Manikas Law January 2019

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January 2019

Teenaged Philosophy What Led Me to a Career Defending Others

W hen I was growing up, I thought I was destined to be a civil or mechanical engineer. Science and math were my niche subjects, and I loved to build things, so some form of engineering seemed like the obvious next step. Then the small city where I attended high school got a new chief of police as a result of back room political maneuvering. The small central New York city always had a great relationship with their police officers, but that changed when the new chief was appointed to the department. Relationships soured as the new chief removed many of the existing officers and brought in his own people. I’m sure many readers can guess what happened next. The system started to erode — which can happen when you draft your own team for all the wrong reasons. I experienced a philosophical dilemma when I was just a teenager because of this change. Sure, there were issues and problems in the engineering and science worlds that seemed exciting, and I would have loved a career exploring. But I wondered if I could take my aptitude for solving issues to combat the kind of unfair things we were seeing. I learned that lawyers can use the court system and the law to combat this problem— so I was off to college and then law school. I attended Syracuse University and then American University Washington College of Law. I found that I loved delving into the deep, pressing topics of law. After law school, I was hired on as one of 1,200 lawyers in a large firm. I knew it wasn’t the job I wanted forever, but it was a great learning experience.

After working in the large firm, I accepted a prosecutor position, which I held for three years through 900 felony cases and thousands of misdemeanor cases. I prosecuted a gamut of crimes, including murder, driving while intoxicated, and reckless driving. These experiences were some of the most helpful for me when I later took on my role as a defense lawyer. They provided me an opportunity to see cases from both sides and the ability to effectively communicate with prosecutors. I enjoyed my time as a prosecutor, but my end goal was to run my own private practice. I enjoy helping people solve their legal problems and find satisfying conclusions. It’s gratifying to help the state, the accused, and victims come to a fair understanding that sets some equilibrium back into the universe. Plus, I enjoy seeing the relief on people’s faces when matters get resolved. You can literally see the weight of the world melt off them. A specific client of mine sticks out in my mind when I think of this relief. This person was a U.S. Secret Service agent, who I happened

to be helping because of my experience working with law enforcement agencies in the aftermath of use of force incidents. When I was in this position, I would provide officers legal advice and representation. After taking a step back from that position, I became a backup option for agencies, but I’ve still fostered great relationships with law enforcement. But this Secret Service client was being accused of a crime we knew he didn’t commit. My client was not only adamant against it, but we were able to find tangible proof that what he was being accused of was something that could not have happened. As the evidence came to light, I saw my client transform from this shell of a person to a thriving human again. The world was suddenly light, and the bleakness that hung over him dissipated. That’s exactly why I fight for my clients and why I got into this field in the first place. Maybe it’s the teenager in me wishing I could have done this for that small city where I grew up, but now seems as good of a time as any to keep trying.

-Kyle Manikas

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