Sunday, April 19, 2009

growing pains

Over the last couple months, I have been really struggling with aspects of my job and career. Perhaps the most difficult to come to terms with was realizing that the institution for which I work is (significantly) less than perfect. Recently, I have seen my "firm" act very unprofessional more than once--within the company and dealing with the larger legal community. This was disastrous to me because when I started my job, I attached my career and identity as a lawyer with my firm. I was very happy to be working there and willing to support all its ideals. I was so excited when I received the job offer that I turned down everything else.

It all came crashing down around the end of February, making me start to look for other work. Last weekend, though, I made the decision not to leave my firm. While my firm may not be perfect, I love doing criminal defense work for people who really need my help, and I can't do that anywhere at at the present time. I did, however, make some important promises to myself. I will no longer identify myself as "someone who works for [my firm]." I am my own lawyer. I am going to treat my life as a lawyer as MY career, not something that I'm giving to my firm. They can't have it, because they don't deserve it. It is also not the way I should manage my career if I want it to be life-long and fulfilling.

After I made that decision last weekend, I have started enjoying my job again. I do love being a public defender.

Ironically, while I was exploring my options, I received an offer--unsolicited--from a prosecutor in my county to work with him prosecuting for a local police department.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

my first trial

and first Not Guilty.

I am so glad my first trial is out of the way. I had my first client that insisted on a trial and did not cave minutes before the trial was supposed to start and plea out. Not that I think less of people who take a deal. It is waaaay less stressful to take a deal than have a full blown trial. And, let's face it, more often than not the prosecution can prove that some crime happened. (Ever really looked through your state's penal code? More things than you think are defined as criminal behavior by the state legislature. Not to mention that the presumption of innocence is all but dead.) And when the prosecution offers to continue the case and then dismiss it if you haven't committed any other crimes during a specified period of time, it places all control into your hands. Don't commit a crime; don't get convicted with the present charge. Not a bad thing to consider.

Anyway, this client was willing to take the chance of conviction for a chance to walk out of the courthouse "a winner" (his words). I was happy to oblige. After a little over an hour, and the judge sustaining all the prosecution's objections, I was shocked to hear the words "not guilty." And so was the prosecutor.

Not a bad way to start the week.