Defense Lawyers

I’m writing today’s column from New York City, where I’m covering Thomson Reuters Vantage 2014, a great conference focused on mid-sized and large law firms’ use of technology. There have been fascinating discussions about how larger law firms are adapting to change and are incorporating some of the latest technologies into their IT infrastructure. Not surprisingly, however, it turns out that like solo and small-firm attorneys, large and mid-sized law firms are often just as reluctant to adopt new technologies and processes despite overwhelming evidence that doing so is the best way to stay competitive.

But the good news gleaned from this conference is that some larger firms are adapting, just as many solo and small firms are. And that’s my goal with this column: to showcase how individual solo and small-firm lawyers are using new technologies in their day-to-day practices. In the process, my columns will hopefully encourage and help other lawyers to do the same.

In today’s column I’ll be featuring Jill Paperno. Jill is a long-time assistant public defender, having worked at the Monroe County Public Defender’s Office in Rochester, New York for over 27 years. She’s currently the Second Assistant Public Defender and is the author of Representing the Accused: A Practical Guide to Criminal Defense (affiliate link). In other words, Jill is a diehard criminal defense attorney and has dedicated her life to defending our constitutional rights.

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At the beginning of Superman — the real Superman, not the nonsensical slugfest from last year — General Zod and his accomplices are sentenced to the Phantom Zone for plotting a coup against Krypton’s rulers. Krypton as a whole seemed like a pretty forward-thinking place. You could tell because people wore glowing robes and robes are the universal sign of “fictional people with their collective sh*t together.” See, e.g., the Jedi, the 2688 world based on the music of Wyld Stallyns, Jesus.

Anyway, given the advanced society involved, the trial of Zod seemed a bit too Guantanamo. Zod didn’t get to mount any sort of defense and was pronounced guilty within seconds of showing up to court.

Apparently, comedian Patton Oswalt felt the same confusion and decided to provide us a glimpse into General Zod’s pre-trial prep with his public defender, “Leg-El”….

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That’s what some people are saying.

It’s a brutal attack on an attorney running for governor, blasting him for representing criminal defendants. How can he protect battered women when he helped their abusers beat the rap? How indeed. Oh, and it’s not just that he helped their abusers, he did so for money. Because counseling the accused for fees in this country is where all the money is. It’s a seedy racket no way at all as admirable as, I don’t know, lobbying elected officials for political favors at the expense of the citizenry. If only this guy was smart enough to take hundreds of thousands to poison rivers and streams he wouldn’t be such a scumbag.

This ad is just goddamned brilliant at connecting the disingenuous dots for the easily duped.

And this message was “approved” — ultimately — by a former prosecutor who’s now being investigated by the office he once led….

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Ed. note: This is the latest installment in a series of posts from the ATL Career Center’s team of expert contributors. Today, Sunny Choi of Ms. JD interviews lawyers who have found their passion practicing law.

The idea of passion is a seemingly far-fetched one for most people working as an attorney. At some point, 99% of us have regretted the decision to attend law school. Just ask the anonymous 28-year-old who told Business Insider that law school was “a waste of my life and an extraordinary waste of money.” Even the articles on Above the Law will occasionally have you feeling disgruntled about life in the practice.

However, passion is a matter of perspective and it’s very possible to find your passion in, out, or above the law. Part one of this series will focus on the rare breed of attorney who has gone the obvious route and found passion IN the law.

Continue reading at the ATL Career Center…

This one escaped our attention for a while, but apparently Slate writer Matthew Yglesias set off a war of words a couple weeks ago with an article about the Zimmerman trial and the role of public defenders. Yglesias, best known for having a much better handle on inflation than Ben Bernanke, waded into legal commentary, contrasting Zimmerman’s trial experience with the experience of indigent criminal defendants.

Former public defenders took offense at the article and have taken to the Internet and social media to rip Yglesias. Yglesias has offered an apology and been rebuffed.

So what’s the deal here?

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Judge Nelson is tired… of your sh*t.

Your Honor, we’ve been working very long hours.

So have I!

– an exchange between Mark O’Mara, one of George Zimmerman’s defense attorneys in the Trayvon Martin murder trial, and Judge Debra Nelson, after a 12-hour day in court. When defense attorney Don West piped up to say he didn’t think he could “physically keep up this pace much longer,” Judge Nelson gathered her belongings in a huff and left the courtroom, ignoring him.

(Keep reading to see video footage of the incident in question.)

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Elite law firms and the Mafia would appear to be worlds apart. Biglaw firms represent all sorts of unsavory characters, but these clients tend to steal using computers rather than cudgels. When you wear white shoes, you don’t want to get them splattered with blood.

But there are commonalities. Both Biglaw and Big Crime are large and lucrative enterprises. They’re intensely hierarchical and often ruthless.

There are cultural similarities as well. As noted in these pages by lawyer turned therapist Will Meyerhofer, “Some big law firms are like the mob. They do ugly things, but prefer to avoid ‘ugliness.'” Instead, there’s a lot of indirection and passive-aggressiveness.

So perhaps it shouldn’t be surprising to learn that a leading defense lawyer to Mob figures has joined “the family” — the Biglaw family, that is….

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Reema Bajaj

In June 2011, we brought you the story of Reema Bajaj, a lovely young lawyer in Illinois who was accused of prostitution. I expressed a belief in her innocence, although my faith was somewhat shaken by the nude photos of her that circulated on the web. And then, in June 2012, Bajaj pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor charge of prostitution.

After covering her guilty plea, we thought we had seen the last of her. As I wrote, “The post you’re now reading could very well represent the final story we write about Reema Bajaj…. We will miss writing about this colorful young woman, but we wish her the best in getting on with her life and her law practice.”

I spoke too soon. Now Bajaj is back — with a vengeance….

Note the UPDATE at the end of this post, based on comments from Bajaj’s counsel.

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So they finally read Dzhokhar Tsarnaev his rights. Good thing we have that public safety exception to the Constitution. Who can be bothered to hold fast to our most sacred rights and liberties when there might be something bad happening! Obviously, once he was read his rights Tsarnaev immediately stopped talking and the government was unable to protect us from… oh wait, that didn’t happen. Tsarnaev kept talking (or nodding, as it were), even after informed of the basic rights guaranteed to him as a U.S. citizen.

But he did communicate that he couldn’t afford a lawyer. Luckily for him, the magistrate judge who read him his rights at his hospital bedside came with federal public defender in tow.

Let’s meet the people who will do this distasteful work so the rest of us can crucify the guy while being confident he’ll get a fair trial…

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It sucks when your client is caught on video selling 99% pure meth to an undercover DEA agent. It sucks even more when he decides to turn in the kingpin in exchange for a shorter sentence, and the guy he names is also your client.

– An ex-Skadden lawyer turned criminal defense attorney.

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