After years working as a post-conviction and appellate attorney, I noticed that so many of my clients still needed help even after their criminal case was over. While the ongoing effect of criminal convictions might cause problems for anybody, there were two groups of clients who seemed to be suffering the most: former sex offenders who must register with the Sex Offender Registry Board (SORB), and non-citizens who are facing deportation.
These two groups of seemingly very different people might not appear to have much in common. But whether my client is a non-citizen trying to avoid being deported due to a minor misdemeanor conviction, or a former sex offender who committed a very serious sex offense in the past but is no longer dangerous, they share a common goal: to not let their past define their future.
This is where I began to understand and appreciate the power of storytelling. So often my clients simply need someone by their side who can tell their story in a way that provides explanation, not excuses. I don’t stand in front of a jury and argue that my client is innocent; the time for that has come and gone. Instead, I explain to judges how my non-citizen client didn’t really get a “good deal” on a plea they had no idea would result in their deportation. I provide context and support to SORB hearing examiners to explain why my client who committed a sex offense in the past is no longer likely to reoffend.
Essentially, I help clients change the narrative. And by narrowly focusing my practice on these specific collateral consequences I’m able to keep up with – and stay ahead of – the many nuances in these areas of law. Whether it’s through investigation, incorporating the most up-to-date statistical research on recidivism, integrating behavioral psychology concepts, or explaining cultural differences, my extensive experience lets me think outside the box to explore new and interesting approaches to these cases where the stakes for my clients are so high.