Criminal Defense Lawyering Has A Lot In Common With Fly Fishing

I am both a criminal defense lawyer and a fly fisherman.  I love both endeavors.  Both require some of the same skills.  A lawyer’s job, to simplify things, is to put his or her head around a lot of facts and circumstances in the context of the law and to chart and sail a course that leads to the best possible outcome for their clients.  A fly fisherman, or fisher woman as the case may to be, must appreciate the many factors he or she encounters on a river or stream (which is where I am drawn to) in the context of the laws of nature toward the goal of catching fish (big fish).

In order to catch fish, and I am partial to trout, on any river or stream one must be mindful of where a fish would be, how to approach that envisioned fish and how to present a particular fly to that “envisioned” fish.  I characterize this as “reading the water;” I did not coin this phrase but have totally bought in to the concept.  “Reading the water” is not an easy skill to acquire and is never perfected.  That’s what makes it so fun, to me anyway. Over time, and I mean many, many years, a fly fisherman gains more and more knowledge of the traits of trout.  That is, where, how and why fish lie in a particular type of water and to what artificial fly they are attracted to at a particular time and water condition.  At the same time, the fly fisherman learns and masters how to drop that specific fly in the perfect manner so as to place the fly in the perfect spot, with precision.  Over time, a fly fisherman, having become obsessed and having spent thousands of hours on the river, achieves success to the degree that great fish come to his or her net with regularity heretofore unimagined and in a heart stopping fashion.

All that I just related about fly fishing can be applied to the art and science of practicing criminal law.  Every criminal law case brings a boatload of facts and issues that have to be sorted out, clarified and appreciated in the context of a particular charge with the goal of making the best of the cards that a client has been dealt.  This is simply “reading the water” as it relates to a particular life situation that a client is presented with.  Every fact that is relevant to a criminal case is weighed in the context of how it helps or hurts the client, how it can be used in either negotiating the case or at trial and how it relates to all the other facts.  You see in the law, the cards that have been dealt to a client are not obvious. And it doesn’t matter whether the case involves a DUI, Theft, Drugs or Rustling Cattle…. The prosecuting attorney who wants to convict my client might, for example, think he or she has a good set of cards, lets say two pair (aces and eights).  Well, the attorney’s job is, in part, to convince the prosecuting attorney that he or she does not hold that good of cards or to convince a jury of six or twelve people that the prosecuting attorney does not have a winning hand! That’s what experienced and competent lawyers do.

Like a fly fisherman, an attorney needs to spend thousands of hours on the water (in this case in court and studying and practicing law) to achieve great and consistent success.  There are moments, whether on a stream or in front of a jury, when the fruits of hard work and the passion for achieving success are realized in heart stopping fashion.  This is why I love to fly fish; and this is why I love to practice criminal law…the moments.