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Brit Mercer on Being a Criminal Defense Lawyer

"He told me that his sentencing was the first time he really believed that anyone cared about him."

When you went to law school, did you intend to become a criminal defense lawyer?


What convinced you to become a criminal defense lawyer?

My amazing high school mock trial coach, WACDL member Tom Phelan. He’s still my mentor to this day!

Who is/are your mentor(s)?  What have you learned from them?

My first mentors were Tom Phelan and Steve Thayer were my high school mock trial coaches and gave me the desire to do this work for the rest of my life. They loved their jobs, were passionate and inspirational and took an eager high school kid under their wing. They both let me work for them in the summers during high school and college and Tom even gave me my first job after law school. I still call Tom when I have a question.

Bill Bowman has always been a tremendous mentor and friend to me, and was my business partner before he became a superior court judge in 2012. Finally, Jeff Robinson was my law school trial advocacy teacher and was always a huge support for me as a young lawyer. I knew that I eventually wanted to work with him and that dream came true when Bill Bowman and I joined him at Schroeter Goldmark & Bender in 2010. It was an honor and privilege to learn from him.

Tell us about a case you worked on that made you proud to be a defense lawyer:

I had a client who had a long DUI history. I’d represented him several times over the years. A few years ago, he got two DUIs in one night and pretty much hit rock bottom. He opened up to me in a way that I don’t think he had with nearly anyone else in his life. I felt so protective of him and I saw a person who had been so damaged but was so ready to turn his life around. At his sentencing, I rallied a few of the other people in his sobriety group who really cared about him and argued like crazy for a drastic diversion from the “mandatory” jail time based on my fears about what he might do to himself if incarcerated. I’m not sure I’m “proud” of this, but I cried addressing the judge at his sentencing. The judge was awesome and allowed him to do all his jail time as EHM as a result of the presentation and over the prosecutor’s strenuous objection. He told me that his sentencing was the first time he really believed that anyone cared about him. The client is doing great, even years later, and we are in touch regularly. Every year, on the anniversary of his sentencing, he sends me a big bag of amazing chocolates because he said he’s replaced his bad memories with something good because of me.

Why do you do criminal defense?

I think that story above pretty much sums it up! I do this work because I love being able to help people when they need it most. Aside from keeping the power of the government in check, being able to say that your job actually makes a difference in people’s lives is an awesome thing to say.

Briefly describe your practice.

I handle nearly all types of cases in state and municipal courts. I have tried everything from 1st degree murder to shoplifting, but the majority of my cases tend to involve criminal traffic offenses and domestic violence.

What else would you like WACDL members to know about you/your practice?

I am so grateful for the support of the WACDL community. It’s a hard job that we do, made infinitely easier by the support of some amazing colleagues who are in the trenches with us day after day.

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