Back to my novel, "The Guilty," and my portrayal of a lawyer with flexible ethics. (How's that for a euphemism?) Is my portrait, of a lawyer willing to cross legal and ethical lines in order to win his cases, cynical or just realistic? (Perhaps a cynic would say that it is realistic!) Either way, I tend to enjoy reading, and writing, stories where the characters, even the main protagonists, are not always lily-white. I just find these stories to be more interesting, and compelling. And there are so many opportunities to bend or even break rules in the legal profession, and so much pressure to succeed, that it just seemed normal for me to write about a lawyer who gives in to that pressure, although he certainly begins to regret it.
At the same time, I found myself reflecting on the fact that there are many things lawyers do and consider perfectly honest and honorable, that may look far different to someone who works outside the justice system. Take, for example, the simple act of defending someone we know is guilty, something I and every defense attorney has probably been asked about dozens of times. Yet, defending the guilty isn't something that has ever bothered me, or any other lawyer I've come across. Most people who are accused of a crime are guilty; everyone from lawyers to judges knows that. Yet they still have a right to a fair trial and the best defense they can get. (Besides, a lawyer who insists he will only defend those he believes are innocent is a lawyer with very few clients.)
So, a story about a lawyer who thinks his client is probably guilty will automatically bring the reader into a world where ethics might seem fishy, and the line between right and wrong is blurred. The opportunities for dramatic conflict abound, whether it be between defense and prosecution, client and lawyer, lawyer and the public, or lawyer and his own conscience. And that's what writing stories is all about.