Sunday, May 3, 2015

The Life of a Former Prosecutor

Everyone asks me about my old DA life - So, do you miss it? Like anything, the answer is yes and no. It has been a (somewhat) smooth transition to private practice so far. Even for an experienced attorney, the new challenge was not without hurdles. The most critical part of private practice was also that for which I was least prepared.

In the DA's office, I did not answer to clients. I had bosses and I had my duties to the U.S. and New York Constitutions, but I did not have clients. Therefore, I told victims what was going to happen most of the time. This is not to say I did not solicit input and ask their opinions on matters. I talked to the victims, listened, and explained. At the end of the day though, a decision was made whether the victim agreed or not.

In private practice, clients pay the bills. That is on top of the duties of an attorney to discuss issues with their clients. In practice this means that the client has to sign off on the critical decisions, and, realistically, many of the non-critical decisions too. The days of telling someone what my decision was and explaining the reason for it have transitioned into days of seeking approval for a certain outcome or strategy.

There are certain other differences too. When I walk in a courtroom now, I wait just like everyone else. Sure, I know many of the court employees and chat with them. But criminal cases take precedence over civil and I generally wait until the criminal cases are completed.

There is also a certain inertia I see in civil cases. In a criminal case, a person's liberty hangs in the balance and there is a rush to move the cases quickly to a resolution. In the civil world, no such rush exists. Judges are scheduling civil trials over a year and a half away (The eighteen months is from the first appearance in front of a judge. There was usually a few years of investigation and discovery that took place prior to even scheduling a trial). The longer a civil case hangs in the balance, the more likely it will settle I notice.

The biggest change is that most of my days are spent behind a desk. As a litigator, I spend more time out of the office than most of my colleagues, but it is nowhere near what it was as a DA when I ran from courtroom to courtroom to police station every hour. This change just so happened to coincide with some studies which report that hours sitting behind a desk may kill you. Lucky me.

I do really enjoy the client development aspect. Part of a private lawyer's job is sales. We need to get clients in the door. Networking and client development are one of my favorite parts.

It has been fun to learn so much new material (corporate transactions, divorce, child support, debt collection, trade secret litigation, environmental law, and much more). Every day I realize how much more I don't know.

Sorry for the rambling post, but I wanted to provide an update that has been a long time coming.