are trying cases to gain those skills before you try your first case. What steps did you take to develop these skills at the beginning of your own career? I took advantage of mock trial competitions in law school and trial advocacy programs in law school as well. Most importantly, I attended mock trial seminars in my early years as a lawyer to practise my skills with instructors who were experienced trial lawyers. Finally, I worked for highly skilled trial lawyers throughout the first two decades of my criminal defence career. What recent trends have you observed in the criminal defence space? A trend I have observed over the past 15-20 years is that criminal defendants have been afforded more rights and a rigorous examination of their cases due to the pervasive exposure of cases where defendants (most of themminorities) have been shown to have been convicted when they were actually innocent. As a result, more states procedures require disclosure WWW.LAWYER-MONTHLY.COM | APR 2022 MY LEGAL LIFE - SAM BASSETT of all evidence in any case be provided to the defence in a timely manner. There is also a commitment to dedicating more resources to the defence of the indigent, though funding is still lacking. In what ways has this impacted the way you work? I have supported the development of indigent criminal defence practitioners through the organisations TCDLA and NACDL. These groups play an integral role in advancing the cause of providing better advocacy for those who cannot afford to hire their own attorney. I have also called upon public defenders for brainstorming on some of my own cases as they have a unique perspective in the court system. How do you expect the field to develop in 2022 and beyond? I expect the trend toward more rigorous criminal defence to increase over time as our population continues to increase and as criminal cases take on higher profiles. The pervasive media coverage in some cases has shone a light on what was once a neglected and ignored issue with regard to fairness in the system. I anticipate more resources will be devoted to criminal defendants who cannot afford a lawyer and they will receive a better defence. Will this expected increase in the lawyer population be enough to address the case backlog in Texas, or do you believe further measures will need to be taken? I suspect the backlog will need further court resources, such as visiting judges and more courts, to assist in reducing the backlog of criminal cases that need to go to jury trial in particular. 26 What advice would you give to a recent law grad who aims to succeed as a defence attorney? My advice to a law grad who wants to succeed as a criminal defence attorney is to work under attorneys who have been practising for many years. Sharing experience with a seasoned trial lawyer will teach you more than you can imagine. I do not recommend leaping out on your own immediately as a solo. For those that do, I strongly recommend you find a mentor or mentors who can provide you guidance in your first few years of practice. You will gain invaluable knowledge and experience from seeing others work. Was there a particular mentor or group of mentors who informed your own practice when you were starting out? I worked initially for two experienced lawyers who had many serious and highprofile cases. They encouraged me to get involved in TCDLA (Texas Criminal Defence Lawyers Association) and that has been a core group for me throughout my career. I was recently President of TCDLA. More importantly, TCDLA provides excellent CLE programs and materials as well as a solid networking group of great attorneys throughout the State of Texas. I expect the trend toward more rigorous criminal defence to increase over time as our population continues to increase and as criminal cases take on higher profiles. Sharing experience with a seasoned trial lawyer will teach you more than you can imagine.