What Sort of Typical Clients Do You Deal With?
Interviewer: So for most of the people you helped, would you say a lot of them are hardened criminals or a lot of them are just regular people that made a mistake, and now they’re in trouble?
Ben Kelsen: The majority of people that I’ve come across, both in the federal and the state system, generally speaking, are decent people who have made a mistake. It is not something that occurs frequently: that we come up with somebody who is a hardened criminal and a terrible person. Those are few and far between. The vast majority are people, who for whatever reason have just made mistakes, and it’s an unfortunate situation, but it happened. When it happens they need somebody to help guide them through the system.
How do you handle Low Client Morale?
Interviewer: What do you say to the people that come into to your office and say, “They’ve got me, I’m guilty of this; maybe I should just give up and plead guilty”?
Ben Kelsen: Generally speaking, I tell those people that it’s a very bad idea. The fact that a person knows that they’ve done something wrong does not necessarily mean that it would be appropriate for them to be sentenced to the maximum of any sort to the charges. In other words, the person has committed a certain act, which may violate several different laws. There may be mitigating factors as to why that is and if so, because of their particular and unique situation, it may be that they’re not somebody for whom it would be appropriate to have sentenced to incarceration, or have their driver’s license revoked, or have severe financial penalties invoked.
If that’s the case, they need somebody to be able to go over this case with them, who is objective, who’s not part and parcel of it, who’s not involved in it as being their own case to be able to review the details and see if there’s any viable defenses or if perhaps there are mitigating factors that may apply. If that’s the case, they’d be able to present those to both the prosecutor as well as to the court.
Interviewer: You’ve been practicing it sounds like for about 12 years on your own; around how many people do you think you’ve helped?
Ben Kelsen: Hundreds. That’s hard. It is definitely a few hundred. I do not know exactly the exact number off the top of my head, but it’s definitely a few hundred.