I’m about a week and a half from starting my last year of law school (whoo hoo!). Since the day I took the LSAT (like 6 years ago) people have been asking me what kind of law do I want to go into. I don’t like answering that question. Mainly because I don’t have a definite answer, partially because I think it’s a way for people to judge how much money they think you stand to make. Besides, the vast majority of people have no idea what the profession is like on a career level besides Ally McBeal, The Practice, Law & Order and Judge Judy.
It is that time, though, to start narrowing it down. Sometimes, when I put all my career options onto little slips of paper, put them in a hat and pull one out, I end up with defense attorney. Criminal defense. Not necessarily public defender, but it’s an option too. Based on my own personal politics and interest in the law, I find defense work more interesting and challenging than prosecution. I can get beyond defending drug dealers, rapists and baby killers, really I can. You should be glad that I can because, like it or not, someone has to. What irks me the most though, is how people vilify the defense attorney for doing his/her job.
As I’ve mentioned before, I watch The Practice all of the time. You know, the Darren Starr drama focused on a growing criminal defense firm. One thing that always happens in nearly every episode is someone blowing up at the attorney for doing what they’re supposed to do. For instance, I just watched an episode where Eugene (my boo) had to defend a Rabbi accused of raping a woman. Now, turns out that the Rabbi really is rapist material, but still… the way it works is that a defense attorney has to provide a zealous and complete defense for his client. Period. Not because he thinks that person is innocent or because he really likes rapists, but because he is ethically bound to do so. If he doesn’t, then he loses his job. Point blank. Period. Really, it takes a strong commitment, dedication and sense of honor to be able to do that shit.
Anyway, Eugene ends up getting the guy off (because he’s my boo) and the accuser’s brother makes an Olympic-qualifying leap over the railing separating the public from the lawyers, defendant, jury and judge. He lunges like a rabid animal but is quickly bumrushed by the baliffs. Screaming, he points at Eugene and says something like, “I was coming for YOU, not him (meaning Rabbi the Rapist)!”
WTF? Really? Dude, I’m just doing my job. I know that’s not a comforting answer to you if your sister’s rapist just got to go free. But really, what would you have me do? Choose another line of work altogether? Well that’s just ridiculous. What if all of the defense attorneys in the country just quit? I’d like to see how you’d take that when the police picked you up on some bullshit charge or when you end up in the wrong place at the wrong time and some white lady is dead. Who you gonna call?
In another episode, an old man hit Eugene over the head with his cane, sending my boo to the hospital for stitches. DAMN! I’m just doing my job!
For all of the guilty clients a defense lawyer represents, there are the innocent ones. There are the ones who deserve a second chance. There are overzealous District Attorneys, renegade cops and power-drunk judges who need to be checked. That’s what drives a person who practices criminal defense. That, and knowing that our justice system (however flawed) could not operate without them.
Really tho, get your emotions in check yo. Don’t be mad at the defense attorney for being GOOD at what they do. Be mad at the lack of evidence or the district attorney who couldn’t shoulder the burden of proof. Try juror #4 who was looking at the attorney’s calves instead of paying attention to testimony. Blame the devil, I don’t know. Just don’t shoot the messenger.
*picks another career out of the hat*