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How Much of a Sherlock Holmes Do Criminal Lawyers Have to Be?

— November 1, 2021

When it comes to detectives, Sherlock Holmes is one of the best (fictional or not). This is why criminal defense lawyers should look up to him – at least at his stubbornness and observation skills.

Growing up, we all heard about the adventures of Sherlock Holmes. Whether you came across one of Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s books or you watched with interest the series starring Benedict Cumberbatch, you were impressed with the way Sherlock solved his cases. 

Looking at the average criminal defense lawyer nowadays, they seem to be doing similar things – but are they the modern version of Sherlock Holmes? How much of his traits do these lawyers have to adopt? Well, we’re just about to find out. 

Detective vs. Lawyer

One thing we’ll have to put forward here is that Sherlock Holmes was not a criminal lawyer – he was a criminal detective. These two are completely different lines of work. The main difference is that while a detective is the representative of the police (law enforcement), a lawyer is the embodiment of the law itself. 

Detectives find and catch the killers, go to crime scenes, and make arrests. They will look at the dead bodies and try to figure out who did it and how to find the solution. Lawyers, however, will take the findings of the detective and present them in front of the court. They will defend their clients while trying to put the other one in jail. 

In a way, a point of intersection between lawyers and detectives is that they will both need to be present when the criminal is interrogated. Lawyers will use the information that they gather and present it in front of the jury, without reasonable doubt. With that in mind, it doesn’t mean that lawyers can’t have a detective Sherlock Holmes mind. 

Holmes Characteristics in Lawyers

Sherlock Holmes, as a character, was fairly impressive. He was perceptive, stubborn, logical, and an overall genius when it came to catching a killer. But which of his characteristics should be applied to a criminal lawyer as well? Well, here are a few of these important characteristics: 

  • Analytical Skills

If there is anything that we know about Sherlock Holmes, it’s that he had great analytical skills. His thinking was sharp, and he focused on deductive thinking which would bring him to the right conclusion. The same thing should apply to criminal lawyers as well. Their analytical thinking needs to be sharp, and they must always have quick rebuttals when it comes to courtroom defense.

  • Aggressiveness

Detectives are aggressive when it comes to finding their killer and following their clues. Criminal defense lawyers need to be just as aggressive when representing their case in court. They must be passionate and offensive, when necessary, stubbornly following their beliefs are they present the logical sequence in court. They mustn’t back down, just like Sherlock Holmes wouldn’t. 

  • Good Research Skills

A criminal lawyer will spend a lot of their time investigating a case. This means they’ll need to have good investigation and research skills. Think about it: as a person who hired that criminal defense lawyer, you can’t expect them to walk into that courtroom and attempt to “wing it,” can you?

Regardless of their similarities, no case will be the same as the other. They will all have their unique points. This is why your criminal defense lawyer needs to have good investigation skills and take a dive in order to reach the right answer. This Holmes-ish quality will help them find clues that may have been otherwise overlooked, therefore hoping to prove your innocence. 

  • Observation Skills

According to Sherlock Holmes, an ideal detective has three qualities: observation, experience, and deduction. This should apply to criminal lawyers as well. A criminal lawyer should be able to see what is going around the client, the circumstances that may have led to his predicament.

Gray magnifying glass and eyeglasses on top of open book; image by Wallace Chuck, via
Image by Wallace Chuck, via

Sherlock himself uses deductive reasoning in order to get to a conclusion. He uses logic to find the culprit. A criminal lawyer should have the same skills in order to help their clients. They should be able to see some patterns that other people or the opposition may have missed. This way, they will be able to have a breakthrough in their case and help a client in their time of need. 

  • Knowledge and Experience

A good detective such as Sherlock Holmes must have enough knowledge of the law and criminal patterns in order to reach a conclusion. The same thing should apply to lawyers, especially the criminal defense ones. They need to have knowledge and experience in criminal law. 

As a client, you don’t want to put your trust in a family lawyer that only handled domestic cases. You want someone who can specifically handle crimes, particularly the kind that you are being charged with. Just like Sherlock Homes put all of his efforts into crime-fighting, a criminal defense lawyer should be able to do the same thing. 

  • Commitment to the Case

Have you ever seen Sherlock Holmes waver? Has he ever stopped persevering? If there was one trait that fully characterized Holmes, it was that he was very stubborn – and once he put his mind up to something, he would never give up. He would keep looking for clues, committed and persevering until he found the answer that he was looking for.

The same thing should go for lawyers. Even if they seem to have hit a wall, they should never give up. Instead, they should go back to consider every aspect. Have all the witnesses be spoken to? Has all the evidence been analyzed? Has every stone been turned? A good criminal defense lawyer should be stubborn enough to believe that there will always be something new out there to help them.

The Bottom Line

The line between criminal defense lawyers and detectives is very thin – and we all know that when it comes to detectives, Sherlock Holmes is one of the best (fictional or not). This is why criminal defense lawyers should look up to Sherlock Holmes – at least at his stubbornness and observation skills. With this, they should be able to close cases without being side-tracked.

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