I recently reflected on my experience working with white-collar defendants. It started while filming a white-collar crime documentary when the producer asked, “What are some nuances or things that stand out from working with so many white-collar defendants since 2008?”

This question sparked a flood of insights; sharing them in a video could be valuable.

Guilt and Self-Reflection:

Mitigating guilt can be challenging when someone doesn’t believe they did anything wrong. In my own experience, there was no gray: I did it. I accepted my guilt and took responsibility for my actions, making coping with the consequences of my choices easier. Many people who plead guilty often struggle because they feel that their biggest crime is saying they are guilty or feel their plea agreement is mostly made up.

Good Intentions:


Contrary to popular belief, very few people venture into business to defraud others. Most have good intentions when they start a business or pursue their careers. In my experience, 99.999% of the individuals I’ve encountered within the white-collar community are good people who made unfortunate choices in a moment of weakness. The length of time a fraud persists is typically a brief deviation from an otherwise ethical career.

Rediscovering Success Traits:


Some defendants going through their case tend to forget the traits that made them successful in the first place. It’s common for individuals to lose their ability to take action, hold themselves accountable, and engage in difficult conversations while navigating a government investigation. Those who can maintain these qualities during this challenging period tend to achieve more successful outcomes.

Embracing Community Service:

One misconception is that individuals convicted of white-collar crimes make it all about themselves and lack remorse. In reality, many are genuinely remorseful and seek meaning through community service. They are willing to give back and demonstrate their commitment to positive change. Engaging in community service can be a powerful way to convey authenticity and contribute to rebuilding one’s life.

The Power of Mitigation After Getting Convicted At Trial:


Interestingly, some of the most effective mitigation efforts come from individuals convicted at trial who firmly believe in their innocence. They go all-in to mitigate their sentences, determined to show the judge that they are different from the government’s portrayal. This commitment to mitigation always impresses me.

Misplaced Focus:

Many defendants initially misplace their focus by fixating on prison-related concerns such as prison life, showers, and job assignments. Redirecting their focus toward actionable steps for their sentencing hearing is essential.

Inherent Work Ethic:

Some individuals in the white-collar community are more predisposed to put in the necessary effort, even in challenging circumstances. They maintain their work ethic, even when faced with job loss and financial struggles resulting from their case.

Accountability and Asking the Right Questions:

A common pitfall is failing to hold legal counsel accountable and accepting misguided advice. Rather than buying into unsupported claims from lawyers, defendants should ask critical questions and learn to ask better questions.

Willingness to Start Over:

Contrary to the belief that white-collar criminals are arrogant and unwilling to accept lesser roles, many will embrace humility and start anew in positions beneath their previous skill levels. They appreciate the opportunity to rebuild their lives.

Honorable Clients:

Most individuals we work with are honorable and follow through on their commitments. They honor payment agreements and show integrity, even in challenging circumstances. This level of commitment and trustworthiness often exceeds what one might expect.

Working with white-collar defendants since 2008 has given me valuable insights into their experiences, challenges, and resilience. Despite the misconceptions, these individuals often possess good intentions, a willingness to rebuild, and a commitment to personal growth. I am super proud to call them my friends!

Thank you for watching,
Justin Paperny

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Justin Paperny