THE DEFENSE REPORT
FOOTBALL AND THE LAW A GAME OF INCHES
If there’s one thing growing up in Atlanta has taught me, it’s that it’s tough being a Falcons fan. Even when we have a championship team, we always seem to find a way to snatch defeat out of the jaws of victory at the last possible second. And yet, no matter how much past seasons may sting, I still get excited every time football season rolls around again. Part of my begrudging love of the Falcons probably comes from the fact that I went to Emory. Our “Emory Football: Still Undefeated” T-shirts are probably the most popular item in the student store. But, despite attending one of the only Georgia schools to lack a college team, I still have a deep respect for the sport. In fact, as a lawyer, I relate to the game quite a bit. Hear me out. Over the years, I’ve had the privilege of attending the National College for DUI Defense at Harvard University. Essentially, the college consists of three-day seminars led and attended by some of the top defense attorneys in the country as a way to better our craft. In a sense, it’s the Super Bowl for DUI lawyers. It was at one of these seminars that a veteran lawyer drew clear parallels between criminal defense and football. “Law is a game of inches,” he said, playing the Al Pacino speech from “Any Given Sunday.” The connection made a surprising amount of sense. To paraphrase from the famous locker-room scene, in either game, law or football, the margin for error is so small. One half-step too late or too early, and you won’t make it. Mounting a good defense means fighting every step of the way. This is especially true for tough cases when the evidence is stacked against you. Rather than throw in the towel or go for an unlikely Hail Mary, the best attorneys dig in their heels and make gains wherever they can. Only by probing the prosecution’s formation can you set up big plays that will go the distance.
Sometimes a case comes down to running out the clock. When a statute of limitations is within sight, the best strategy is often to drag out proceedings until the law no longer applies. But more often, a good lawyer will be looking for ways to go on the offensive. Like a gap in the offensive line or a botched pass, a great NFL defense is always looking for a chance to flip the script on the other team. From hard-hitting sacks to pick-sixes, these opportunities to seize the momentum of the game can be the difference between a win or a loss. That’s why whenever the prosecution slips up, like lacking the evidence they need or using an unreliable witness, you can bet we’re going to take that ball and run with it. Of course, it’s not a perfect analogy. When I take the field, I don’t have fame, fortune, and a Super Bowl ring on the line. I’m playing for something far more valuable: my clients’ future. With such an important outcome at stake, no defense lawyer can afford not to fight for every inch they can get.
Here’s to a great season,
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