Undergraduate Honors Theses

Thesis Defended

Spring 2019

Document Type


Type of Thesis

Departmental Honors



First Advisor

Glenda Walden

Second Advisor

Matthew Brown

Third Advisor

Garrett Bredeson


My study utilizes nine semi-structured qualitative interviews with criminal defense attorneys practicing around the Colorado Mountain University area in order to understand their experience in an occupation that is viewed as dirty work and morally condemned. This study explores the difficulties criminal defense attorneys face by “popular opinion” as blame is shifted from the client they are representing, the alleged criminal, to the attorney. Questions were asked about how the participant feels about their work, how people react when others discover the participants’ occupation and how they balance their personal life with work life, among others. Responses given by participants indicated that the practice of stigma management was highly important and crucial to their identity work as a criminal defense attorney. In interviews with participants, three themes, or stigma management techniques, were frequently recurring: the practice of distancing self from occupation, justification of occupation, and difficulty managing identity in the challenging balance between work life and personal life. Overall, this study examines the demanding nature of criminal defense as an occupation on the personal lives of participants and brings to light the “heroic” nature of the largely denounced profession.

Included in

Criminal Law Commons