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  • Writer's pictureJessie Huang

Professional Skills I Learned From My Criminal Defense Attorney

In March 2018, I had a traumatizing correspondence with an NYPD detective that I will remember until the day I die. Some things that were threatened to me during that time:

"I could embarrass you at work by arresting you there, Jessie. You're lucky I'm not."

"You know I could issue a search warrant on you, right?"

"I could arrest you at your home in front of your roommates and friends. I'm doing you a favor by not."

"Yes, I am trying to arrest you... How's Wednesday next week?"

After finally coming to my senses and realizing there was no way out, I frantically started phoning criminal defense attorneys for help.

I retained private counsel, and we worked pretty closely together. Looking back, I learned a lot of skills, from the entire ordeal, that are applicable to everyday, professional life.

Now that I'm back to "normal existence," I've noticed that I've transferred a lot of the below skills to my day job, with positive returns.


Acknowledge distress, even if it seems dumb to you.

I work in advertising. Suffice to say—we are not saving lives. However, after what I went through, I now understand the importance of acknowledging a client's angst no matter how inconsequential it may feel to me.

Better to follow up than to not.

A quick check in is often better than no check in at all, even just to let the other party know there's no update yet. It really sucks to wait around in a void, as a client.

"Once I know, you'll know."

My lawyer texted me this when I kept asking for updates pertaining to my impending surrender to police. For some reason, it gave me an instant sense of reassurance. I use this phrase all the time in my job now.

Happy client, happy life.

Doesn't have the same ring as "happy wife, happy life." But, it's still true.

Be reliably responsive.

After a couple weeks of interacting with my lawyer, I had faith that anytime I reached out I'd get a timely response. I've never trusted anyone in a service role like this before. A lot of the positive feedback I receive in my day job, post trauma, revolves around this.

Keep your word.

If you say you'll do something, do it. And do it on time. E.g. if you tell a client you will call them at 3PM, call them when your clock shows exactly 3PM.

Own up to your mistakes and focus on solutions.

Admittedly, my lawyer did make some big mistakes in the criminal justice process. But, I did notice he never tried to shift blame and was always quick to focus on solutions once said mistakes were uncovered. Nobody's perfect.


One thing I've learned from trauma: even in the darkest times, there are always opportunities for reflection and personal improvement. It's a matter of time and perspective.

But also, it's 100% ok to just be angry and heartbroken (or whatever emotions you feel).


Follow Jessie on Twitter or email her at

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