e-mails and reviewing cases and miscellaneous files/documents.

7:00 PM: Leave the office, fight with traffic, head home, eat some dinner, go for a nice little walk and relax with my wife.Tomorrow is a brand new day, and I’m excited for it.

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