Thomas Soldan on Experience and Background
Below, Virginia criminal lawyer Thomas Soldan answers questions about his legal experience and his background.
What are the most common types of cases that you handle?
Thomas Soldan: It’s tough to say that I have one area of expertise, but the common thread that ties everything I do together is litigation. Everything I do could very well end up in a courtroom being decided by a fact-finder, whether that be a judge or a jury. That’s the excitement that binds everything I do together, whether it be a traffic case, a misdemeanor criminal offense, all the way through DUI defense, felony cases, and of course personal injury cases and medical malpractice on the civil side of things.
What places where you’ve worked or trained in the past have prepared you for a career in criminal defense?
Thomas Soldan: I’ve completed the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) student training course for field sobriety tests. It’s very helpful to be trained the same way as an officer trained in field sobriety. I have also completed advanced training in speed detection and use of radar and lidar technologies. This training was from a retired state trooper who is considered an expert in the field. I also received training on the proper use, maintenance, and workings of the EC/IR2 machine which is the breath test that is used in Virginia. In my prior employment experiences I had the privilege of working under experienced attorneys that had a variety of backgrounds as they relate to criminal defense, including a former county prosecutor, a senior-level criminal defense attorney who had spent an entire career in the criminal defense field, as well as experienced litigators who had taken numerous trials to juries and achieved millions in lifetime settlements. Having the opportunity to learn and take all that in and then translate that knowledge into my own personal trial experiences was really the best on-the-job training.
What are some things you’ve learned through courtroom experience that law school wouldn’t necessarily be able to teach you?
Thomas Soldan: The thing that they can’t teach you is learning on the fly. You have to always be flexible and prepare for contingencies. Prepare to expect the unexpected, in criminal defense practice, especially. Whether it is what something may say or what a judge or jury may do, you have to prepare for all different outcomes. One of the things they do prepare you for in law school is to look at both sides of any potential problem and be able to turn uncertainty into a positive. Something that I encounter on a daily basis in the criminal defense practice is being able to make a weakness into a strength and vice versa. The last thing that no one prepares you for until you’re out in the world is reading people. Understanding people and communicating with them, whether it’s a prosecutor, a judge, a witness, or even your client, can be taught to a certain degree, but also has to be nurtured and developed as a skill.
What makes your approach to criminal defense cases unique from other attorneys?
Thomas Soldan: My approach is different from other people in that I approach every case from a perspective of wanting to learn everything there is to know about the case. I want to be the most informed person out there. There are different players in these types of cases; there is a prosecutor, a police officer or civilian complainant, a judge, and potential witnesses. As a defense attorney, it’s my responsibility to know what everyone else is thinking and what everyone else knows. That gives me the best perspective and it puts me in the best position to defend my client’s interests. That then shifts how I can act in my role. I could advocate from potentially more of an educational standpoint. At the same time, I’m really advocating for my client’s interests and doing it in a way that’s acceptable to people in terms of how they take in that information. I’m advocating for my client and getting the best result I can at the same time.