Despite the fact that Arlington County is a bustling urban county, located across a river from Washington, D.C., the legal culture has a small-town feel. Prosecutors and active criminal defense attorneys are relatively few in number here. They have an adversarial relationship in court, as they must, but tend to respect each other and even like each other. It is not uncommon for a prosecutor and criminal defense lawyer to argue passionately and aggressively on behalf of their clients in court — only to hang out later over drinks, the day’s battle a footnote.
An example of this dynamic occurred last week. On April 16, the Arlington County Bar Foundation held its periodic Whiskey & Wisdom program. This series, a fundraiser for the charitable arm of the Arlington County Bar Association, gathers local lawyers to listen to topical speakers and to socialize. Led by our elected prosecutor, Theo Stamos, more than half of her prosecutors attended. Our Public Defender, Matt Foley, attended with his office out in force. Many of our judges came, including our Chief Circuit Court Judge. Of course a number of our local criminal lawyers in Arlington attended, too, along with some civil attorneys. Over 50 lawyers in all came to listen to issues of importance to lawyers, to drink, and to socialize.
This culture in Arlington is by no means an “old boy” network. The fact that a criminal lawyer in Arlington likes a prosecutor in Arlington, and vice-versa, doesn’t mean that either lawyer will do less 100% for his or her client. However, lawyers who respect and like each other can disagree without being disagreeable. That is something that can be beneficial to everyone. This is the culture we have in Arlington and it is one reason why it is so nice to be a criminal lawyer in Arlington, Va.