The last time that I blogged was a week into the semester. I had begun my clinical course, and was thrown into the fire when an attorney called in sick. Time has flown by, and we are just a few weeks until the end of the semester. This semester has blown by. It literally seems like only yesterday that I handled my first case on the record, and now I’ve handled over a hundred.
No trials yet, which is somewhat disappointing, but somewhat expected given the court that i’m working in and the lack of “volume” of cases. A lot of counties in Maryland have courts with 30 or 40 cases on the morning or afternoon docket for each of 4 or 5 or sometimes more courtrooms. Baltimore City has 3 separate district court houses for criminal matters, and a completely separate 4th court for civil matters in the district court. In Cecil County the morning docket is about 20-30 cases total (for the state) in each of 2 courtrooms. This is a mix of criminal and serious traffic matters. In the afternoon, many times there is only one courtroom handling serious traffic and criminal, the other is either closed or handling speeding tickets and other payable traffic matters.
I have had a great experience, working with clients and preparing cases for the potential of trial. In doing so, I have learned that almost any case that is worth putting on trial for the defense, isn’t particularly good for the State. What I have learned without doubt, is that preparation on the defense side often pushes these cases into “worth dropping charges” as far as the State is concerned.
I have realized that the most important asset that a good attorney often has is preparation. Not that it took any time or effort to come to this conclusion, but seeing this in action is huge. Unlike the State’s Attorney, you actually have access to your client. You can meet with them, get at least their side of the story, and pick it apart from there. Often times the ASA only has a police report, limited access to the officer who filed the report (but didn’t witness the offense) and if there is any level of innocence on the part of your client, you have the advantage and ability to find it.
The semester has so far proven to be a great learning experience as far as client advocacy is concerned, and really gaining a comfort level in the courtroom.
I am not looking forward to it ending. While it’ll be another chapter closed, and another step closer to graduation and admission to the bar, it’ll be the bench mark to what should be one full calendar year of me not being in the courtroom on the record. This will be the sad part of the story.