Adios, adeus

With a growing practice and a fantastic little surprise due to arrive in a little more than four more months, I’ve decided to take some time away from Generation J.D.

I’d like to thank The Daily Record for allowing me to contribute to this blog. I’ve enjoyed the chance to express my observations and thank you, the reader, for bearing with my commentary.

More importantly, I’d like to commend The Daily Record for creating Generation J.D. While some salty, “experienced” attorneys think young lawyers are not entitled to an opinion, or lack the credibility to discuss a topic, I believe young attorneys have the ability to positively affect the legal profession.

Oftentimes, the questions or scenarios discussed on this blog are the same faced long ago, but as generations of attorneys move forward, there is a tendency to believe those questions have been answered or settled. While experienced attorney X may now have an answer to their questions, young attorney Y is just beginning to think about the questions attorney X faced years earlier.

As such, Generation J.D. creates an outlet for attorneys to discuss observations that might not otherwise be addressed, but remain in the minds of young attorneys. It’s a process I’ve enjoyed contributing to and one I look forward to reading in the future.

Thanks Steve

Genius, revolutionary and mercurial are among the many adjectives that will be used over the next several days to describe Steve Jobs’ influence on media and technology. For a man that started a business from his parents’ garage, Steve’s accomplishments are epic.

I never met Steve Jobs, but his life and work has had a major impact on my life, and I’d venture to say it’s had an impact on yours as well.

When I first attended college, I always thought of Apple customers as an odd group fiercely devoted to their Apple computers. I thought such loyalty strange for a brand; however, when my PC  became infected with countless viruses, I heeded the words of my roommate, an Apple fan, and switched to an iMac. Six years later, I’m still using the same computer.

On that computer, I’ve drafted numerous papers, my senior thesis, law school personal statements, stories and briefs. What made Steve revolutionary was his effect on every part of our lives. Everyday, I begin my morning hearing the alarm from my wife’s iPod. On my way to work, I listen to music stored or bought on iTunes. Several hours each day, I use the iPhone to read/send emails, browse the Internet and occasionally, play an app.

When I’m in court waiting for trial, I go to my iPhone — and hopefully one day, an iPad — to pass the time. Aside from his technological eye, Steve had a knack for business — he could see success where others couldn’t.

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Law in the global village

Despite our nation fighting wars on at least three fronts (Libya, Iraq, and Afghanistan), U.S. news outlets, for the most part, have focused much of this past year on domestic issues such as the debt ceiling, President Obama’s jobs bill, and the Republican presidential primary.

This week has been a break from the usual milieu with attention centered on international issues such the Palestinian bid for statehood and Iran’s release of the two imprisoned American hikers. Noting the change, I began to wonder about the relationship between law and international affairs; namely, whether our legal system is being affected by international players.

While I believe different nations require different approaches because of  differing cultures and beliefs, I also acknowledge that to deny globalism’s rise is unwise. As our technologies increase, so does the world’s interdependence. In a sense, we are becoming a global village.

There are many examples of legal globalism: the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, the Convention on the Rights of the Child, International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice, to name a few. While these organizations do not confine the United States to compulsory jurisdiction, the United States appears to moving towards it.

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Exploring the unknown

In a time of economic uncertainty, more and more attorneys are venturing into fields they’ve never practiced.

Recently, I witnessed an attorney well known for doing estate work handling a major traffic matter. This in itself is not an improper thing to do; in fact, in many ways it’s commendable. The willingness to try different fields can be financially and intellectually rewarding.

That notwithstanding, in a profession where improper advice/representation can cost one their license to practice, it’s best if we err on the side of caution. While people tend to view an attorney as a jack of all trades, the reality is the field of law tends to resemble medicine. Like medicine, law has varying specialties with professionals focusing on particular fields and issues.

If and when you have someone come into your office with a complicated real estate issue, and your previous experience has been in criminal law, you may be wise to say, “I don’t know the answer to your question.” While that may bruise your ego and wallet, your prospective client will appreciate the candor.

This is not to say you should give up on an unfamiliar practice.  You can continue your response in one of two ways:

  1. “I don’t know the answer to your question, but I’ll research the issue and give you an answer in a few days.”
  2. “I don’t know the answer to your question. The best I can do is recommend another attorney.”

If you’re ambitious and daring, you may choose the first response. If so, heed the words of a fellow and seek out a mentor to assist you in your task. This is especially true for us young attorneys. While it will be humbling, you’ll learn what needs to be done, and more importantly represent your client competently.

Take it to trial

Experience is a valuable teacher. Oftentimes, as a young attorney, I’m pegged by prospective clients as appearing inexperienced. “You look young,” is a common comment upon seeing me for the first time. As a 26-year-old attorney, I don’t fault that perception.

Who wants an inexperienced attorney when you’re facing 10-15 years of incarceration? Perhaps, someone with specks of grey in their hair – veritable witnesses of the attorney’s experience and wisdom — would be more to their liking. In my case, that hesitance tends to disappear when said prospective clients come to learn I’ve represented nearly 2,000 cases and tried nearly every type of criminal case .

As a public defender, I was in court day in and day out, making appearances in several counties. In a recent article I discussed why I enjoyed the experience, and more importantly, why other young attorneys should consider applying for a position. One of my favorite things to do as a PD was observe how other attorneys handled their cases and clients.

Over time, you came to learn the reputations of various local attorneys. Some have a reputation for being fighters, others not so much. To that end, it appeared and continues to be my observation that there is an apprehension on the part of some to take a case to trial.

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The headaches of immigration law

One of the most controversial issues facing the United States is the topic of immigration. Making the topic so difficult to discuss rationally is the complexity of the issue: Who deserves to get in? Who doesn’t? What do we do with those who are here and undocumented? Should we say “undocumented” or “illegal”? What do we do with the parents of American children? Should citizenship be acquired merely by birth in the United States?

As a whole, Americans are welcoming of those who wish to enter the United States for a better life. It’s hard not to be when these same aspiring citizens are so optimistic about our nation. In a time of bleak financial uncertainty, riots, famine and turmoil, it’s flattering to hear someone say nice things about our country.

Still, there are exceptions to the welcoming attitude of our citizenry, largely against those that “broke the rules” and entered without documentation/inspection. But even within that group, distinctions can be made.

In a poll conducted by the Pew Research Center several months ago, participants were asked how they would like the government to address illegal immigration. According to the poll:

Forty-two percent believe the priority should be to tighten border security and more strictly enforce immigration laws, but at the same time also create a way for people here illegally to become citizens if they meet certain conditions. Somewhat fewer (35%) put priority only on better border security and stronger enforcement, while 21% say the priority should be to find a way for illegal immigrants to become citizens.

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