Sunday, September 23, 2012

On Being An Attorney...

Before I get into this post, does it annoy you that I wrote the word attorney rather than lawyer? Well, I am an attorney, not just a lawyer. I'm also a counselor at law, but I don't like to use that word because people get me confused with a mental health counselor. On aside, I hate when doctors call themselves physicians. :-)

I went to law school. To this day, I'm not really sure why. It seemed like a good idea. I sure as $#*! wasn't going to get a full time job at the age of 21 (my age at college graduation). And, with a BA in Psychology- really, what was I going to do?!

Before I went to law school I didn't really know what attorneys did. During law school, I sure wasn't taught what attorneys do. And everyday at my job I think- this is what attorneys do?!?

My first few years out of school I spent some time doing criminal defense work. In fact, I was on the court- appointed list. Meaning, people who couldn't afford an attorney got me as their attorney! Lucky ducks! After representing some fine members of our population (some of which are currently spending more time in prison than what I have currently been living) I decided that this line of work just wasn't for me. I don't regret my time doing criminal work, and I still do some OWI defense. I learned a considerable amount of awesome lingo from my criminal clients. For example, there is the bitch- legally known as The Habitual Offender law. Habitual offender is, in my dad's words a three time felon. Yes, basically somebody who is being convicted of their third felony (its a little more complicated than that, but you get the gist of it). Here is how to use it in a sentence "Yo, I can't plead to that charge because the county attorney is going to hit me with the bitch and I can't spend another five years in prison, I got a baby on the way, yo."  Anytime I can throw the term the bitch in the office, I earn immediate respect among my peers.

More important is my work as a guardian ad litem. In this instance, I serve as an attorney for the child's best interest. I gather a report that I present to a Judge who relies heavily on it in making a ruling. Sometimes its incredibly scary work. Who am I to decide where this child should be spending the rest of their lives? Some days I feel totally unqualified for such a life decision. There is one child I think about often. We'll call this child Evan. See, Evan is an eight year old boy who hadn't had mom involved in his life for many years (she had two other kids who she had her rights terminated). Evan's dad had just died (of a drug overdose I later learned) and was living with his dad's girlfriend who is also the mother of his step-brother. Girlfriend and another random person were fighting for the guardianship of Evan. This other random person, however, had basically served as Evan's mother for about twelve months for a period right before his father's death. I ended up recommending Evan go with random person who he had lived with previously. Yes, this meant pulling Evan out of current school (though sending him back to school he had attended previously), away from his half-sibling, and now adding another change in his life. As it turns out, the Judge agreed with my decision as well. There are many reasons beyond why I recommended random person over girlfriend. I haven't been reappointed to his case which means Evan is probably doing okay with random person. But some nights when I rock my little Emi to sleep I think about Evan, or the other kids like him. I think about the tough lives they have. I tear up over what they have been through in their young lives, and I wonder how they are doing.

Just another day at the office....

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