When meeting with prospective clients, I always get asked about my background -- even by the clients who have already researched me online.
I usually walk them through my years at the prosecutors' offices in Summit and Montgomery counties, as well as my service under three Ohio Attorney Generals. I will then discuss my experience as an attorney in private practice.
Some prospective clients will even ask about my law school days at the Cleveland-Marshall College of Law and I will talk about my internships at the United States Attorney's Office, the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office, the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor's Office and on the third trial of Doctor Sam Sheppard.
The purpose to providing this information is not to brag about my experiences, but is to instead provide the client with the perspective at which I attack a case. The type of experiences that you obtain through those types of experiences is immeasurable, expecially to clients in difficult situations.
Way too often, attorneys who have only practiced law on one side of the table -- such as attorneys who have only been prosecutors or only been defense attorneys -- get blinders, and are able to only view the case from their perspective. This leads to situations where attorneys may not be able to see the weaknesses in their case, or in the strengths of their opponent's case.
The by-product of this can be two-fold. On one hand, these blinders could result in needless or prolonged litigation, which could increase the costs of the case and lead to a worse end-result for all parties in a case. I have often seen and heard of clients going to trial -- and later receiving worse results -- than if their attorneys had resolved the cases without going to trial.
The other side of this can be taking advantage of the situation. For example, if opposing counsel has blinders on and can not see the weakness in their case, those weaknesses can be brought out by a skilled trial attorney to a jury or judge.
On more than one occasion, I have had the opportunity to speak to jurors at the end of cases and listen to how they arrived at their decision. It is always reassuring to hear them repeat the themes and issues with the case that I brought up throughout the case -- and it reassures the clients when they realize that the issues that the jurors focused on were the same issues I brought up in our attorney-client meetings.
With any case, the best course of action is to lay out what the issues with the case are and then figure out the best strategy to attack the case. As the Chineese philospher Sun Tzu wrote in The Art of War: "Victorious warriors win first and then go to war, while defeated warriors go to war first and then seek to win.”
Part of the victory that Sun Tzu talked about in the Art of War was anticipating your opponents' strengths and weaknesses before going to battle -- or in my case, going to court. After you develop a plan of attack, which can take weeks or months, you can determine the best direction to take.
However, as with most things in life, even after you develop your plan of attack for a court case, you need to be able to adjust your strategy at any moment.
For example, if a key witness in a case provides unexpected testimony, you need to be able to react. If a key piece of evidence is tested for things like DNA or chemical analysis, and those results come back unfavorable, you need to be able to react and deal with the evidence. Finally, if the judge issues an unfavorable ruling on an evidentiary issue, such as a motion to suppress or a motion in limine, a skilled attorney will know how to best deal with the ruling and advise their client if they should resolve the case before trial or determine how to best address the ruling in trial.
The experience of handling thousands of cases from around Ohio provides me with the insight on how to deal with these kind of situations. It is the experience of having had issues emerge in cases, and then having to deal with those issues, that provides me with the insight on how to minimize the negative impacts of kinks on my clients.
One of the common misconceptions I have heard clients repeat from other attorneys is that being a former prosecutor or parttime prosecutors have other advantages in court -- almost as if there is a secret handshake that, once initiated, will automatically get their client a better deal in a case.
These comments are not only unprofessional and reckless, and infer some type of corruption or favoratism, but are also false.
The advantage in being a former prosecutor is that it allows you to anticipate the government's case, determine its strengths and weaknesses, and determine a plan of attack. It also allows you the ability to evaluate the case and advise the client about the realities of the case, including the issues that the client will face in the long term.
To return to the wisdom of Sun Tzu: "Know thy self, know thy enemy. A thousand battles, a thousand victories."