The job of a criminal defense attorney is not easy. In addition to constantly being likened to the clients that they represent and continually having to answer the question “how can you defend criminals?”; there are a number other less commonly known or understood by society but nevertheless relevant to the pressure that a defense attorney confronts every day.
Perhaps one of the biggest challenges for defense attorneys is how the job can affect them personally. For instance, one of the most common types of defense attorney is known as a public defender. Public defenders either government employees or private firms that have contracts with the government. They represent clients that are indigent. Accordingly, more often than not they have incredibly large caseloads that, under ethical and professional responsible rules, the lawyer to be invest a certain amount of time on each case (Neubauer & Fradella, 2014). Consequently, it is quite difficult for a public defender to work a consistent eight-hour, five-day a week schedule. Having a family, therefore will present numerous challenges in the amount of time that can be spent with the family, at work, or both. Similarly, within the legal profession; the status of a lawyer is dependent on who he represents. As a consequence, since criminal defense attorneys represent the accused and sometimes the criminal, they more often than not are, as mentioned above, equated with those they represent. The result of identification is less ability to market their law practice viability outside criminal defense. Lastly, because a criminal defense attorney does indeed have significant contact with the accused, the criminal, and some that are truly evil; they face on almost a daily basis significant challenges to their personal integrity and professionalism. For example, if a minority public defender is assigned to represent a racist client; they must look past whatever personal disgust and animosity for the client so that they provide the same professional standards that they would provide anyone else.
In addition to the personal challenges that confront a defense attorney there are also a number of ethical responsibilities that provide their own set of tests. To be sure, every defense attorney understands that their primary ethical duty is to zealously advocate for the rights of the accused; however, there is not clear definition of what exactly is meant by “zealously advocate”. Accordingly, defense attorneys must always be aggressive in their representation but not so aggressive that they break the law or other ethical standards.; and they must do this without much guidance on where the boundaries are. Moreover, while it might be easier, because the focus would be on mitigation of punishment, challenging the work-product of the state or seeing that they enjoyed justice in the process, to represent a client that is guilty or where his guilt is not very clear; representation of a truly innocent person increases the pressure on the defense attorney because a failure to get the case dismissed or win an acquittal would result in the defense attorney having the knowledge that the person going to jail or prison is innocent
Jesus Christ as an advocate for the saints was the ultimate defense attorney (Bunyan, 2010). First, he was not advocating that they were not guilty but rather that they were guilty and rather than being punished they should be shown mercy and forgiveness (Gedicks, 1988). Accordingly, from a defense attorney’s perspective the case he made, as mentioned above, the case was much easier than if he were representing a truly innocent person, or a person that was guilty but did not to admit that was the case. Jesus Christ was also a superior advocate in terms of his professionalism. To be sure, he entered into the relation with the saints without judging them. This is difficult for the common defense attorney because as human we are constantly judging. However, there are the ethical duties and codes of professional conduct that has imposed to force us to try to act more as Jesus did in his advocacy.
Bunyan, J. (2010). The Work of Jesus Christ as an Advocate. Minneapolis, MN: Curiosmith.
Gedicks, F.M. (1988). Justice or mercy? – A personal not on defending the guilty. Retrieved from www.law.au.edu/resources/pubs/jlp_files/issues_files/vol13/vol13art05.pdf
Neubauer, D.W. & Fradella, H.F. (2014). America’s Courts and Criminal Justice System, 11th ed. Belmont, CA: Thomson/Wadsworth