Speaking to attorney Jim Kraus, we learn what it takes to be a white collar criminal attorney.
From being practical to dynamic, Jim shares how an internal investigation at a company is handled when something does not look right.
What drew you to the legal practice of White Collar Criminal Defense?
I didn’t start my legal career thinking, specifically, that I could be a White Collar Lawyer but I have always had a strong interest in helping people through difficult times. I’ve never been interested in debate for the sake of debate, nor one to look for a fight, but the idea of coming into a fight and serving others as the role of “protector” and “advocate” has always appealed to me.
Additionally, the subject matter is very interesting; the concept of highly intelligent and successful people becoming involved in illegal conduct – the apparent incongruity of it all – has always fascinated me. The inverse is equally captivating. That is … what drives the government in any particular case to take a set of facts that might typically lead to a civil violation or even no government action, and turn it into a criminal prosecution?
When you first started practicing law, what took you by surprise?
When you start life as a lawyer, assuming you are paying attention, everything surprises you. One of the more surprising things was the dynamic of experienced trial lawyers … they can be in a court room and “fight it out” regarding evidence and law while having and maintaining professional relationships with their opponents. It is startling the first time you see lawyers like this who are engaged in a pitched courtroom battle then turn and ask their opposing counsel how their family is or share a joke.
How did you cope with your changing perceptions of how trial lawyers should behave?
Well, as you gain more experience, you grow to understand that this unique dynamic is more than just good manners. It is a recognition of each attorney’s duty to the court and its rules, as well as their client. It is practical. The exercise of discipline to concentrate on the case at hand rather than being distracted by peripheral and personal battles can make the difference between success and failure. An attorney’s focus on their own personal drama can’t do anything to advance the cause of their client. Things can get intense and sometimes it can blow up. But the baseline, by necessity, has to be centered on collegiality and integrity. As soon as I accepted this and mastered this skill, I felt ready to reach for a higher level in my legal practice.