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As Seen On
Criminal Justice Careers – What A Defense Attorney Does
by Marc Luber
When most people think about the different types of lawyers, they think about criminal defense lawyers thanks to what they see in TV shows and movies. There, we often see criminal defense attorneys grilling witnesses and giving dramatic closing statements. But fictional accounts leave out much of what a defense attorney does.
Joey Jackson is a criminal defense attorney and TV commentator on CNN. Joey tells us that courtroom procedures can actually be pretty tedious – and that it takes a lot of work before you can even get to the courtroom. Still, he lives for the courtroom experience and takes honor in defending the life and liberty of his clients.
Will Joey’s enthusiasm rub off on you? Find out if criminal defense is one of the careers for lawyers that interests you.
Criminal Defense Attorney Joey Jackson Title: Senior Litigator, Koehler & Isaacs City: New York, NY Law School: Hofstra Law School in Long Island, NY College: SUNY Brockport in Brockport, NY Grad School: MPA from SUNY Albany in Albany, NY Other Careers: Joey serves as a legal commentator on cable news networks CNN, HLN and TruTV. He is also an adjunct professor at Monroe College where he teaches business law.
What A Defense Attorney Does
While criminal defense is one of the careers for lawyers that people know best, many wonder how these types of lawyers can defend people accused of horrendous crimes like murder and rape. “Innocent before proven guilty” sounds good in theory, but how can criminal defense attorneys deal with the fact that they might be getting guilty criminals off based on a technicality?
In the full JDCOT interview, we ask Joey Jackson this very question. Listen in to find out why Joey says defending the innocent and guilty alike is an important part of what a defense attorney does. He shares a ton of great tips on what it’s like being a criminal defense attorney as well as how to go about breaking into criminal defense law.
Join JD Careers Out There for access to the full version of this transcript plus the career guidance video library & transcripts.
Luber: Hey everyone, today on JD Careers Out There we’re exploring criminal justice careers and looking at what a defense attorney does. This is gonna be good stuff – so stick around! [theme song]
Alright, as you may already know, at JDCOT we explore career paths both in and out of law to help you find a career that fits you and help you succeed using your law degree.
I’m your host Marc Luber, the founder of JDCOT. I’ve always used my law degree to work in alternative careers for lawyers – first in the music industry and then as a legal recruiter. I’ve been helping lawyers with their careers since 2003 and I’m excited for the opportunity to help you.
You’ve probably seen today’s guest on CNN where he’s an expert commentator. Joey Jackson is also a criminal defense lawyer with the New York firm of Koehler and Isaacs where he serves as Senior Trial Counsel. Today he’s gonna tell us about what a defense attorney does. Let’s meet Joey and get started! Joey, welcome to JDCOT.
Joey: Pleasure and a privilege to be with you.
Luber: I’m really glad you’re here. Joey, let’s start with the basics first. Tell us about your practice and an overview of what you do as a criminal defense lawyer.
Joey: Absolutely. Well I’m at a firm and we’re a full service firm. We represent people in a variety of ways – whether they’re closing on a house, whether they’re getting a divorce, whether they have issues in labor and employment and discrimination. And then of course we have an extensive criminal practice – and that’s what I do.
And as the senior trial counsel here, what I handle are matters of some import, meaning if someone gets involved in something significant, whether it be a case involving vehicular manslaughter, whether it be reckless endangerment, shootings with the police, whether it be enterprise corruption; no matter what the criminal matter is, often times I’m called in to address it.
And what that entails is going to court, representing the client’s interests – I like to say that criminal defense lawyers represent the rights of the falsely accused. Not that that’s always the case – but there are some people who are truly innocent.
But by and large, you go to court and in going to court you argue with the prosecution. And what you’re doing is you’re preserving your client’s rights and you’re arguing and attempting to hold the state to its burden of proof, which they’re establishing or attempting to establish that your client is guilty of a variety of things.
So whether it’s enterprise corruption or where people engage in conspiracies, whether it’s a rape case, whether it’s murder, attempted murder, vehicular manslaughter, driving while intoxicated, those are matters that we resolve.
And that oftentimes is not only going to court, but a lot of motion practice – meaning sometimes you want to write on papers to get yourself a certain hearing, to suppress evidence and that type of thing, but it’s a lot of fun stuff.
People’s lives are in the balance and you want to do what you can do for them which is the best you can at all times.
Luber: That sounds great! I’m really curious to learn about that, the fact that people’s lives are in the balance – so this is a big thing.
We’ve talked to several trial lawyers here. Very often it’s money that’s at stake. You’re dealing with people’s freedoms being at stake.
Explain the pressure that’s on your shoulders when you’re going to trial and representing somebody.
Joey: Well I love this, I love this job. I would do it if I weren’t paid to do it, so I don’t feel pressured and that’s true. I mean, I like to go to court; I live for the thrill of it.
There are a lot of clients who are involved in some pretty significant things and I would never put a client’s life or liberty at stake without attempting in all means to resolve something with the District Attorney, and what does that mean?
It means if I can cut a deal that’s favorable to my client and preserves his life and his freedom, I’ll do it – but sometimes you’re left with no choice – and when you’re left with no choice, you have to fight.
So you’re given the discovery by the state, which are all the police reports, all the records, all the transcripts, all the information, whatever they have – and you have to put together a case. And so you’re defending a client’s rights and so the stakes are very high. And oftentimes tempers flare in court because you’re doing the best you can, but I think it’s just something I’m passionate about; I enjoy it.
And as a result of that, I don’t get too stressed out about it. I get stressed when I’m not in court, so there you go.
Luber: Ha, ha, ha! That’s great! Alright let’s dig in deeper. In the full version of this interview, Joey’s gonna tell us lots more about being a criminal defense lawyer: like what’s a typical day, who makes the right fit for this path, how to break in and how to succeed. He’s also gonna tell us about his TV work.