Okay, vent time...
In the course of my daily work, I come across instances where individuals apply for legal aid assistance and then withdraw their application, stating they have hired a "real attorney" and no longer need our help. When I worked for the Department of Child Services, I got this a lot, too. "Do you think you will quit DCS and become a 'real' attorney?" Or "oh, he didn't use a public defender. He hired a real lawyer."
Let me be clear about something.
Legal aid attorneys, public defenders, prosecutors, attorneys representing the government (i.e., Department of Child Services)...ARE real attorneys. Yes. We, too, have legal degrees, and we have also passed the bar exam. We go to court in front of real, live judges and perform legal work. Sure, we do it for less pay. (Often significantly less pay.) But being a lawyer doesn't require you to make loads of money or work in a law firm. Numerous attorneys work outside the private practice. And believe it or not, they do so voluntarily. And they are "real" attorneys, too.
I don't mean to be lecturing here. Trust me, as a reader, I have no doubt you would never dare say this to someone in my position, but it's my blog, so I'll vent if I want to. I find myself writing this after coming across another one of those statements. Each time I hear or read it, it's like a slap in the face. So I may be coming across as a bit heated. But this is more of the "in the heat of the moment" posts.
I love what I do. I chose to do what I do. Similarly, I stayed on with the Department of Child Services voluntarily. I wasn't under a contract to work there for a period of time. I worked there to protect the lives and rights of children who were abused and neglected and had no voice in the legal system. I terminated parental right of parents who should have never under any circumstances procreated. These children lived through and witnessed things that no child should. Innocence was something that was a pipe dream. I like to think I gave these children a better life or at least I sure tried. Sure, I worked for the bureaucracy, and there were aspects of my job that I despised. But the underlying purpose behind it? I was passionate and still am passionate about. I chose to leave my job for a less stressful position due to health not because I didn't think I was doing real legal work. I made next to nothing, yes. I could have made much more than I did. But I was still an attorney. A real one, too. I assure you, nothing about what I did was easy or fake. In fact, my caseload was quite large, and my job very demanding. And emotionally draining. But I was a real lawyer.
Now, working for a legal aid services agency, I love what I do. It is a passion of mine and has always been to provide legal access to people who don't have a voice. People who can't afford to hire a private attorney. People who are being taken advantage of in a very difficult situation. People who are scared, facing a legal proceeding. It's part of my oath of attorneys I took on October 20, 2006. I swore "I will not encourage either the commencement or the continuance of any action or proceeding from any motive of passion or interest; I will never reject, from any consideration personal to myself, the cause of the defenseless, the oppressed or those who cannot afford adequate legal assistance; so help me God." And I meant what I said. So that is what I do. And it doesn't make me any less of an attorney merely because I do not charge for my services or because I do not work for a private firm making money.
Some of the best attorneys I know out there are public defenders and government attorneys. It's hard work what we do. But it's rewarding.
So I guess I would just ask the next time someone says "well, he hired a real attorney rather than using a public defender" or something along those lines, stop and think. Because it's just wrong. Everyone deserves a "real" attorney, even those who can't afford one. And there is no such thing as a "real" or "not real" attorney. I am an attorney. Plain and simple.
So now that I'm off my soap box, onto lighter subjects of being an attorney...in February I will be speaking at Aubrey's daycare in front of a kindergarten class about being a lawyer. The letters of the month are K and L, and I volunteered to talk about my job since it starts with an "L." I don't think I'll be using the above speech to explain what I do. I'm thinking a little online research on explaining what I do on the level of a young child is warranted. Ideas anyone?
Thank you for listening to me complain. Hope I did not offend anyone. Or well, if I did....too bad :-)