Tuesday, December 9, 2008

the many faces of humanity

There are days when I am reminded of how much I love my clients. Today is one of those days. This morning I kept a man out of jail and as we were leaving the courtroom, he was grateful and sad that our contact was coming to an end. He promised to bring coffee for the legal assistants to say thank you. He is my first client to actually dress for court in a suit and tie (with these crazy woven, pointy toed, and tasseled loafers). Then, this afternoon, I spent 20 minutes discussing a DWI case with a man who was freaking out that the maximum sentence he could receive included jail time. When I told him I had never seen anyone go to jail for a first offense DWI, you would've thought that I had given him a million dollars (even after telling him that there was a possibility of jail). It is easy to forget that contact with the criminal justice system is terrifying for many people. Their gratitiude for helping them through unknown territory is incredibly rewarding. Just another day when I'm reminded that I love my job.

On a totally unrelated note, is anyone else completely repulsed by this new Wii game where people live lives through avatars while sitting on their couch? I know there are things like Second Life out there, but the commercials of women lounging on the couch living their life through a Nintendo is freaking me out a little. I mean, pretending to fish for hours? Dude.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

"fair" is a four-letter word

My first trial turned into my first plea. Not too shocking as the prosecutor promised to attempt to impose the suspended sentence my client had from almost 2 years ago.

But seriously, there was no crime committed, and I haven't just drank the kool-aid. If not for my client's record (which is really not that bad), the prosecutor said he would have just dismissed the charges. If not for the record, the officer on the scene probably would not have manufactured this charge in the first place. If only the prohibition on using propensity arguments and unfair prejudice applied outside the courtroom!

It's funny that the only question people tend to ask public defenders is how we defend "criminals" and still sleep at night. Just once I would like to be asked how we deal with innocent people being convicted. That seems to be the more substantial issue.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

too many firsts

I really do love being a lawyer. I love helping people. I love challenging myself. I love the human dynamics that blossom in front of me. I do not love, however, the steep learning curve I'm currently climbing (or perhaps falling down). My first client turned into the first client I couldn't get in touch with till the last minute which turned into my first client with suspended jail time and suspended fines just waiting to be imposed which turned into my first client that didn't actually do what he is charged with which has now turned into my very first trial. Tomorrow morning. It makes me want to crawl under my desk and pretend the whole world doesn't exist.

It also doesn't help that I have the best mentor for my first year. I mean, he's great. Been here longer than just about everyone--pushing 2 decades as a PD. Which is great because he knows everything, but it also sucks because he knows everything. This afternoon when I showed him my directs and crosses for tomorrow, he looked at me and said things like "just have fun with it" and "just talk normally." And I'm not even going to tell you about his facial expressions as he read them. First, under no deranged perspective could I have fun tomorrow. If I make it through without going into shock, I'll consider it a success. Second, I was just talking normally!! Am I that displaced from real life? I thought I was still a normal person, but maybe, while I wasn't paying attention, I turned into one of "those" lawyers. Dear God, please let it not be so.

So, really. It's hugely unfair for me to be compared with one of the state's best PDs for my first trial. Seriously. Unfair.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008


Sooo . . . I passed the bar!! Despite my previous post, I suppose this is what makes me a real lawyer. (Although, I may say this again after I get sworn in.) With this behind me, I have a confession to make. I was shitting bricks because I was so scared I wasn't going to pass. I know; I know. EVERYONE shits bricks. EVERYONE is scared they won't pass. Unlike me, however, most people probably studied con law, corps, agency/partnership, family law, and conflicts of laws. I hate that I put myself through such stress because I didn't study. I am an idiot!! But, at least it's over, and I got my happy ending.

Had my first in-office client interview today--juvenile case involving spray paint. Client completely took responsibility for his actions. Then I spoke with the prosecutor--my first time discussing a deal with a prosecutor--who decided my solution, which included dropping the charges, worked for him. Not a bad way to start things. Totally a dream world, but I'm okay with that.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

my first case

That's right. I'm a real lawyer now. I just got my first case this morning with my very first trial date.

Right on.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

the good and the less good

So, I love my new job. I know, I know. It's really early--I only started a week and a half ago--but all signs point to my future happiness. I have an unbelievable amount of leeway to practice law the way I want, yet I will get any support I ask for. It's a little overwhelming getting into the swing of things, but I have no complaints yet which is more than I expected. My new office is awesome. I have a nice view of the woods and there is great afternoon sun. I have started picking out which art work I will display to keep the comfortable, laid-back feel. Things are good in this area.

On the less good side of my life, I am effing lonely, and it sucks. I don't really know anyone here, and I'm so exhausted by the time I get home every night that there is no energy for me to explore other parts of my life like being social. My pup is lucky if I have enough energy to take her out to play 2xs in the day. I know it will get better, but the growing pains are, you know, kinda painful. It doesn't help that my law school friends either have too much going on to spend time on the phone or aren't returning my phone calls. Sigh. This too shall pass, but can't it pass soon?

Friday, July 25, 2008

mad woman

I have been recently watching the t.v. show "Mad Men" in the background of taking practice MBE questions. I know that everyone is supposed to love this show, but it was really nothing special until I got to episode 9 this afternoon. The ending with Mrs. Draper in her backyard shooting at pigeons with a cigarette hanging out of her perfectly lipsticked mouth was enough to make me want to finish the season.

Well done, Mrs. Draper. Well done.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

things that suck your blood

I love my dog. She is truly amazing. Very smart and loving. I could go on, but I would probably lose everyone before I felt I had done her justice. So, the point. This morning, while waking up to greet a day full of Torts studying, I roll over to give my pup a good scratch behind the ears and find--dear god!--a tick in her ear.

I don't "do" ticks. I mean, other things that like my blood are mostly okay: mosquitoes are mainly just annoying, leeches are creepy but easily avoidable, vampires seem kinda kinky to me (could be fun), but ticks . . . they are another story altogether. Those creepy legs always moving and tucking themselves close to the body. The awful straw mouth that's almost impossible to get completely out, necessitating a trip to the doctor or vet. Their general invicibilty to any harm I try to inflict upon them. The tiny, beady head that can detach from its body. [Shudder] It is not okay. I mean, once I got the tick off, I immersed it in water. For a long time! Yet, when I went back to check for identification purposes, I pulled it out of the water, and it slowly came back to life. It had been under water for more than 5 minutes!!! Where's death when you actually need it?

Then it got worse because I had to check myself. I have no idea what I would have done if I had found a tick on me. I probably would've passed out. Seriously.

That's it. I may be giving up the outdoors for forever now.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

a little uncertainty goes a long way

A little certainty, however, goes go a long way as well. Thirteen days and counting down until the bar exam. For most of the beginning of the summer, I was less than optimally diligent about studying. It felt like I had forever. With no urgency, I slipped into a peaceful nonchalance about the whole thing. Bar exam? Sure. It's coming. But like the grasshopper I spent many of my hours doing other things. Now, as opposed to the grasshopper that never "woke up," I have been jolted into the harsh realization that I may not have spent my time so wisely in June. No use crying over split milk though, right? Well, I was crying. (Figuratively, of course. The real tears won't come unless I don't pass the bar.) This was courtsey of the 30% score I received on a practice test about Evidence. I'm going to be a public defender, for crying out loud; this stuff is incredibly important to my career. Not to mention that I just finished taking Evidence in my last semester. I should know the issues and rules.

It was then my bar review course to the rescue. I specifically would not sign up for BarBri. They wanted how much? Yeah, that's right. Over $3k. For some stupid taped lectures. Most of which are a couple years old. If I were doing a more profitable state--say like NY--BarBri might have better materials. In my small state, however, this would not be the case. So, I shopped around, eventually settling on The Study Group. I have found this program to be much better than the BarBri materials I have come in contact with. My lectures are twice as long for about every subject, and I have more multiple choice and essay questions and published past bar exams than I've seen anyone else with. So, overall it was a good decision. The $1600 price tag is still steep, but a penny saved in a penny earned. (Yes, Study Group. You may send my advertising fee whenever you wish.)

Anyway, another "perk" to this program is the weekly informational and inspirational emails I get. Sometimes, they even include jokes. (You know. The one about the lawyer who dies at age 36. When he gets to the pearly gates, he asks St. Peter why he was taken so young. To which St. Peter replies, "But according to your billables, you should be well over 72 by now.") Today's email was key is helping me get past some of the anxiety that has been creeping in since Monday. Apparently, they have had people start the program with 2 weeks remaining and still pass the bar.

Now, I know not everyone can do that. But all I needed was the inkling of a hope. I haven't gone back to my grasshopper ways, but I definitely have stopped beating myself up. What good would that do?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Asphalt 1, Me 0

Although I suppose when it comes to my skin and a paved road, I will always lose. Anyway, I recently implemented a new exercise routine for my dog. She has so much energy, and I was already taking her on 2 walks a day. More time for exercise was not in the cards, so I thought of ways I could make the time more effective. I chose to ride my bike with the dog, so she could jog next to me. Works like a charm. She stay more focused on me and the walk (perhaps because she is worried she may get run over by a tire), and she is actually tired when we get home. Hurray!! The one problem is that she occassionally will do a dead stop to poop in the middle of the road. Last night, this act sent me flying off my bike as I imagine it would be like to be in a car accident without wearing a seat belt. I haven't had a scraped knee from riding my bike since I was about 12. Well, she and I are working on this process. It seems to be working and making her happier, so I will keep it up. A tired pit bull is a good (and happy) pit bull.

Monday, February 25, 2008

population worries or racist ideals

I should admit that I listen to fundamentalist Christian talk radio: Dr. James Dobson, Sean Hannady, Bill O'Reilly, etc. I don't do it often, and I don't do it because these are "my people." I got started on it due to several long drives I had to make back and forth across the country. The absolute disbelief that these people have followers and the anger that ensued after hearing them talk would keep me awake as I drove all by myself. I love a good debate, so I would sit in the car talking to these radio show "artists" and explaining to them the holes in their logic . . . as if they could hear me. But it did make me feel better. Outside of the debates, I listen to them in preparation for talking with my family. I was raised fundamentalist Christian, although I am not anymore. (I think I lost my membership card when I became a democrat in high school.) Listening to the points of view on the radio gives me an idea about what my family will be hearing and believing. This gives me time to develop cogent arguments that will appeal to my family members and actually make them question what they passively accepted as truth. The most current thing I heard and have been researching is the "documentary" Demographic Winter: the decline of the human family.

The website is very attractive, giving it an air of authority. (Reinforces the idea that presentation is everything.) The basic message is that many parts of Europe are at the beginning of a population decline that could reach epidemic proportions. I can't impagine that this issue is not implied to be an US problem as well, but the movie is not yet released (nor do I plan to purchase it when it is--I hope to find a free copy on the internet). The issues associated with this decline is an inability of the economic system to cope, resulting in declining economies. My first thought in response is: we should have babies to consume and perpetuate an economic situation? I had always hoped that something would happen to the US that would teach us that capitalism is not the answer to everything. Don't forget that growth for the sake of growth is the goal of a cancer cell.

There is one other reason the movie gives to turn women into baby-makers, and that is to preserve cultures. There were multiple comments made that spoke of the extinction of certain native peoples and cultures if their birthrate does not increase--i.e. Latvian culture may disappear and that there may no longer be native French persons. While the celebration of diversity is commendable, I am skeptical that they support this argument at face value. Part of the radio broadcast advertising this documentary was Dr. Dobson discussing that certain areas of the world may become devoid of Christians. His fear was that the populations would primarliy become Muslim while the "Christian" cultures experienced a decline in population. As a recipient of many emails from my family about how Muslims (in general, not just the fundamental groups) are terrible, Dr. Dobson's assertion is more than mildly troubling.

Overall, the documentary uses the terrifying problems mentioned above to say "I told you so"; it all goes back to good ole family values. If there were more nuclear families with people marrying earlier and having babies earlier, if we forced most homosexuals back into the closet or "reformed" them, and if we outlawed abortion, then these economic, racial, and religious problems would not exist. It is the degradation of the moral conscious of this country causing our problems. If only we had listened to and followed "Christian" ideals as a country!! (I put that word in quotations because I believe that everyone has their own relationship with God. It is not my place to pass judgment and whisper behind anyone's back. My job on this planet is to love and support my neighbors, friends, and enemies.) The movie asserts that we need to take a closer look at our culture's acceptance of reproductive rights (including the use of birth control), living together before marriage, feminism, women working outside of the home, and homosexuality, because it is things like this that are causing the demise of Christian populations. Never mind that the nuclear family, while perhaps less prevalent today, has never been norm that fundamentalist Christians like to believe. But this is their answer to the problem. Never mind that we could better support unwed mothers/parents to develop strong family units. Never mind that we could recognize all support systems as family structures that deserve protection and help. Every large company worth its salt knows that the best way to manage its employees is to put them in small groups usually called teams. They don't try to match these groups up with a father & mother or even pay attention to sex at all. They take people with strong leadership skills and place them in middle management positions to form and mold the team. Why then do we think that only nuclear families will provide the successful foundation for our society?

This is not the answer!!