By Ryan Graves, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law
J.D. Candidate, Class of 2022
On Thursday, February 25th, the IndyBar Law Student Division held a virtual Breakfast with the Bar event. Law students and attorneys logged into Zoom during the early morning hours to discuss anything and everything related to practicing criminal law. The attorneys present had a wide range of backgrounds in everything from prosecution to public defense, large firms to small, traffic tickets to homicides, and both federal and state courts.
To provide students with the realities of the criminal law practice many topics were discussed, including:
- Professionalism: Professionalism was discussed and students were reminded not to lie or deceive as your reputation will follow you around in this small legal community. In the criminal bar (for the most part), everyone (public defenders, private attorneys and prosecutors) get along and will go for a beer after work because it’s not a matter of IF you will see opposing counsel at a future hearing, YOU WILL. Lies will be remembered, so don’t be unethical to win today’s case because the impact of a lie will be longstanding.
- Difficulties of the Job: The attorneys referenced overcoming obstacles with difficulty contacting clients, Covid-19 related backlogs and the frustration of repeat business, especially after you’ve worked your butt off to get a favorable decision only to have the client re-offend.
- Workload: Cases are heavy under general conditions and COVID has exasperated the situation. For Lucy Frick, who handles major felony cases at the Marion County Public Defender Agency, she indicates pre-COVID she would typically have 30 active cases. As a result of no jury trials due to COVID, she has more than 60.
- Writing Skills: Attorneys gave advice on changing writing skills depending on the situation, reminding students that short and concise is best for courts which have limited time.
- Gaining Experience: Working at a public defender or prosecutor’s office is a great way to get repetitions to refine skills at questioning witnesses, recalling the rules of evidence, and applying courtroom procedures.
All-in-all, it was a great hour of learning more about life as a criminal law attorney.