Originally published by The Union on January 20, 2023
Chris Walsh left his position as assistant district attorney in Nevada County in mid-2021 after serving on the prosecutorial side of legal matters for nearly two decades.
Now, his focus has shifted to the other side of the aisle as he opened a private criminal defense practice based in Nevada County and Folsom called Walsh Law.
What prompted you to leave your role as assistant DA and branch off to start your own practice?
“I have found that after being a prosecutor for 16 years and working in a number of different offices, there are a lot of great things about being a prosecutor. I loved the work advocating on behalf of cases I believed in, but there’s also a lot of politics in the DA’s office. Sometimes those politics get in the way of just pure representation of your case and good quality legal work, so after 16 years of that I was tired of the politics. I love being a lawyer, I love working in court and I love advocating for clients, but we were ready to just go back to the heart of what we think legal representation is, which is representing clients.”
After years of working as a prosecutor, what’s it like working on the other side of the aisle?
“I’ve been pleasantly surprised by it. Both of us come with a law and order perspective, so we’re not out there rallying to burn the system down or something like that, but what a lot of people might not realize is that even as a prosecutor, sometimes you end up having to handle a lot of cases that you’re not super excited about, and that’s where some of the politics about being in the DA’s office comes into play. The nice thing about being in private practice, the way we have set it up is to be able to take on cases that we truly believe in. I have found real meaning in advocating for clients that I believe in, folks who may find themselves in the criminal justice system who might be overwhelmed with the process and might be in trouble for the first time in their life. It’s very rewarding. The transition has been easier and more natural than I would’ve anticipated.”
What has been the biggest challenge in transitioning to being a defense attorney?
“There are challenges, one being the financial side of things. As a prosecutor you are never involved in that, you are just evaluating cases on merit, so that’s something new. I think something that is also new and different is the ability to just call up and talk to people more as a litigator. As a prosecutor, you had to be very careful and there are very strict rules with that, so on the defense side, particularly in evaluating a case, it’s kind of freeing just being able to get to the heart of something and trying to figure out what happened.”
What do you envision for your legal practice moving forward?
“I envision it being a boutique firm, in the sense that we’re not looking to be some huge firm with 50 attorneys or something. Our goal is to maintain high levels of work product, to have strong relationships with clients where when they call they are talking directly to the partners… Our goal is to really establish a reputation in the greater Sacramento area as a firm that does high-quality legal work that specializes in criminal cases.”
Personal: Lives in Folsom, married with three kids.
Education: Received his bachelor’s degree through Excelsior University (New York) and J.D. from Oak Brook College of Law.
Professional background: Was a full-time prosecutor for 16 years for counties in the Central Valley and Bay Area prior to taking a management position in Nevada County, where he served as assistant district attorney for over four years.
Something people would be surprised to know about you: “I’m the third of nine kids and I’m the only one from my family who graduated from college. My dad was a plumber, so I come from a working-class background and mentality, which I think is somewhat rare in the legal profession.”