It’s easy to be fooled by the Internet banner sales pitch: “Former Prosecutor, Years of Experience” and think that having a former prosecutor as your local criminal defense lawyer is somehow a “better” option. But don’t be fooled. It may have little or no bearing. Here are common myths that exist in this regard:
MYTH #1: The Former Prosecutor Always Knows/Is Connected With the Current Team
Former prosecutors, unless they recently worked in an office (within a short duration of their leaving) may have little or no connection to the current administration.
Like other state elected officials, prosecutors often have entire teams leave with them when they leave an office. Prosecutors may be appointed to a judgeship, may lose an election, or leave public law altogether. Often, this means that the advertising former prosecutor may have been part of the office years before with totally different personnel and may not have worked with anyone in the office, or few people in the office.
In fact a defense attorney who sees the new team in court frequently may have far more of a connection with the current State’s Attorney’s office than someone who worked there five years ago for example.
MYTH #2: You will Get a Better Result Because You Hire a Former Prosecutor
Judges and juries decide cases. They respect lawyers who do a good job and experienced lawyers of any variety provide that opportunity. The former prosecutor may have skills that any experienced lawyers may have from the number of trials handled or cases types, but that doesn’t mean any favoritism exists, in fact it cannot exist. Prosecutors are duty-bound to fairly execute their jobs without color or favor. If a direct conflict exists, in fact, sometimes a prosecutor might have to recuse themselves from a case.
MYTH #3: There is Some Special Club For Ex-Prosecutors
Like anyone in a workplace or school, prosecutors may maintain friendships with other lawyers they know. But there is only one state convention for State’s Attorneys and Assistant State’s Attorneys, and that is for active position-holders and assistants, not former prosecutors. There is no special “club” that former prosecutors belong to. There are a few law clubs in Maryland, but members in those clubs include prosecutors, defense attorneys, civil, family attorneys and judges. They are not specific to prosecutors.
MYTH #4: Prosecuting Experience is the Same as Defense Experience
While having trial experience is a very good thing, and many former prosecutors do become exceptional defense lawyers and judges, there is still a significant learning curve to become a strong defense attorney. And while there is some similarity between defense and prosecution preparation, the processes are very different in that a defense attorney is finding ways to attack the State’s case or Government’s case, and not necessarily to present any evidence as prosecutors are required to do. Long-time defense attorneys have often gone to conferences and studied specific ways to attack prosecution evidence. Especially for newer defense attorneys who used to be on the other side, there can be a steep learning curve to switch gears.
MYTH #5: Lawyers Who Didn’t Serve as Former Prosecutors Aren’t As Good at Trial
This is perhaps the most inaccurate belief of all the common myths. Lawyers who went straight into defense or were judicial law clerks or served as assistant public defenders may have the same or better trial experiences than many former prosecutors. The key is to calculate a lawyer’s knowledge, experience, and ability to offer results in a case.
If the lawyer has outstanding experience, abilities and will work hard for your specific case, that’s far more important than having a former title to the lawyer’s name.
Our law firm employs or has employed former prosecutors, and we are proud of the work they have done and continue to do for us. But we work with a team based on their overall experience and what they can do in a case or for clients. We definitely view being a former prosecutor as a positive attribute in a lawyer, but it is not the panacea some lawyers advertise about.
Hire the lawyer based on the specifics of a case and the lawyer who is the right fit for you for the specific case type, not because of some advertising slogan on the Internet that some lawyers use to get clients.