"The defense lawyer is just one cog in the criminal justice system. If everyone does their job—and does it well—everything will work." This is the humble perspective Attorney Ian N. Friedman shared when speaking to Attorney at Law Magazine in its latest Cleveland Edition about his role in the local criminal court system.
Attorney Friedman was not only profiled in the issue, but honored as the “Attorney of the Month”. In the revealing and frank piece, “A Duty to All”, Attorney Friedman discussed his early legal aspirations, his formative early cases, and the efforts he has made to improve the Ohio criminal justice system.
Legal aspirations came early to Attorney Friedman—as a fourth grade student, he shadowed a district attorney—but his vision of becoming a prosecutor changed during law school, and he chose to pursue criminal defense instead. Among his mentors at Cleveland-Marshall College of Law was his trial advocacy coach, Gary Williams. "He was so passionate about the law," remembers Attorney Friedman. "He just had this energy about the practice of law that I anticipated I would have as a trial lawyer."
Attorney Friedman went on to start his own practice and still vividly remembers the early cases that made a lasting impression on him. Among them was the case of a woman accused of destroying government documents. The case—and the government's lack of cooperation—quickly tempered Attorney Friedman's expectations about our justice system.
"I went into the case believing that right is right and the truth will always prevail," he told Attorney at Law. "In the middle of this trial... I realized that justice system is run by people. You can't always count on everyone in the courtroom." He admits that he's learned to remind new clients that while our justice system is good, it is not perfect.
Instilling Meaningful Change
Attorney Friedman also spoke to the magazine about his contributions to the criminal justice system, in hopes of making it even more efficient and fair. In 2006, Attorney Friedman became President of the Ohio Association of Criminal Defense Lawyers. He decided to use that opportunity to do something unprecedented: he reached out the Ohio Prosecuting Attorney's Association and, over the course of two years, established the rule of discovery – so that both prosecutors and defense counsel share all evidence before a trial. The rule was sorely needed in the Ohio system and, as Attorney Friedman puts it, removed a bitter element of "gamesmanship on both sides of the aisle."
Now leading a team of young lawyers he helped mentor, Attorney Friedman continues to not only to fiercely and emphatically defend his clients, but also expand his knowledge and resources in order to do so at the highest possible level.
"If, at the end of the day, you can say you left no stone unturned; if you can say that you represented your clients the way you would want to be represented, you know you've done a good job," Attorney Friedman told the magazine. "There shouldn't be anything less than that."