So you want to be a criminal lawyer...

Hello to Criminal Law and Goodbye to Bad Conversations

I actually articled at a Bay Street firm that I want to emphasize I thought was excellent and continue to.  I am very proud to have articled there and to have seen how highly intelligent and conscientious lawyers think about their roles and how much hard work they put into their cases.  All of that said, I never really enjoyed the subject matter so it would make sense that I rarely enjoyed the conversations I had the year I articled.

This is nobody’s fault.  I just found people suing one another for money to be horrifically boring and working at a firm where that was the subject matter often felt like one bad conversation after another.  There is no amount of training in the world that could make me interested in, for example, a lawsuit based on a commercial dispute. Also, as I have previously argued, civil litigators often spend their time trying to incrementally win cases by writing nasty letters to one another and bringing motions that skirt around the actual issues in the lawsuit.  This is what they are paid to do and the good ones do it quite well.  For me, however, this type of environment does not produce good conversations.  

Right after I was called to the bar and became a criminal lawyer (I actually started working for a criminal firm before my call to the bar), one of the first conversations I had was with someone in jail charged with first degree murder.  The way jail visits work is there is a two hour window in the morning and a two hour window after the inmates are fed their lunch when you can visit. I spent the entire morning talking to this person because I was fascinated. Who was he?  What was his background? What was his level of intelligence? What was his family like? Where did he grow up? What was his level of education? What was his employment background? Rather than leave after the two hour window was over, I went for lunch and then went back to visit him to complete the interview.

It was the beginning of my life when my job became not just something I did for a living, but part of the natural ebb and flow of my life and my personality. It was liberating.

When I look back at that meeting, I think of it as one of the great ironies of my life and one of the curiosities of being a criminal defence lawyer.  Sitting in an interview room at a jail, meeting with an inmate facing life in prison with no possibility of parole for 25 years, taking in the ominous sights of armed guards sitting outside the interview room and the other inmates walking by in orange jumpsuits.  And I knew I was finally free. And I haven’t had a bad conversation since.

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