Why Pick Criminal Law?

Aleksandra Kowalik is a busy lady. Yet from juggling her own firm, being a bilateral lawyer and tackling tough criminal cases, she finds the time to let off some steam in probably one of the most ‘badass’ ways possible: mixed martial arts. Who would want to get on the wrong side of Aleksandra?!

Her list of credentials does not mean she is as intimidating as she sounds; friendly and inviting, it is bewildering to how Aleksandra remains cool when you think about the sheer pressure she works in.

Speaking to her for our Women in Law Edition, we address why criminal law is dominated by men and why she chose to conquer it.

“There is no greater tyranny than that which is perpetrated under the shield of the law and in the name of justice.” Charles-Louis de Secondat, baron de la Brède et de Montesquieu, The Spirit of the Laws

Criminal law constitutes a pure and primordial form of law for me. It is the first sign of basic guarantees and grounds of both- developing and shaping modern societies.

Criminal law is the primary reply to the aforementioned societies’ needs widely understood as prevention, rehabilitation but most importantly fair trial; therefore the role of a criminal defence lawyer is a burden on one side, but simultaneously it states an honourable and exceptional status of a guardian in the name of justice.

With regard to potential solutions for balance and equality in criminal law, we must bear in mind that expectations towards the system itself might be slightly unjustified and ineffective to follow.

How male-dominated is this sector? What do you think should be done to change this?

Indeed, regardless of the jurisdiction, this sector is still occupied and dominated by male lawyers. The reasoning is the dynamic of that area, long-lasting approach and expectations from women to be mothers first and who are obliged to undertake the whole range obligations of the primary carer.

Secondly, traditionally women have always been seen as a not sufficient enough to manage with criminal matters, so it was more ‘appropriate’ for them to become family lawyers etc. Undoubtedly, that questionable verification as “not tough enough” to manage criminal matters and the type of clients involved must now be treated as a meaningless phrase.

Thirdly, accordingly to my impression, the women within the legal profession are not particularly passionate about crime, therefore, it is also down to personal choice.

With regard to potential solutions for balance and equality in criminal law, we must bear in mind that expectations towards the system itself might be slightly unjustified and ineffective to follow.

On one hand we are private people, parents, carers etc., yet on the other hand, we have committed ourselves to comply with defence lawyers’ obligations, therefore, the question arises in terms of priorities.

Traditionally, women have always been seen as a not sufficient enough to manage with criminal matters, so it was more ‘appropriate’ for them to become family lawyers

Indeed, everyone who decides to function within criminal law must follow exactly the same rules, regardless the gender. The obstacles are inbuilt in the formulaic and routine approach to the division of roles between women and men in this area and we cannot expect the trial to work around, or be extended due to, our private lives.

What is tough about working in the criminal law sector? How do you work around this?

I do not find anything was tough in the criminal work apart from the dynamic itself, but the same intensity can be referred to immigration and family law too.

It might be reasonable to declare that the type and weight of responsibility, especially towards the client and society are exceptional as: “it is a life bid”.

What is your favourite aspect of working in criminal law?

It is difficult to indicate my favourite aspect about work in criminal law, but what I can definitely declare is that there is an irreplaceable feeling when the client shows their gratitude. That is something which cannot be substituted and constitutes a capstone of all obstacles and hard work.

How do you de-stress after a tough day?

To release from stress and frustration I have extraordinary tolerable friends and family that listen. Another way of relaxation, in my case, is MMA and psychical activity.

Can you share your story as a ‘day as a criminal lawyer’?

No sleep, no breakfast, coffee at random times, forget about lunch, if you are lucky enough you might have dinner at 10.00pm, alongside with the irreplaceable sense of doing something really important.

If you could go back and pick your career, would you choose law? Why?

I have become a lawyer due to my conscious decision and if I was given that opportunity to revert the past and rethink my choice of specialising in law, logically, I would have taken the same professional path.

I have been brought up in my father’s prosecution office and then his chambers, which I started to work for 19 years ago, hence why it was a natural preference.

 

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