Greenville, NC—After working for over 20 years in the legal profession, first as a prosecutor and then as a defense lawyer, Keith Williams believes that what he's doing today is one of the most important jobs in the system.
“In my opinion, those who want to limit the government, like conservatives, should be very supportive of the criminal defense lawyer function,” Williams told laws.com in a recent interview. “In the United States Constitution, there is only one type of attorney that is mentioned: a criminal defense attorney. The Founding Fathers of this country said that those accused of a crime shall have a right to counsel.”
As the only attorney in Greenville who is board certified by the North Carolina Board of Legal Specialization in both state and federal criminal law, Williamssees cases ranging from misdemeanors to murders.
In the last two decades, Williams has seen significant changes to the criminal defense profession, and one of the biggest of those changes has to do with plea deals. “I have seen fewer and fewer cases go to jury trial,” he explains. “Our challenge as criminal defense attorneys is to change this and not conform to the norm, and to take more cases to trial.”
Williams thinks that it is the duty of criminal defense attorneys to try cases in front of juries when possible, in order to keep the system working. “Criminal defense attorneys should resurrect the model of taking cases to the jury. It reinforces what we were meant to do as defense attorneys and our system of checks and balances,” he says.
According to Williams, it wasn't always like this—defense attorneys decades ago operated very differently, taking many more cases to trial. “I think back on the role models I had back in the day, when I went to law school, and how different things are today,” he reflects. “My knowledge of that vision is one of the most important things I can pass on to the next generation of attorneys. They have to know this vision, so they know there is another path they can take.”
To that next generation of attorneys, Williams gives clear advice: “Today, there are more and more people attending law school, so the pool is too large for someone to just go to law school and just hope for the best. I would suggest going to law school with a plan.”
Williams also takes questions on a television and radio call-in show, “Call the Law,” which airs in and around Greenville. Once a week, Williams' co-host, Don Higley, answers questions about civil law while Williams takes on criminal law questions from regular people.
For Williams, a successful career in criminal defense has meant giving great service to clients, handling their cases from beginning to end instead of shuffling them off to paralegals. It also means returning phone calls fast and really listening to client concerns. “I have always looked at a criminal defense lawyer as a person who has a vitally important role in our society,” he says. “I was happy to step into those shoes and do this type of work.”
Williams recognizes that bad things happen to good people and that is what motivates him to zealously advocate for his clients. His hard work has earned him numerous recognitions, including being named one of the best trial lawyers by The National Trial Lawyers.
To learn more about his practice click here.