Mr. Brad Sahl struck me immediately as one of the good guys. I walked into his office at the tail end of a long day of being brushed off by secretaries. His office is in a building downtown with around 30 other lawyers, many of them criminal defense lawyers like himself. His office was more welcoming than the others with a jar of candy on the front desk and pictures of his children in every place possible. He agreed to an interview on the spot, again proving him to be a different breed of lawyer. He threw me off guard with his direct manner; I felt like I was being cross-examined rather than the other way around.
What factor do you think contributed the most to your becoming a lawyer and your success?
Mr. Sahl relayed a story of his sophomore year in college when he had an internship with the District Attorney’s office in Philadelphia. The District Attorney, William Heiman, was a friend of the family. Mr. Sahl added later that this man was one of his greatest influences and role-models. He said that the desire and drive to become a lawyer was the greatest contributor to him eventually doing so, confirming what we often hear: you have to want it.
What are the most important skills for a lawyer to have?
Mr. Sahl listed “analytic reasoning, interpersonal skills, a good work ethic, and strong writing abilities” as key skills for the job. When I pressed him specifically on writing, he agreed with the majority saying that being able to write clearly and effectively was a big part of his job.
What are the best opportunities and resources available for aspiring attorneys?
“Internships at a law firm or public agency or talking with someone in practice” were the resources Sahl cited. He told me that at my age he had wanted to be a District Attorney, like his mentor, but he ended up becoming a criminal defense lawyer after time practicing insurance law.
What is a lawyer’s obligation to their community given a lawyers role in our system as the guardian of people’s rights?
Mr. Sahl pressed me to make my question more direct so I asked him if there were any moral repercussions of defending who society considers the bad guys. The moment the question left my mouth I regretted my forwardness. However, Mr. Sahl answered as if he had been asked this before. He saw no moral consequences. He said “it’s the job of the prosecutor to tell one side of the story, it’s my job to tell the other”. “The prosecutor often turns people into actions, if you rob someone- you’re a robber. I look at the big picture” he continued.
With a bit of research I found that Mr. Sahl is running for District Court. I found, in his statements, a bit more on the topic of judicial equality.
“I believe in fair justice for all. I believe that legal proceedings should be administered with the utmost fairness to all parties involved. As Judge, I will listen carefully to all evidence presented and will apply that evidence to all relevant laws. I will work diligently to follow this course of action in every case, regardless of who the affected parties may be.”
How do you feel about the stereotype of lawyers as sleazy or unethical?
Sahl felt that it was an unfair stereotype. He said that there are very few unethical lawyers and that most lawyers are decent people. I asked him about how lawyers treat each other after hours, especially those who work on opposing sides of the aisle. He said “relationships shouldn’t be affected, you can’t take it personally. There’s your job and your obligation and they have theirs”. I’m not totally convinced that most lawyers play by the rules. While I doubt Mr. Sahl lives in some jaded world of naiveté, where all lawyers play nice, maybe Raleigh law just isn’t that vicious.
Either way, Brad Sahl impressed me with his personable manner and direct way of making you say what you mean. He’s definitely one of the good guys, genuinely interested in pursuing the most just and honest interpretation of the law. He certainly has my vote in his pursuit of the district court office. He stands as an example of how to play by the rules- and win.