Attorney at Law Magazine Cleveland Publisher Jim Shultz sat down with Michael B. Washington to discuss what he finds rewarding about being an attorney.
AALM: What experiences have taught you the most?
Washington: My experience dealing with child victims of crime taught me about courage. A young victim confronting their perpetrator and testifying shows great bravery.
Those experiences also taught me the importance of being prepared for as many contingencies as possible. Thorough preparation is the key to success. It allows you to move quickly and adapt to any situation that may arise. Knowing your case better than your opposition will lead to a positive outcome. When in trial a case will quickly fall apart if one is not prepared.
AALM: What do you find particularly rewarding about being an attorney?
Washington: The most rewarding aspect of practicing law is helping people solve problems. Whether it is a business trade secret, child custody, or felony criminal case, solving that problem is always rewarding. Being able to step into court to argue a position in order to prevent an injustice or correct a wrong has been a motivation for my entire career.
Researching statutes and case law can be tedious but finding the answer that solves a problem contributes to daily learning and develops a base of argument that can be used across several areas of law.
AALM: Describe your early career. What lessons did you learn from these early experiences?
Washington: I started my career as an assistant county prosecuting attorney in southeastern Ohio and worked in that capacity for more than 11 years. I was appointed county prosecutor in 2013 and held that position for 18 months. I learned the finer points of trial advocacy in criminal and civil matters and delivered sound legal advice to all county office holders and township trustees.
An important lesson I learned was everyone views their own legal issue or case as a significant priority and you must work to manage expectations of the client or customer with whom you are dealing.
AALM: How would you describe the firm, the brand you are building?
Washington: Washington Law LLC is known for solving complex problems utilizing innovative thinking, logic, and legal precepts and strives to bring value to clients by creating meaningful results through innovation, negotiation and litigation when necessary.
AALM: Of the cases you’ve worked on or witnessed, what has stood out most in your mind? A particularly difficult case? A tactic or demeanor from one of the involved attorneys? The client? etc.
Washington: On rare occasions I have observed less than professional behavior by attorneys in civil and criminal matters. Outrageous behavior does not get one very far and leads to a general mistrust and dislike of attorneys.
On those same occasions I have seen judges and counsel take time to advise the attorney to change their behavior and attempt to create a more collegial environment.
AALM: With technology and an ever-global world, how do you see the legal profession evolving over your career? Do you believe this will be positive or negative?
Washington: Technology has been used to commoditize the legal profession in some areas. There are websites and apps that can be used to draft wills, corporate documents, and formal contracts that used to be the purview of members of the bar. There are even websites that provide canned questions for defendants to ask when they are on trial for traffic offenses. Attorneys must provide value to keep clients.
For practitioners, having a library at one’s fingertips that can be used at a moment’s notice is beneficial. One can find “new cases” almost instantly.
AALM: What do you enjoy doing outside of work? Hobbies? Sports?
Washington: I recently turned a hobby and passion into a business venture. I founded a firearms training company that instructs individuals seeking certification for their Ohio concealed handgun license. I also developed a curriculum for a course on Ohio self-defense law. Teaching firearm safety and responsible firearm handling combines my skills as an attorney and marksmanship skills that I have developed over two decades. People can only make good decisions when they are fully aware of the consequences of a course of action. Teaching the liability associated with firearms and self-defense gives people the knowledge to prevent tragic events.
AALM: What is the best compliment you’ve received?
Washington: Early in my career, I prosecuted a case involving a father perpetrating heinous acts against his young children. After the defendant was convicted the 9-year-old victim shyly whispered to me, “thanks for making my daddy stop hurting me.” That comment motivated me for many years. Helping those children find justice was a highlight of my time as a prosecutor.
AALM: What do you most hope to accomplish in the future?
Washington: I hope to grow Washington Law LLC into a cutting-edge firm at the forefront of the legal profession. Additionally, I hope to help innovate the practice of law and develop new solutions to client problems.