There are many areas of law you can focus on after graduating from law school and passing the bar. With that said, you may want to push criminal defense to the top of your list. If you have, you’re in for a treat. Shawn Haff, a criminal defense attorney opened up his calendar to speak with us and provide some insight into the world of criminal defense law.

Thanks For Speaking With Us Today, Shawn. Can You Tell Us A Little About Yourself And How You Became A Criminal Defense Lawyer?

In high school and college, I loved classes that dealt with politics, government, and history. I attended Grand Valley State University and received a BS degree in Political Science and a minor in history.  Instead of going straight into law school after undergraduate school, I entered the job market and came back a few years later to enter law school at Cooley Law School.

What made me become a criminal defense lawyer was my experience working at a local prosecutor’s office as an intern during law school.

What Is Criminal Defense Law And Why Is It Important?

The practice of criminal defense law deals with ensuring legal protections are given to people who are accused of committing a crime. We double and triple-check over the work of law enforcement agencies to make sure the rights of the accused are being followed. 

We also make sure government prosecutors have to prove their case beyond a reasonable doubt. If the prosecutors are not able to, I make sure to show this to the jury or judge and gain an acquittal of the accused. 

My work is crucial because I provide a check against the abuse of power by those who possess authority. My work makes sure individual rights are protected and not taken away and it helps make sure everyone is treated fairly and in a way that is free from discrimination. 

With All The Law Specialties To Choose From What Made You Decide On Criminal Defense Law?

I’ve always been skeptical about those that hold power and believe that power corrupts. The best way to fight corrupt power is by following the rule of law. As a criminal defense attorney, I get to make sure the government is following the rule of law on a daily basis.  

What Does A Typical Day Look Like For You?

Reading over police reports, watching video surveillance, keeping my clients informed as to what is going on in there case, interviewing witnesses and going to court. I also have to make sure I keep up to date on the latest case law and statutory law.  

What Skills Would You Say Are Important To Be A Successful Criminal Defense Lawyer?


A good attorney must be able to look up case law in order to find a precedent that applies to the client’s case. The law is constantly changing and it is always a great feeling to find a court ruling that exonerates your client!


Most of the clients a criminal defense attorney represents are guilty of committing a crime. However, many times they should be convicted of a lesser offense than the one they are charged with. In other cases, a client is a good person who just made a mistake that they will never do again. If a criminal defense attorney is a good negotiator their client will likely be given a break by their prosecutor.  

Analytical skills

A criminal defense attorney has to have a sharp mind that makes quick decisions in the interest of the client. During a trial, the prosecutor might change the strategy and this means the defense attorney will quickly have to adjust the arguments that were going to be made on behalf of the client. 


A skilled criminal defense attorney must know the law inside and out. A defense lawyer needs to understand the prosecutor and judge his client will be in front of. 


All criminal defense lawyers need to be great speakers in and out of the courtroom. Good writing skills are needed to present effective briefs and motions. Well written documents presented to the court are more likely to get relief requested from the judge. 

Understand How Police Act

Skillful defense attorneys know how police think and act. They’ll know where to look for holes in police reports and what mistakes police officers make on a regular basis. 

What Are Some Of The Things You Like About Being A Criminal Defense Lawyer?

The best thing about my job is getting a not guilty verdict at trial or getting my client’s charges dropped before trial by the prosecutor. The relief these innocent clients get from my work is priceless. It’s also enjoy cutting breaks for clients who made a poor choice and are not hardened criminals. 

What Don’t You Like About Being A Criminal Defense Lawyer Or Find Challenging?

The toughest challenge I face is getting prosecutors to understand that not everyone who is charged with a crime is guilty of the crime. I don’t like it when prosecutors take a case to trial when they know there is a good chance that the person is innocent. Letting the jury decide doesn’t absolve prosecutors from trying cases on flimsy evidence. 

What Advice Would You Give To New Or Aspiring Criminal Defense Attorneys?

Customer service is so important in our field of work. I hear time and time again from my clients about how other lawyers they dealt with wouldn’t return their calls and left them in the dark about what was going on with their case. If you don’t have the time to provide excellent customer service to your clients, you need to cut back on your caseload. 

Do outstanding work and provide great customer service and you will get referrals from clients who appreciate your talents and skills. If your clients are happy, you will be happy and you end up feeling burnt out. 


Shawn Haff is a criminal defense attorney that represents individuals charged with criminal offenses like drug charges, DUI charges, and other criminal matters. He prides himself in providing superior customer service clients and getting his clients the best results possible. Mr. Haff earned his JD Cooley Law School in 2009. He is licensed to practice law in the State of Michigan.