More Advice to the Young Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer — Part 1. Boundaries


The first of Adam Levin’s questions that I’ll tackle is, “What practical advice do you have for maintaining boundaries in your life?”

As a criminal-defense lawyer who has gone from practicing out of an “executive suite” straight out of law school, to a series of fancy offices downtown, to an office in my house (an upward move each step of the way), I’ve given a lot of thought to boundaries/

Social Boundaries

Except for the clients who were friends before they were clients, I don’t socialize with clients outside of the context of our representation. I have had clients with boundary issues — calling excessively or at inappropriate times or for inappropriate reasons — and have managed to retrain them.

I see it as neither possible nor desirable, however, to remain detached from my clients. These are human beings, with human stories, and they will be best served by a lawyer who can feel their stories and relate them truthfully to juries.

Space Boundaries

The office is in the house, and can be closed off from the rest of the house. I generally manage to keep the practice in the office. When I don’t have clients in, the kids and dogs are welcome in the office. When clients are visiting, only one dog is allowed in (he sleeps under my desk; visitors usually don’t know that he’s there until they hear him snoring).

Time Boundaries
This is not a 9-to-5 job; nor is it a five-days-a-week job. When an accused needs to talk to a criminal-defense lawyer, he needs to talk to a criminal-defense lawyer now — sometimes because there’s an emergency, but more often because he needs to be told why the perceived emergency is not an emergency. I have always had my office phone line follow me around, so that it rings wherever I am; that way I am in control of how long I talk to whom. Working hours are flexible; while I’m often working before 8 or after 5 or on weekends, I’m also often spending time with my family during “normal” work times.

I was going to write that my way of life is very nontraditional, but in fact it is a very traditional one; the unification of work and family has a much longer and richer tradition than the modern American separation of what we “do” from how we live.


0 responses to “More Advice to the Young Criminal Defense Trial Lawyer — Part 1. Boundaries”

  1. Man, and I just sent my response directly back to Adam so he could post them on his blog while I was doing more substantive things.

    Now I look like a bad guy for not going on ad nasueum on each of his questions. Here I thought I was being helpful and you make me look like a schnurrer (that’s Texas talk for somebody who’s stingy with his time). Thanks, bro, for not giving me the heads-up.

  2. Seriously, I did the same damn thing. I didn’t realize I could just milk this for two weeks’ worth of posts. Geez. Teacher’s pet.

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