Diligently pursue the defense. As someone who has tried hundreds of cases over the past 30 years, I have had an opportunity to watch my opponents try their cases. In many of those cases, I have won because my clients simply gave up. There comes a point in many cases where the attorney believes he or she has lost. Once the attorney has decided that he or she has lost the case, the judge and jury will sense the felling and the case is over. The best attorneys push through that feeling and continue litigating and advocating for their clients under the very end — usually when a judge or jury finally decides the case. Even then, there are normally appeals that can be pursued.
The legal field is known to be extremely competitive. Lawyers are often smart, ambitious, and highly educated. That being said, what does it take to stand out and become a “Top Lawyer” in your specific field of law? In this interview series called “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law”, we are talking to top lawyers who share what it takes to excel and stand out in your industry.
As a part of this interview series, I had the pleasure of interviewing Dennis E. Boyle, Esquire.
Dennis E. Boyle, Esquire, is an accomplished white-collar criminal defense and complex civil litigation attorney who practices throughout the United States and internationally. Prior to founding Boyle & Jasari, https://dennisboylelegal.com, he worked as an Assistant U.S. Attorney, a First Assistant District Attorney, and served as a Navy Judge Advocate and a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney. After serving for more than a decade as a prosecutor, he became a criminal and white-collar criminal defense counsel working as a partner in several of the nation’s largest and most prestigious law firms.
Thank you so much for joining us in this interview series. Before we dig in, our readers would love to get to know you a bit more. What is the “backstory” that brought you to this particular career path in Law? Did you want to be an attorney “when you grew up”?
Ever since I can remember, I have always wanted to be lawyer, but looking back, I did not know what lawyers did when I was growing up. My family was essentially blue-collar, and I was the first person in my family to go to college. I suppose that my knowledge of what lawyers did came from television, movies, and novels. I suppose that Atticus Finch from To Kill a Mockingbird served as my role model. It was a glamorized and inaccurate portrayal of the practice of law, but I’m glad I chose the profession.
Can you tell us a bit about the nature of your practice and what you focus on?
My practice is focused on white-collar criminal defense and complex civil litigation and arbitration. About half of my practice involves international law and international criminal law. I am admitted to practice before the International Criminal Court in the Hague, which is unique. In the United States, most of my practice involves fraud or similar cases. I represent individuals accused of fraud as well as the victims of fraud in court and before arbitrators.
You are a successful attorney. Which three character traits do you think were most instrumental to your success? What unique qualities do you have that others may not? Can you please share a story or example for each?
Creativity, perseverance, and integrity (although maybe not in that order). Intelligence and hard work are required character traits for attorneys, but it is creativity and perseverance that set the best attorneys apart. For trial attorneys, it is necessary to develop a “theory of the case”. This is a story that considers the opponent’s evidence and explains how it is consistent with the client’s side of the case. A creative attorney possesses the ability to see the evidence from multiple angles and to then craft a story that explains the evidence in a manner favorable to the client. Perseverance is equally as important. Oftentimes, the best evidence will be difficult to obtain. Witnesses may not want to get involved, and particularly in criminal cases, the police may miss evidence. An attorney who perseveres in his or her pursuit of the evidence will be a superior attorney.
Integrity is also extremely important. An attorney must be honest with his or her client, opponents, and the court. My most successful representations are those in which a suspect is not charged with a crime — the prosecution declines to prosecute. Only an attorney with a lot of integrity who can maintain a rapport with prosecutors will be successful in having the prosecutors re-evaluate their position.
Do you think you have had luck in your success? Can you explain what you mean?
Yes. I was lucky in that early in my career, I was fortunate to have a mentor that cared about my professional development. I did not understand how little I knew about the practice of law when I graduated from law school. If I had not had an excellent mentor, my career would not have been as successful as it has been.
I have also been lucky in the jobs I have had and in some of the cases I have tried. When I was only three years out of law school when I was appointed as defense counsel in a murder case. I obtained an acquittal in that case, and that acquittal significantly helped my career.
Do you think where you went to school has any bearing on your success? How important is it for a lawyer to go to a top-tier school?
I attended the University of Baltimore, which was not a top-tier law firm; however, I did very well academically in law school and was selected for Law Review. I do not believe the name of law school I attended was particularly helpful; however, I obtained an excellent education and am glad I attended the University of Baltimore.
There are excellent attorneys who graduated from second- or third-tier law schools and graduates of Ivy League law schools who shouldn’t be allowed to practice law. Nevertheless, those who attend the top tier law schools will have a leg up in their careers, at least initially. In my opinion, doing well in law school is more important that the law school they attended.
Based on the lessons you have learned from your experience, if you could go back in time and speak to your twenty-year-old self, what would you say? Would you do anything differently?
My son is an attorney; so, in a sense, I have had the opportunity to speak to my twenty-year-old self. I did not understand the importance of networking and personal marketing. If I had done anything differently, I would have concentrated on developing a network sooner. It is not enough to just do excellent legal work; it is just as important to learn how to network.
This is not easy work. What is your primary motivation and drive behind the work that you do?
The practice of law is about justice, and there is nothing more important to society as justice. Justice requires that the guilty be convicted and that the innocent go free. The system only works, however, if the government is required to prove a citizen guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. To me, it is a sacred duty that both sides work to the best of their ability to present their client’s side. Justice also requires that even the guilty be treated fairly. Today, most of an attorney’s work involves negotiating a fair resolution to his or her cases.
To me, it is an honor and a privilege to be able to pursue justice. It is also an honor to help people during some of the most difficult times of their lives. This is my primary motivation for practicing law.
What are some of the most interesting or exciting projects you are working on now?
We are fortune to have a number of interesting projects to be working on. We are currently working on a couple of wire fraud matters. We are currently also working on several matters before the Kosovo Specialist Chambers, an international court establish to adjudicate serious war crimes charges against former members of the KLA. We also have an interesting arbitration against a discount broker for losses sustained by an investor. One of the benefits of my practice is that we always have interesting matters.
Where do you go from here? Where do you aim to be in the next chapter of your career?
I have reached an age where I am satisfied with my practice. I intend to become more involved in international investment and commercial arbitrations. I am most interested in sharing what I have learned with younger attorneys and watching them develop both as attorneys and as human beings.
Without sharing anything confidential, can you please share your most successful “war story”? Can you share the funniest?
One of my most successful victories involved a suit against an organ recovery organization, a major hospital, and a neurosurgeon. In that case, the mother of a nineteen-year-old boy came to me because she believed that her son had been killed for his organs. After investigating the case, I decided to file suit on the family’s behalf. The organ recovery organization hired one of the largest, most powerful law firms in the country. For five years, we were locked in bitter litigation. Eventually, however, we were able to prove that the child would have recovered had he not been disconnected from life support so that his organs could be harvested. We were also able to prove that the representative of the organ recovery agency lied to the family, telling them that the child had been declared brain-dead when, in fact, he had not. The case settled on the verge of trial for a confidential amount. This is not my normal practice area, but it was one of most rewarding cases.
Ok, fantastic. Let’s now shift to discussing some advice for aspiring lawyers. Do you work remotely? Onsite? Or Hybrid? What do you think will be the future of how law offices operate? What do you prefer? Can you please explain what you mean?
I do work remotely most of the time. I now have virtual offices in Washington, Baltimore, and Philadelphia but I mostly go to the office when I need to meet clients. Working remotely allows attorneys to be more productive. It also results in lower overhead. At least for more experienced attorneys, I think that working remotely is here to stay. I am concerned about the development of younger associates without the traditional office environment.
How has the legal world changed since COVID? How do you think it might change in the near future? Can you explain what you mean?
In addition to working remotely, many courts have been conducting conferences and hearings by Zoom or some other type of videoconference. In fact, we recently were involved a FINRA (Financial Industry Regulatory Authority) arbitration that was conducted entirely by videoconference. I suspect that courts and arbitrators will conduct more of their work by videoconference. Also, since much of our work is international, videoconferences have replaced the in-person meetings that I used to do all of the time. I suspect these changes will become permanent.
We often hear about the importance of networking and getting referrals. Is this still true today? Has the nature of networking changed or has its importance changed? Can you explain what you mean?
Networking is, if anything, more important than it has ever been. Although I maintain a website social media presence, most of my business comes from referrals, and primarily referrals from other attorneys. There may be practices that rely primarily upon google searches (search engine optimization, pay-per-click ads, etc.). The types of cases we do not normally come from people searching on the internet. An internet presence is important, but clients with serious issues tend to go to trusted sources like a family or business attorney, accountant, banker, etc. The client usually relies on the advice they receive. Therefore, maintaining relations (networking) with those trusted sources is important.
Based on your experience, how can attorneys effectively leverage social media to build their practice?
Social media is another method of networking; however, I think that social media must be approached with caution. Posting links to articles and commenting on other posts when you have something to say is important, in my opinion. The articles posted and the comments made should be substantive, well-researched, and accurate. Too many people post random thoughts or statements that are wrong, and that damages their marketing. I also see too many people taking extreme positions on controversial political or social issue, and that can tend to drive potential clients away.
Excellent. Here is the main question of our interview. What are your “5 Things You Need To Become A Top Lawyer In Your Specific Field of Law?” Please share a story or an example for each.
- Care about the Client and give benefit of the doubt — carrying about clients and their issues is not something that can be faked or learned. To be a truly successful lawyer, you must understand who your client is, and you must be willing to defend that client to matter what. In the legal system, you will frequently be the only person on your client’s side — if you are not willing to defend him or her and give him or her the benefit of the doubt, the system of justice will not work. This does not mean, however, that you should lie or surrender your ethics to defend the client.
- Deal honestly with the Client. You must be honest with your client at all times even if it is unpleasant to do so. The client deserves an honest assessment of the case. If the evidence is overwhelming, the client needs to be told. Bad news must be delivered in person and as compassionately as possible.
- Demonstrate experience and knowledge of laws and crimes. Experience in, and knowledge of, your field of law is important. I am a white-collar criminal defense lawyer, and there are over 4,450 federal felony statutes. It is not possible for me to know every statute and the nuances of every statute. However, I can and do read the potential statutes involves when I meet with a prospective client so that I am knowledgeable when I meet with a client. Experience comes with time. Knowledge comes from preparation.
- Be creative in developing your defense. Creativity does not mean making things up. Rather, it means looking at the facts in different ways to see what story the facts really tell. In my practice, the government will have a narrative based upon the facts of the case. A skillful defense counsel, however, examine the evidence to see if some of the facts upon which the government relies can be negated by other evidence. This may involve showing that a key witness was mistaken about the sequence of events. If evidence cannot be negated, it may not prove what the government thinks it proves. In a mortgage fraud case, for example, the government may rely upon a written document signed by the defendant to prove that the defendant provided false information to the financial institution. While the signature may be genuine, its significance can be negated if it can be shown that the form was blank when the client signed it and was later filled in by banking officials. Creativity involves playing “what if?”, considering the possibilities and then marshalling evidence to prove a theory.
- Diligently pursue the defense. As someone who has tried hundreds of cases over the past 30 years, I have had an opportunity to watch my opponents try their cases. In many of those cases, I have won because my clients simply gave up. There comes a point in many cases where the attorney believes he or she has lost. Once the attorney has decided that he or she has lost the case, the judge and jury will sense the felling and the case is over. The best attorneys push through that feeling and continue litigating and advocating for their clients under the very end — usually when a judge or jury finally decides the case. Even then, there are normally appeals that can be pursued.
We are very blessed that some of the biggest names in Business, VC funding, Sports, and Entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world, or in the US with whom you would love to have a private breakfast or lunch, and why? He or she might see this. 🙂
Gerry Spence is, in my opinion, the most remarkable trial attorney of the last 50 years. I have followed Gerry for my entire legal career (he is 92 now), and I have read all of his books. His ability to understand judges and juries is remarkable, and I would like to hear the stories of his many victories in court.
This was very inspiring. Thank you so much for the time you spent with this. We wish you continued success and good health!