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November 22, 2005

Lessons from Court

I spent a day and a half in court last week and the days before that preparing, then I was in court again yesterday, all of which partially explains the lack of posting here. For various reasons, I think it best not to say too much about the details of what happened in court, but let's just say last week wasn't great in terms of the outcome for my client. Of course, since it was bad for my client, it was probably excellent in terms of experience for me b/c I definitely learned some important lessons that I'd never really anticipated.

One thing I learned is how hard it can be to have done everything you can think of to do, and still watch your client get a bad result. Was that your fault? Was there something more or something different you should have done? Could you do it better next time? Or is it even more frustrating because you did all you could and the system just worked arbitrarily and unfairly? Whatever your answers to these questions, it's definitely disappointing to watch your client being led away to lockup for more time behind bars.

But another thing I learned (or was reminded of) is how great this job can be. That may sound a little paradoxical, but the job is actually great because of the risk of that bad result for your client. As a criminal defense attorney, no matter what specific task you're doing, your work is always meaningful because your client's liberty interest is at stake. What you're doing is so damned important! And although that can be a daunting responsibility, it also makes for a much better job because even when you're spinning your wheels in bureaucratic mazes you know what you're doing is worthwhile.

An a more practical level, the past few days reminded me of another reason I was originally drawn to this area of law, and that is simply the variety the job provides. In one day you might do some legal research, go out and investigate a scene, talk to witnesses, talk to your client (in jail or otherwise), negotiate with a prosecutor, and argue a motion or even have a trial in court. It's not a job where you just show up in the morning, sit down at your desk for 8 hours, then go home. If variety is the spice of life, being a public defender should make for a very spicy life, which is great as far as I'm concerned.

Posted November 22, 2005 09:11 AM | 3L crimlaw

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sorry you lost. but you're right - there are tons of lessons to be learned.

Posted by: monica at November 22, 2005 04:31 PM

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