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Switching from Prosecution to Defense

What made you want to switch to being a defense attorney?

Karin Riley Porter: My point of view started to even out. When you first start as a prosecutor, you kind of have tunnel vision. Of course, your agenda and your job is to protect the community at large. That is very different than advocating for one individual client. It’s a completely different job. As the years went by, I started to realize that it’s not a cut and dry system. There really are gray areas between the black and white in the sense that each individual who ends up in a situation where they are accused of a crime has their own story, their own challenges in their life, and their own reasons why they might have ended up there. It’s not just about what happens in the courtroom and proving or defending your case; as a defense attorney, most of what I do happens outside of the courtroom in terms of helping each individual person through this difficulty that they face. As a prosecutor, it’s not really like that. The caseload is a little bit heavier and you’re more focused on getting convictions and making sure that the person is convicted and punished. It’s completely different. At that point in my career, I was ready for not only a new intellectual challenge, but also a new focus in terms of where my career was going. I wanted to help each individual rather than just doing the same thing every day. I was ready for something new and I thought I would be really good at helping clients navigate the criminal justice system given my knowledge.

What were you surprised about when making the switch from being a prosecutor to a criminal defense attorney?

Karin Riley Porter: I was surprised at the way I became entrenched in each client’s case and really cared about each client. I put a lot more time and effort into a misdemeanor case as a defense attorney than I ever would have as a prosecutor. The time, the effort, and the interest in the actual outcome of the case and how it affects a person are different as a defense attorney with a specific client versus a prosecutor. The main difference is the involvement and the commitment to even just a minor case when you’re defending somebody. It is just totally different than if you’re prosecuting them. That’s the main difference.

Did you find it challenging making the switch from a prosecutor to a defense attorney?

Karin Riley Porter: Yes, of course. Your perspective is different. You’re dealing with somebody’s life. You have a business relationship with this person, so you learn about them and you have to understand that they are relying upon you. That’s really important. It is challenging in that regard. Having someone rely on you like that is a lot of responsibility. I like that about it because it means that what I’m doing is very important to this specific client. It makes me fight for them to get the best outcome possible. Even though it is very challenging and it is different than being a prosecuting attorney, I like it at the same time.

For more about Karin Riley Porter, visit her profile

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