Do it Live: the Art of Criminal Defense

Bill O’Reilly famously yelled at his Fox News crew “[expletive deleted] I’LL DO IT LIVE.”   Bill was annoyed due to a technical failure, I cannot remember if it was a teleprompter or a recording.  In any event, I feel like I am in this position a lot during the work week. Arkansas has 75 counties with several types of courts within each county.  Each one is a little bit different.  There are new people to look up, slightly different procedures to follow, and different…. “unique local features.”    These numbers are somewhat daunting when you are tasked with learning the intricacies of each court on behalf of your clients.   Our office ends up working in every process of criminal defense.  We may be speaking directly with the officer, the prosecutor, or conducting one of a number of different types of hearings.  Going in and doing it just right takes skill, and it does not all come from books.

Let’s be frank, there is a certain amount of bullshit.   There’s no way around that.  In a new court I go in and introduce myself to everyone and get the names down.  I am very polite, but you can’t just be polite.  You have to be firm, or you will be treated like a “plea-taking pushover.”   Each lawyer has their particular way of handling these many relationships we make with the justice system all over the State.  It’s an art – and some are better than others. So on a day like today, I end up doing a type of hearing I have never done before.  This was dealing with parole revocation.  After a certain, recent front page story, the parole process has become more cumbersome than it previously was.   I used my usually cheesy line with my client, I’ve known him for a while… “I’ve never lost one of these……. I’ve also never done one……  We got this…… maybe.”

And no matter how long you’ve been doing this, you will always be DOING IT LIVE to a certain extent.  Laws are in constant flux.  Procedures ain’t uniform.  This work is about being adaptable and protecting your reputation.  Even if you are very well prepared, you can be surprised by information from the other side.  It may or may not be true.  Your client could have been wearing rose colored glasses.   It’s the blessing and the curse of this business, and believe it, it is a business.  Today we were successful, so it is a good day.  I’ve logged over 40 hours in the first three days of this week, and there’s still plenty of stuff left to learn. /