The Metropolitan Hotel in the CBD

Our guest speaker at lunch was one of Melbourne’s better-known criminal law practitioners, Bernie ”the Attorney” Balmer who represents anyone charged with offences ranging from shoplifting to contract killings. It must be strange to voluntarily spend your working days dealing with the violent, the drug-affected and the dangerously disturbed. ”It is the most interesting area of the law although you work in the dustbin of life,” he says. ”This business is based on some black and white rules. I maintain we don’t win cases, the coppers f— them up. We just point out the holes in the case and then it is up to the umpire to decide.” Bernie says that while the facts in criminal cases may be in dispute, a lawyer’s ethics are not. ”You have to know where the line is. I tell my staff we walk on top of the fence so make sure you don’t fall on the wrong side.” He says a trap is to socialise with clients and lose objectivity. ”You must always remember they are not your mates.”

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