Just because you could doesn’t mean you should: lawyer Ethics in the Forensic Science case

Quite honestly, I think that most criminal defense attorneys who handle cases are not substantively and truly competent to handle the case that they accept. That’s right over 50%.

At first blush, I am sure that this assertion makes me seem like a pompous know-it-all and perhaps even a jerk, but that is not my intent.

The state bar says I am competent to handle oil and gas cases, but I dare not. The same with divorce. The same with tax. The same with contracts. I only have a limited, finite area that I am truly competent. I have limits. We all do. I submit that being a good lawyer is admitting to these limitations. I freely do.

The day of the general practitioner is gone. The consumer doesn’t want it. The practice of law has become so hyper techincal and niche-like that unless you focus on one narrow area of law, you cannot possibly keep up. Take for example, DUI defense. In the past, and still even today, there is a thought that any lawyer can defend a DUI. Unlike other areas of law or even other types of criminal defense, substantive DUI defense does not lend itself to templating, checklists or other such quick lists. Instead, it takes years of scientific study. Especially in the case of complex pharmacology such as the DUID cases. In most cases, there is a pharmacologic defense, likely a medical defense, and also other substantive non-legal issues.

I am certainly not claiming that these lawyers are not smart enough. I liken it to if I were to build my own house. By way of background, I have hammered a nail less than 30 times in my whole life. Although I physically can try to build that house, I should not. While I am sure that after thousands and thousands of hours, I could figure something out. But I have no confidence it would pass code, and I certainly wouldn’t live in it with my family. Same is true with a DUI cases and other criminal law cases.

The best thing to do is to stick to your wheelhouse. Just because you can pick up a case, doesn’t mean you should.

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