Where do criminal defense lawyers work
An interview with criminal defense attorney Harald Straßner
Mr. Straßner, what do you particularly appreciate about your job?
It's really interesting to get to know all facets of social life. I don't think there is a profession in which you get to know all the ups and downs, shallows and the blackest and darkest sides of human interaction, like the legal profession and especially the criminal lawyer.
Is there anything that you don't like about your job?
When clients try to fool me, I find it very uncomfortable. Some believe they will have a better lawyer if they tell him the truth.
Are you asking your clients the truth?
I ask about it, but not too insistently. From the aspect that I then maybe actually know the full truth, there will of course also be penal and professional consequences. I am then no longer allowed to consciously present the opposite of what I know. That is problematic. I don't ask so intensely and still it annoys me if I am not told the truth.
To what extent do you often have to justify yourself for your job?
In fact, it happens every now and then that I am asked, for example, "Yes, how can you defend someone who has abused a child?" These are questions that criminal defense lawyers have to ask themselves.
How do you react to that?
For me there is a very clear answer: First of all, I never know from the start that someone has abused a child. It applies - this is how our constitutional state works - for everyone the presumption of innocence, until the opposite is finally proven. This is very important. And the second point is that the rule of law also requires that everyone, no matter how bad the deed they appear to have committed, is entitled to a good defense. That's what I'm there for in my job.
What is your goal in a process?
As a lawyer, I am subject to the double organthesis. That means, on the one hand, I have to represent my client's interests, that's what I'm there for. On the other hand, as a lawyer in the legal system, I am of course responsible for participating in a fair judgment based on the rule of law. The specific goals are defined by the individual case. One says, “I did that, but I don't want to go to jail. See that you get me out on probation. ”Then the goal is defined. The other says he has not committed a crime - the goal is to be acquitted. The process will then show whether it is achievable.
Have you ever turned down a mandate for moral reasons?
The presumption of innocence is a very, very important asset in our German legal system. And I think it is problematic to reject something for moral reasons, because one is probably wrong in criminal law. That is not to say that criminal law is immoral. But anyone who has difficulties defending certain ostensible criminal offenses is, in my opinion, fundamentally wrong in approaching the rule of law. I also think it is problematic for a tenancy lawyer if he says to me: "Yes, for God's sake, I could never defend such a child molester" - this is not a rule of law. It is precisely this that needs the defense so that our constitutional state - especially on these margins - receives its appropriate confirmation.
Are there still restrictions for you?
What I personally think is problematic are crimes from the right-wing extremist area. I could not represent someone who commits crimes for such political motives in the way in which he might have expected and also deserved it. This has to do with the historical ideological and rather left-liberal character of our law firm.
Most clients come to your office on recommendation. Do you also work as a public defender?
Yes, compulsory defense is very important to me. It doesn't make that much money. But it's a bit like the emergency medical services for the normal doctor. I think it's an ethical duty. And it annoys me very much when there are lawyers who hold their noses up exceptionally and say they don't want anything to do with "people like that."
What advice would you give prospective lawyers who would like to take up the profession of criminal defense lawyer?
You should study exactly what criminal law is all about. Defense lawyers also have to go to jail, for example - it is sometimes not that clean - and they have to endure a harsh tone. In theory, criminal law sounds prestigious and exciting, but there is a lot of practice involved. You have to like them.
What skills can good criminal lawyers score with?
You should have a certain demeanor. In addition, even more than other areas of law, criminal law requires very good rhetoric and fluency. Because criminal law always has something to do with performance, maybe even a little with show.
Is there anything else that aspiring lawyers have to bring with them?
You need to have the nerve to do it. And they should have the ability to deal with people of all shapes and classes and be interested in them. Prospective lawyers have to deal with this psychologically and, in a murder trial, for example, have to be able to look at pictures of the dead or to be there themselves at an autopsy.
It must be very difficult. Did you get used to it over time?
I didn't really have to get used to it that much, but managed to get this separation done relatively quickly: There is the job with the intensity that I have to put into it, and on the other hand there is my private life and also my private thoughts the things. But that both influence each other so much, I actually never experienced in the sharp form. Because I've always managed to separate them.
And how exactly? Do you have a specific tip?
I learn a little from the forensic doctors: they have to open a corpse, take out individual parts, analyze them, get the complete distance to it - and in the evening they still have to taste the veal sausages. And then I thought to myself: If they can do it, then the criminal lawyer must also get this distance.
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