It seems like the job would also require a high threshold for disappointment. Aren't most criminal defense attorneys pretty cynical?Oh, no. I think just the opposite. I always go back to the joke about the 11 year-old-twins. One of the twins was an eternal optimist. He only saw the good in everything, which made his parents fear that he'd be easily manipulated. His brother was an eternal pessimist. Only saw the bad in people, which his parents feared would make him sad and lonely. So they took the boys to a psychiatrist, who proposed an experiment. Per the psychiatrist's advice, the following Christmas the parents bought the pessimistic boy every toy he could possibly want. The optimistic boy woke up Christmas morning to several piles of horse manure. A week later, they took the boys back to the psychiatrist. He asked the pessimistic boy if had a good Christmas.
"It was terrible," he said. "I got all of these brand new toys, but I can't play with any of them because I'm afraid I'll break them."
The psychiatrist then posted the same question to the optimistic boy. "It was great!" he exclaimed. "I got a pony! I just haven't found him yet!"
Criminal defense attorneys deal with a lot of horses----. I think the thing that keeps us going -- or at least the thing that has kept me going -- is knowing that with all that s---, sooner or later you're going to find a pony.
So what are the ponies? Discovering wrongful convictions? Freeing an innocent person from death row?
Those are all important, yes. But those are rare. There are smaller, more attainable ponies. Getting evidence suppressed because you convinced a judge that a cop broke the rules. Getting a conviction overturned after you've shown that a prosecutor withheld evidence. Even in cases where the charges are relatively minor, there's great satisfaction in knowing that you forced the state to play by the rules, that you successfully held a powerful person to account.