From Government to Private Practice – The Other Side of the Table


For the past three years I had the honor of working at the New York City Law Department in their Family Court Division.  I was assigned to Bronx Family Court where I handled the investigation and prosecution of juvenile delinquency cases.  As I prepared to enter private practice, I wondered about how I would view the role of the prosecutor from the other side of the table, and how my training prepared me to become an effective civil litigator and criminal defense attorney.  I was eager to apply my skills to the wide array of matters handled in a general practice law firm.

In the Bronx, I was faced with a diverse set of cases. The majority of my work focused on assault, grand larceny, robbery, domestic violence, and sex related offenses.  These were very serious matters which involved important legal issues.  Some of the issues I encountered on a daily basis included whether a youth was properly stopped, searched, and arrested by law enforcement, and whether law enforcement properly recovered evidence or obtained a statement.  Moreover, I was charged with analyzing whether or not there was sufficient and credible evidence to prove a youth’s guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, and when necessary, strategize and prepare the case for fact-finding.  The disposition of these cases had a profound effect on the lives of the court involved youth, the victim, and the community at large.

While it was not uncommon for me to negotiate a plea bargain, a good portion of my cases proceeded to suppression hearings and trial.  I was responsible for preparing witnesses to testify on direct and cross examination and entering exhibits into evidence.  Witnesses in Family Court included uniformed and undercover police officers, victims and witnesses as young as five years old, family members of the accused and their victims, medical professionals, first responders, as well as non-party bystanders, many of whom wanted to be anywhere but inside a courtroom.  Evidentiary exhibits included surveillance videos, weapons, drugs, photos, and DNA evidence.  Ensuring the witnesses appearance was never a guarantee and preparing them for the intricacies of direct and cross-examination was never a routine process.  Success required thorough preparation and critical thinking about all of the issues surrounding the case.

The exposure to a diverse set of legal issues, evidence, and procedures have laid a solid foundation for approaching the complexities of civil litigation and criminal defense.  Whether it has been collaborating on a breach of contract appellate brief, persuasively drafting memoranda of law to the Court following trial, representing clients facing assault and DWI charges, or advising municipalities on the constitutionality of local laws, I have been able to confront varied and difficult matters while advocating for specific client objectives.  As I transition to private practice, I am excited to apply my skills and experience to best serve the unique needs of my clients.

Posted by Joshua Brookstein