I’m a white-collar criminal defense lawyer. I love it. There are times when I think that I’ve won the work lottery. Yet, in this column, I’m going to complain about it.
Normally, I think that being a white-collar defense lawyer means that I represent folks who are under investigation by the Department of Justice, a law enforcement agency that would refer a case to the Department of Justice, or a regulator like the SEC, CFTC, or Office of Inspector General (in some situations — OIG’s both handle debarment and developing a case for DOJ).
But sometimes I’ll do other kinds of work too. Recently, I’ve represented clients in civil litigation. I’ve represented clients in arbitrations. And I’ve negotiated resolutions of disputes where litigation is looming but not yet happening. I’ve gotten really good results for clients in these kinds of cases (and, like any lawyer, I’ve had some cases break bad too). I like to think that if a case comes in that presents a relatively sophisticated litigation problem that doesn’t require a specialist (think of an ERISA case) I would consider doing it. And there are other lawyers in my firm who, to be sure, do primarily civil work.
But, despite that, I identify myself as a white-collar defense lawyer.
Sometimes, even though a potential client is exactly the kind of person I want to represent, presenting myself or being known as a white-collar defense lawyer is a problem.
When is that?