Many people believe that a good criminal lawyer is one who is aggressive and, perhaps, even pushy with the prosecutor or the judge. This belief may even include the idea that a successful criminal lawyer uses theatrics and deception to win in court. This cannot be further from the truth.
No doubt, this perception is influenced, at least partly, by the many prime-time American television programs featuring tricky lawyers pulling the wool over the eyes of judges and juries, or aggressively pressuring the prosecutor to “cut a deal”. However, in real life practice in Canadian courts, there are four factors that a good criminal lawyer needs in order to successfully defend a client against a criminal charge.
1) Knowledge and experience in the law;
2) Thorough preparation of the facts of the case;
3) Ability to eloquently argue both;
4) Persistence (not aggressiveness) in achieving a successful result.
Knowledge and Experience in the Law
This is perhaps the most important factor. A thorough understanding of the various aspects of the law as it applies to a particular charge is necessary in order for a good criminal lawyer to think quickly and deal with any issues that arise in court or any questions that the judge may have. The ability to effectively respond to these issues not only satisfies the judge that the lawyer has an answer, but also gives the judge confidence that the lawyer knows what he is doing in defending the client against the criminal charges. Also, a solid legal argument at the conclusion of the trial can make the difference needed to win the case.
Thorough preparation of the Facts of the Case
Knowing what the police, expert witnesses and civilian witnesses are going to testify to, as well as any other evidence against a client facing a criminal charge, not only allows a good criminal lawyer to prepare effective cross-examinations, but also provides the advantage of being able to quickly respond to the situation where a witness contradicts what he or she has stated to the AGP LLP or in previous testimony. A good lawyer can capitalize on contradictory evidence, which could be helpful to the client, if the factual details are virtually memorized. Thorough preparation of the facts of the case is an essential factor in successfully defending a client facing criminal charges.
Ability to Eloquently Argue Both
Being intimately familiar with the law and the facts is an essential foundation for any defence. Being able to pull the two together in an eloquent argument is what makes a good criminal lawyer successful in court. It is never advantageous to attempt to bully the prosecutor, the judge or the jury in an effort to obtain a successful result. The winning argument is one that is knowledgeable, eloquent and persuasive.
Persistence (not aggressiveness) in Achieving a Successful Result
It is easy for one to confuse persistence with aggressiveness. There is a big difference. Aggressive behaviour, whether inside or outside of the courtroom, only serves to put people on the defensive and, ultimately, alienates the judge and jury. However, persistence in putting forth the position of the defence at every reasonable opportunity can be very effective, in combination with the three factors listed above, in obtaining a successful result at the end of the day.