What is an Advocate?

“Common Law” is a blog meant to provide legal information for the everyday advocate. This statement led to an interesting conversation this weekend. While talking with some friends, we started discussing what I do for a living and what I want out of my career. I said that I want to provide individualized legal representation to everyday people, educate them about the law so that they can be active in their case, and advocate on behalf of my clients. However, the conversation turned to something I took for granted: I assumed that everybody knew what an advocate does. What I didn’t realize was how little people actually know about the role of an advocate.

Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines advocate as “someone who argues for or supports a cause or policy; a person who works for a cause or group; a person who argues for the cause of another person in a court of law.” To me, an advocate, quite simply, is someone who looks out for and protects the best interests of another. I always thought this definition was common knowledge; what I soon realized was that it isn’t so common. I started asking around and discovered that when asked the question, “What is an advocate?” almost everybody I asked hesitated before answering the question. Some honestly didn’t know what, exactly, an advocate does (although they at least knew it was something good); others knew the answer, but said they couldn’t put it into words. Well, advocacy is something everybody needs to do for themselves on a daily basis, especially when caught up in a legal situation. So, I think I need to clarify what an advocate is.

As a criminal defense attorney, I advocate for my clients every single day. I always start this job by meeting with my clients and discussing their goals for their case, then tailoring my representation to meet those goals. Sometimes people want to beat their charges completely; other times, they know they did something wrong and simply want to mitigate the consequences they face. In any event, I always take the time to explain the process and ask for my client’s opinions on his or her case. Why? Because the old saying is true – you are your own best advocate. No one knows how the results I obtain are going to affect your life better than you. You have to live with the results.

So, my role as an advocate is to work to achieve the goals my client desires, ensure that his rights are protected throughout the process, and basically make sure he knows he has someone on his side fighting for him. I do this in a variety of ways. I file pre-trial motions when I think evidence shouldn’t be admitted. I negotiate with my adversary and make recommendations to my client in order to come to a resolution that limits my client’s exposure to adverse consequences or that secures a positive result. I make arguments in favor of my client every day. I do everything I can to achieve the best possible outcome for my client. That is advocacy.

In my opinion, everybody needs an advocate. This is true is so many areas – medical, legal, and just everyday life. Everybody deserves to have someone on their side, fighting for what’s best for them. I do it every day, and I’ll continue to do it until I’m old and gray. Why? Because I love it, and few things are more satisfying than when somebody thanks me just for being on their side. It’s the best part about being a lawyer. And now, you’ll always know exactly what an advocate is.