For Ryan Handlarski, being a criminal lawyer is in his blood – entrenched in his being, in his passions. It’s what he thrives on, the ability to be a wall of defense for his client. with only your mind and your will against the superior resources of the State - and being able to win - that drives him.
Ryan articled at a Bay Street firm and then worked for Greenspan Partners on several cases of fraud, sexual assault, drug trafficking and murder. After experiencing criminal defense as an associate, he decided to do it on his own.
My Business Magazine caught up with Ryan, asking him
about his experiences, why he chose criminal law and what his strengths are.
MBM: So Ryan, what do you enjoy most about your career?
RH: I truly believe in the ideals of criminal defense and the importance of a defense for every person charged. Until you live it - you meet the person who is charged with a criminal offence, the person that has their reputation and
liberty on the line - you don’t truly understand and appreciate the concepts of the presumption of innocence and proof beyond a reasonable doubt.
Without people who defend those liberties and those principles, the importance of the freedom of every individual in our society would be meaningless. In some ways, I think I am the most important person
in the Courtroom because I am representing the accused against the State and I am the only one that knows him or her. I am the only one that can imagine myself in his or her shoes.
MBM: Why did you choose criminal law specifically?
RH: It was natural for me. For me this is what it’s about, meeting with real people who are encountering a terrible circumstance that is so difficult for them and defending them and helping them through it. In some ways it is a silly question as it never really was a “choice.” If you are the type of person who enjoys going to jails and meeting with people charged with criminal offences – in some cases very serious criminal offences like murder - you
There is something about being in a courtroom are not going to enjoy doing corporate law in a boardroom. You are not going to enjoy being a personal injury lawyer. And the skills that those two things engage are completely different. To me, a criminal case and the person charged are just interesting before they are repugnant or contemptible. They are also innocent unless and until convicted by either a judge or a jury. I knew right away from the first interview that I ever did in a jail, that I was going to love criminal law – it was with a person that was accused of first degree murder and we spoke for hours.
MBM: What would you say is your forte?
RH: I would say that the most important skill as a criminal defense lawyer is being able to cross-examine. I would much rather have a devastating cross-examination of a witness than argue the finer points of the law at the Supreme Court. Criminal defense is about asking questions and pointing out holes in
logic that everyone else forgets, and driving through those holes with cross-examination. When my client is charged with a criminal offence, I am truly interested in defending that person. When there are For me this is what it’s about, meeting with real people who are encountering a terrible circumstance that is so difficult for them and defending them and helping them
through it. Things to be done to advance a defense, I will do them. I negotiate with Crown Attorneys all the time, but I have very little interest in negotiation and would much rather advance a defense at a trial.
MBM: What separates good cross-examining from great
RH: The key to a good cross-examination is preparation, and to exhaust any investigation you can do to contradict the witness. If you ever see a good cross-examination, it’s this interactive process. The highest moments as a criminal defense lawyer are When you get the better of them, it’s an amazing feeling.The only thing better than that is an acquittal.
"Nothing can compare to the drama of an acquittal, because when you hear the words “not guilty” – the accused is going to walk out of the courtroom for the last time a free man or woman after potentially years of being subject to the power of the state. It’s just unbelievable to be a part of that."
MBM: You worked as an associate for Greenspan Partners, and acted on cases involving serious charges like sexual assault,fraud and drug trafficking. Did you work with the renowned late Edward Greenspan?
RH: Yes! He was an extraordinary individual. Tome there has been no one who has been able to combine brilliance with intellectual curiosity and determination, with charm and humor like he did.So I was extremely fortunate to get to work in his firm, learn from him and see him in court.He was truly an extraordinary person and truly believed in the principles of being a criminal defense lawyer.Also, by the way, he was one of the most hardworking people that I’ve ever encountered.
MBM: Who is your greatest hero?
RH: If I had to choose one, it would be Muhammad Ali. He was a beautiful boxer and athlete, but more because he refused to serve in the army at a time that black Americans were not being treated equally, and for a war he did not believe in – and was convicted of a criminal offence for his stand. Years later, most people agree with the stand he took. He proved that you can stand on the other side of humanity, and be right and be a bad ass while doing it.
MBM: Any closing remarks, counsel?
RH: In the recent documentary on Netflix, Making a Murderer, Steven Avery is accused of a sexual assault and then convicted.He spent eighteen years in jail and was cleared by DNA evidence that revealed it wasn’t him. After he is released from jail, he was charged with a murder that is the main focus of the series.His defense lawyer Jerome Buting says something that I wish people would take more seriously: “You can guarantee that you won’t commit a crime, but you cannot guarantee that you won’t be accused of a crime.”I know that really resonates with me,because I’ve seen it. Anybody can be charged with a criminal offence, anybody. Rich or poor, black or white, male or female, it can happen to anyone.I want to be the one to fight hard for the accused, someone who is facing the loss of everything – his reputation, his liberty – and make it my mission to win it all back.
Dave Gordon has penned more than a thousand articles, and more than five hundred editorials, on every topic imaginable. He writes regularly on domestic and international politics, current events, culture, relationship issues, and much more.
He has spent time in the newsrooms of the Toronto Sun, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, Baltimore Sun, National Post and eye Weekly.
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