One significant disadvantage of being a defense lawyer is dealing with negative public perception. Defense attorneys often face public scrutiny and are sometimes seen as shady or defending suspects they believe or know are guilty. This perception can be exacerbated by media coverage of crimes and suspects, which can contribute to a vengeful spirit towards suspected criminals and their defense lawyers. Additionally, defense attorneys may face ethical dilemmas, difficult clients, limited time and resources, and job pressure and stress.
Becoming a Defense Attorney
To become a defense attorney, one must complete a minimum of seven years of schooling, including four years to earn a bachelor’s degree and three years of law school. After completing their education, they must pass their state’s bar exam to legally practice law. Defense attorneys can be hired by private clients or work as public defenders, working for the government as a court-appointed attorney to defend the rights of people who can’t afford legal representation.
Challenges Faced by Defense Attorneys
Defense attorneys face several challenges in their careers, including:
- Negative Public Perception: As mentioned earlier, defense lawyers often face public scrutiny and are sometimes seen as defending suspects they believe or know are guilty. This perception can be exacerbated by media coverage of crimes and suspects, which can contribute to a vengeful spirit towards suspected criminals and their defense lawyers.
- Difficult Clients: Defense attorneys rely on honesty and accuracy of information from clients to provide the best possible defense. When clients lie or withhold information, the attorney can look foolish in court. Additionally, some clients commit crimes that are symptomatic of a deeper problem, such as lack of parental oversight, personal accountability, or regard for people. Clients may also have unrealistic demands and expectations of the defense attorney given the facts of the case.
- Limited Time and Resources: Defense attorneys often spend excessive evening and weekend hours working on cases just before, during, and after trial. They may also face an uphill battle due to limited resources, as law enforcement and district attorneys’ offices often spend significant amounts of money to prepare and prosecute cases. Defense attorneys must control costs to maintain a profitable business and rely on legal aides, assistants, and paralegals for research help.
- Job Pressure and Stress: Defense attorneys may experience ethical dilemmas, such as deciding how many cases they can realistically handle. They may feel pressured by their boss to take on new clients or may need the money. Being overwhelmed with cases makes it difficult to recall specifics of their client’s cases, and they may experience burnout if they consistently find themselves preparing for court at the last minute and staying up late to research and review dispositions. Stress is compounded when new evidence is presented, and attorneys may spend hours in the evening after a day in court researching testimony and evidence and preparing notes for the next day.
Being a defense lawyer comes with its challenges, including negative public perception, difficult clients, limited time and resources, and job pressure and stress. Despite these challenges, defense attorneys play a vital role in the American justice system by protecting the constitutional rights of those accused of a crime.
 The Challenges of Defense Attorney Careers. (2021, May 24). Work – Chron.com. Retrieved from https://work.chron.com/challenges-defense-attorney-careers-23113.html
 Becoming a Defense Attorney: Salary Information & Job Description. (2023, October 6). Learning Path. Retrieved from https://learningpath.org/articles/Defense_Attorney_Career_Overview.html
 Public Defender vs Criminal Lawyer | Pros/Cons of Each Criminal Attorney. (2022, March 22). Saller Law. Retrieved from https://www.sallerlaw.com/public-defender-vs-criminal-lawyer-pros-cons-criminal-attorney/