Spotlight On: Alona Sharon

Please tell us about your background, your practice, and how long you have been a criminal defense lawyer.

I am a solo practitioner and have been one for nearly ten years, I think.  The time seems to have flown by.  I ventured out on my own when my husband pushed me to go out and look for my own space and try to make a go of it.  I used to practice in the areas of criminal defense and family law, but my practice has been 100% criminal defense work for a little over three years.  My practice consists of just me.  I am the secretary, the paralegal, the runner, the lawyer.  I like having absolute control, so I find it is best for me to just work alone.  Clients enjoy knowing that they are always going to see me in court, that I am the only person writing their pleadings and fighting for them.  And I don’t think I am the easiest person to get along with.  So, my small operation is probably for the best.

Tell us about one of your interesting cases.

People always think that criminal defense attorneys have the most interesting cases and I would have to agree, but I think what will prove to be the most interesting cases will be the two juvenile lifer cases I am handling.  It is amazing to me that children could ever be thrown away forever, without any chance of redemption and rehabilitation.  I think those of us who are representing these children, who are now for the most part grown men and women, have an awesome responsibility to try and convince judges everywhere that they are worthy of a second chance.  The whole process is complicated by the fact that we never know which turn the law will take as these cases progress.  But, I think these will prove to hopefully be some of the most satisfying and challenging cases I will handle during my career.

How can the system of criminal defense be improved?
Society needs to appreciate the function and purpose of our criminal justice system and the necessity of an adversarial system.  Only then will states and government properly fund indigent defense.  Criminal defendants are often represented by attorneys who have too little resources and time to properly and effectively represent their clients.  Society doesn’t value the work of the public defender, and until it does funding will never allow indigent defendants to enjoy fair access to our legal system.

Do you have advice for other defense attorneys?

As much as I love to be alone in my office, the truth is, I think our area of practice is one of the most collaborative areas of the law.  I can’t think of the last time I had a case that I did not discuss with a close colleague.  There is always some aspect of a case that benefits from collaborative brainstorming, even if it is just a simple housekeeping matter.  So, even though so many of us have our own little operations, we are so much better when we share our theories, ideas, and solutions together.  There is no room for ego in this area of the law.  When you open yourself up to discuss your cases and your questions, you will learn and become a better lawyer.

Any specific advice for attorneys new to criminal defense?

Be willing to spend a lot of time learning, watching, observing and don’t expect anyone to pay you for it.  I learned so much from just getting a calendar of various hearings, sitting in a courtroom and watching what styles I thought were persuasive and effective.  New lawyers generally have a lot of free time, use it wisely.  Invest in your development as a lawyer.  Find a couple more experienced lawyers whose style you admire and ask to follow a case or two with them, or watch them conduct hearings.  You will learn a tremendous amount just by observing.

by Neil Leithauser
Associate Editor