Monday, November 5, 2012

OKC attorneys share passion for profession despite different styles

Oklahoma County prosecutor Adam Kallsnick and defense attorneys Kent Bridge and David Slane have traveled different roads, but protecting their clients tops the list of priorities.

Their styles and career paths differ, but Oklahoma City criminal defense lawyers Kent Bridge and David Slane and Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Adam Kallsnick share a desire to serve their clients.Kallsnick could have followed in his older brother's footsteps and become a doctor.

But he didn't care much for the hours his brother kept during his residency.

"I'm not a morning person," said Kallsnick, a prosecutor in the Oklahoma County district attorney's office. "There's not a courtroom that's open at 4 a.m."

Oklahoma City criminal defense lawyer
The Tulsa native decided instead to become a lawyer like his father, a federal administrative law judge.

Growing up, Kallsnick peppered his dad with legal questions.

Kallsnick said his father tried to talk him out of being a lawyer, but it didn't deter him from choosing the profession.

"I've always kind of been fascinated by the law," he said. "In my mind that's kind of what keeps society functioning."

Now in his fourth year as a prosecutor, Kallsnick, 29, handles everything from property crimes and DUIs to assaults and murders.

"I think the variety makes it nice; it kind of keeps you on your toes," he said.

"It's always entertaining."

Kallsnick considers himself to be an advocate for crime victims and finds it rewarding to gain a conviction or reach or plea deal that is favorable to the state.

"I think it's very important," he said. "I definitely want to seek justice for victims and make sure other people don't suffer the crimes, as well."

The price of success

David Slane also loves what he does. But for the first time in 20 years, he is getting hate mail.

A caller recently told the Oklahoma City defense attorney he was sick for trying to get a judge to overturn the state's age of consent law.

Slane is representing a former high school basketball coach accused of raping a female student.

"Sometimes it makes me feel bad because people hate me for doing my job," he said.

Scorn comes with the territory when your client list includes about 400 sex offenders.

"One of my neighbors said the only thing worse than a sex offender is someone who helps them," Slane said. "I said ‘Good morning to you, too.'"

Slane, 46, makes no apologies for whom he helps.

"Representing the popular guy is easy, it's representing the unpopular client that's difficult," he said. "No one cares. The media is against you, the public is against you, hell, half the courthouse is against you. But it doesn't mean their side's always wrong."

There was a time when Slane, a legal analyst for KOKH-TV, shunned the media because he didn't trust them.

"An old lawyer told me, ‘Never be afraid to reinvent yourself,' so I agreed to start talking to the media," he said. "Maybe it would be good for business."

Four years ago, Slane's wife, Susan, 38, died suddenly, leaving him to raise their two boys alone.

"I went through a life transformation when my wife died," he said. "I thought about quitting all together … because I had to be mom and dad."

Business has never been better for the Oklahoma City native, who is paid as much as $400 an hour for his services.

"I have a passion for what I do," Slane said. "I like the law because I get to help people."

Contrasting styles

While Slane comes across as polished, criminal defense attorney Kent Bridge wears long hair and suits that need pressing.

Even his ties are wrinkled.

Bridge, 42, of Edmond, prefers to let his work do the talking.

Before leaving the Oklahoma County public defender's office in January to go into private practice with his wife, Bridge put together an impressive winning streak.

During a four-month period, Bridge tried five murder trials and finished with three acquittals and two hung juries.

"At the end of the day, what I'm really good at is being in trial," he said. "It's the biggest reason I'm a criminal attorney, because the criminal practice is where people actually go to trial."

But the workload - 300 cases a year - was getting to be too much.

"It felt like it was all the same … like Groundhog Day," Bridge said.

"It was like I got up and talked to the same 10 people in front of the same two judges and did it over and over."

The pace has slowed considerably since Bridge left the public defender's office, where he said he felt like an emergency room surgeon.

"What I do now is like being a doctor in real practice, where things are slower and more organized," he said.

Oklahoma County Assistant District Attorney Suzanne Lavenue recently tried a sexual abuse case against a man represented by Bridge and called him a consummate professional.

"He's one of the most honorable defense attorneys I know," she said.

What hasn't changed for Bridge since leaving the public defender's office is the satisfaction he gets from making a difference in the lives of people he represents.

"There's nothing abstract about my job," he said. "I shake their hands and look in the eyes of the family members I help.

"I see them, I get Christmas cards from them, I visit them. I know who they are and that means a lot to me."

By Tim Willert



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