I am going to digress from a legal analysis this month. When not practicing law, I enjoy, among other activities, walking and gardening. Both lend themselves to listening to podcasts. One of my favorite podcasts is “Hidden Brain” on NPR. The host, Shankar Vedantam, “uses science and storytelling to reveal the unconscious patterns that drive human behavior, shape our choices and direct our relationships.” You can imagine that this would be insightful to a trial attorney!

A recent episode entitled, “Rebel with a Cause” discusses the importance of being willing to break out of the norm. The old adage, “Think outside the box” has truth. The truth is that it is important to reevaluate our suppositions from time to time. Nowhere is this truer than in defending persons accused by the mighty government.

What does this have to do with me?

Recently, I was approached by a client who was represented by one of the preeminent Atlanta attorneys. The attorney had negotiated what, under nearly all circumstances, would have been a terrific plea agreement to avoid significant time in federal prison. However, the plea of guilty would result in time in federal prison, the client’s green card not being renewed, and, ultimately, deportation.

My client hired me to replace this other high-profile attorney. I looked at the case with a fresh set of eyes and found the problem. I filed a motion to dismiss the indictment. Before a United States Judge ruled on my motion, the government dismissed the charges!

Take a Fresh Look

Back to the “Rebel” podcast. There is no need to be the proverbial “bull in the china cabinet.” I have encountered those attorneys. They usually don’t last long. It is also inappropriate to be the defense attorney who is the “waterboy” for the government. Do I even have to comment on what we think of that “attorney?”

It is critical to look at every case as if it’s the first case. Bring your experience to the case. It’s invaluable to bring experience to a case. But, it’s also important to look at it and think about it as if it is the first case you have ever reviewed.

The other experienced attorney just followed the routine. He saw evidence of guilt in the form of a wiretap and phone calls. He then negotiated what would otherwise be an excellent plea disposition. However, he did not see the glaring defect in the case that would require dismissal.

In “Hidden Brain” terminology: Experience + Fresh (Rebel) Thinking = Best Chance of Success!

by John Lovell