“We represent ‘those people’ because we can always find aspects of them that represent us.” -Abbe Smith

“How can you represent those people?”

I often call my life’s work “the guilty project.” Criminal defense is, for the most part, defending the factually guilty — people who have done something wrong, though maybe not exactly what is alleged.

That works for me because, as it happens, I like guilty people. I prefer people who are flawed and complicated to those who are irreproachable. As legendary American lawyer Clarence Darrow put it more than 80 years ago: “Strange as it may seem, I grew to like to defend men and women charged with crime. . . . I became vitally interested in the causes of human conduct. . . . I was dealing with life, with its hopes and fears, its aspirations and despairs.”

Check out the rest of Abbe Smith’s answer here along with her book: