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David A. Cmelik Law PLC is limited exclusively to the practice of criminal law in the State of Iowa. If you or a loved one is in need of a criminal defense in Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Anamosa, Vinton, or otherwise in Linn, Johnson, Jones, Benton, or other Iowa counties, please call for an initial consultation.

 doing his or her client no favors.The third side of the pancake is lost on those who think in aggressive, binary terms.  

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is perpetuating the myth to earn business



A client who is looking for a fight is confused about the process; an attorney who plays to the client who is looking for “aggression” is 


Always with the third side of the pancake in mind, it is my attempt to be different and think differently about the law and productive solutions to my client’s problems. It is not a battle. This is not a shooting war. There is no artillery going off in the courtroom. 

That is not the practice of law; that is the absence of civility. This is a civil profession in which we must conduct ourselves professionally.  
That is not the practice of law; that is the absence of civility.This is a civil profession in which we must conduct ourselves professionally.


issue with “aggression” and hostility, which is the image “aggressive criminal defense” conjures in the uninitiated. 

A legal issue is not a binary contest among two unthinking, unyielding adversaries. In Cedar Rapids and Iowa City, Iowa, and the surrounding areas in Linn, Jones, Benton, Iowa, and Johnson counties, where I maintain my criminal defense practice, it would be a rookie mistake to meet every communication, every 

“It’s technically a cylinder comprised of two circles and an ever-so-slight rectangle in the batter that heat raises on the griddle.” Yes, indeed, Dr. Einstein. This technically adept and accurate definition of a pancake has a metaphorical lesson for us left-brainers, as well. 

A pancake is "technically a cylinder comprised of two circles and an
ever-so-slight rectangle in the batter that heat raises on the griddle.
As I discussed with a couple of coffee drinkers at the barber shop what I do for a living on a Saturday, my barber chimed in once that, “yup, two sides. Two sides to every pancake.” I had to write down that kind of visionary stuff and now I use it whenever I get the chance to be in front of a jury. But then I learned something entirely new—thus they call this the practice of law. There are, in fact, three sides to every pancake.
I’ve been noticing that some law firms are promoting themselves online as being “aggressive” in their representation. It’s true that the criminal justice system is set up to be “adversarial” but I argue that it was never intended to be aggressive. That is, it is two or more parties in a case that the system envisions responsible for a balance of power and equality in the courtroom through zealous advocacy and meticulous criminal procedure. Hollywood drama that led many to law school and informs non-lawyers in the general public misleads by suggesting yelling and rutting among lawyers produces good results.


Aggression and hostility should not be used to describe what we do as lawyers. The public misperception that lawyers rut to get what they want in the courtroom is pure myth. The key to law is persuasion not aggression. The process is designed to culminate in an oral argument to a jury not a street fight with a prosecutor. The process leading up to that point can be used to alert the prosecution to defects in the case whereby they may, or may not, decide that a reasonable plea offer might avoid the risks associated with trial. But battlefield metaphor is misplaced in the arena of criminal defense. 

The Third Side of the Pancake: why "aggression" is the wrong metaphor for what we do as criminal defense attorneys

by David Cmelik



cedar rapids / iowa city criminal defense