Why Did You Choose To Be A Criminal Attorney?

Below, Virginia criminal defense attorney Matthew Crowley discusses why he went to law school and decided to become a criminal lawyer.

Why Did You Choose to go to Law School?

I’ve always been really fascinated by the law. I’ve always thought that if you can understand the rules the society plays by that it’s much easier to navigate life. I’ve also always loved an intellectual challenge. From the time I was a kid in school, I remember loving logic puzzles. I remember sitting in my third grade class and doing the puzzles that say, if James sits by John, but is across from Betty, who is not sitting by Mary. I always loved those sorts of things, I always found them to be a challenge. That’s one of the reasons.

And I’ve also always enjoyed finding creative solutions to problems that other people either felt weren’t solvable or that there was only one way to solve. I’ve always like to think creatively. I’ve also always enjoyed debate. Some people—some of my teachers, or my parents, might have felt like it was argument at times, but I always thought of it as debate. I’ve always enjoyed a good discussion. I’ve always enjoyed digging down and finding the answers to questions, whether I was arguing politics as a young person or which year’s Air Jordan’s back then were the best.

I also had a lot of adults tell me, “Hey, you ought to be a lawyer, you seemed well-suited to that.”

I also learned as a young person mostly through engaging in music and also in theater that I love to be on the stage so to speak that I enjoy being on the spot; that I was comfortable there. I learned that I was quick on my feet. So, when the time came for me to pick a career it felt really natural to choose law, it’s a place I can satisfy my intellectual curiosity, my desire to solve complex problems, and use my natural abilities.

What I didn’t understand or appreciate until I began practicing, however, is how incredibly satisfying is to help people. To really reach across to someone who’s in trouble, who’s at one of the lowest points of their life and then to really, really make a difference for them.

Those are the reasons and I think I’ve, through a lot of experience, found that I was corrected my assessment. It’s turned out to going to law school and having career in law has been extremely satisfying and fulfilling.

Why Did You Want To Become a Criminal Defense Attorney?

Actually I didn’t always know that’s what I wanted to do. Certainly when I was in law school, I did very well in my criminal law classes. I enjoyed them. I didn’t know when I first got out of law school what I wanted to do.  Some people have a very clear idea; I was open to a lot of things.

With that having been said, there’s never been a time in my career when I didn’t practice criminal law. The trajectory of my career was that I was very fortunate as a brand new attorney to land with a law firm where I had responsibility for a large case load from nearly the very first day and criminal defense was big part of that.

What I learned very quickly is that in criminal defense as opposed to a lot of other things, you have the ability to make a real difference with people and if you like having a courtroom practice and if you like being on your feet and if you like litigating, which I do, it is a great experience on many levels.

Criminal defense offers that in a way that other things don’t. It simply gives you more experience, and again if you enjoy that kind of practice it gives you more enjoyment than almost anything else does. Certainly for me anyway. And honestly, I learned that I was good at it.

Every case is a puzzle.  Understanding how the facts of a particular case fit with the law, how that fits with the goals of the client, and finding the best and most creative solutions to get the client across the finish line are things that I really enjoy. I love doing that.

I found that I love to help people as I said who are facing truly tough challenges. When someone is really looking to you for help and they’re counting on you to help them navigate troubled waters, it’s a big responsibility, but I love having that responsibility and I’ve always found it an immensely rewarding privilege to be trusted with that task.

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