Career as a Criminal Defense lawyer: The Realities

Despite being one of the most common choices amongst law students, there are a number of misconceptions with regards to the work-life of a Criminal Lawyer. To resolve all your dilemmas read this excellent segment in which you will get a fair idea of what a career in criminal law looks like from the inside.


Guiding your way

Parvez Memon

Senior Partner, MZM Legal (Currently Practicing in London)

He has over 20 years of niche experience of trial and appellate work in the fields of criminal compliance and regulation, corruption, extradition cybercrime, and the likes. He has acted in some of India’s most fierce prosecutorial and governmental investigations. He is one of India’s few expert lawyers to have undertaken sensitive trials under India’s and Maharashtra state’s anti-terrorism and organized crime laws.


Understanding this profession from the inside


Criminal law. Innocent until proven guilty. Career as a criminal defense lawyer

1. How does the work-life of a criminal lawyer look like?

A career as a Criminal Defense Lawyer is truly accomplishing. It is Thrilling, Adventurous, Evolving, Interesting and Educating.
However, with all of this, it is often challenging, tiring and at times risking your life too. When a Criminal Defense lawyer is dealing with blue collar general crimes like Rape, Murder, Dacoity, Robbery, or Terror Related crimes then it becomes riskier as you can be a casualty of crossfire with either the law-enforcing authorities or rival gangs.
We have examples of Lawyers like Shahid Azmi and Kishore Sutrale who were such victims for being the lawyers defending high-risk clients. There was also an attempt on the life of Advocate Majeed Memon by gangster Ravi Pujari. At times the enforcement agencies themselves take it very personal and try to intimidate or implicate the lawyers as well. So, we have to weigh the pros and cons of the practice areas.


2. Considering the risk involved, should a lawyer pursue this career?

The above-mentioned risk should not be a discouraging factor for any student to fight for the rights of the underdogs. A Lawyer's duty is to defend his client as he is deemed innocent until proven guilty. You should never be swayed with adverse media publicity against your client. Every accused has a constitutional right to legal defense.
Mr. Ram Jethmalani has defended the assassins of Late Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and also the assassins of Rajiv Gandhi. Your duty is to the brief and the documents. The evidence speaks for itself and you have to perform your duties within the four corners of law. Criminal Defense is one such area of practice where you get all the wisdom of the world and the lessons of the way the world functions sitting in your office. If you are a smart lawyer you can learn from the mistakes of others and live a happy life.



3. All hope not lost if you want to avoid risky life of a Criminal Lawyer

That's a general perception of people that criminal law is only about rapes and murders. There are areas of practice where you don't have to deal with the rugged ones. Like we practice purely White-Collar Crime and Corporate crimes at MZM Legal.
Look at areas of compliance, Anti-Corruption, Money Laundering, SEBI and Banking Frauds, Company mismanagement and Misappropriations, and Extradition. Also, at times you are required to appear for the victim of the crime as lawyer for the complainant. The whole world is not bad and cannot be painted with the same brush.

Smart Lawyers are required to make Tough Decisions


Moral and right. Criminal law cases. Crime.

1. Choosing between what is moral and what is right while taking up a case

You need to go by the brief. The facts of the matter, the material in the nature of the chargesheet and whether material so collected in enough to bring home the charges against the accused. We cannot sit in Judgement at a threshold, like the media does these days holding a media trial and condemning the accused.
Every accused is deemed to be innocent until proven guilty in law. Look at the very recent case of Tarun Tejpal. He was hounded at the threshold. His career is finished and now the courts have acquitted him.Your duty is to the brief and the documents. The evidence speaks for itself and you have to perform your duties within the four corners of law.


2. Initial Stages of this career can be hard, financially

Every accused is deemed to be innocent until proven guilty in law. Look at the very recent case of Tarun Tejpal. He was hounded at the threshold. His career is finished and now the courts have acquitted him. he desired fees.
However, once you have established your name and reputation there is no looking back and there will come a time when you will have no time for new briefs. You can demand any amount for your expertise and people do pay when they are in serious trouble.




In Conclusion,

Just be patient, work hard, keep learning. A lawyer is a student of law all throughout his life. Be honest to your work and profession. Don't run for easy money. Remember, behind every overnight success there is 20 years of hard work.


Found it interesting? Read these, too:

Judicial Law Clerkship: The Work and Prospects (towardslawcareer.com)

Being a Public Prosecutor in India: The Realities (towardslawcareer.com)


#law #lawstudents #lawschool #criminallaw #criminalpractice #lawyerlife #crime #lawschool #courtpractice

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