Musings on fear and responsibility

Posted on July 3, 2013

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Next month, at the beginning of the fall semester, I start work in a legal clinic. The clinic is exactly the type of work I hope to do once I am a full-fledged attorney. It’s neither easy nor thankless work, and with it comes a kind of responsibility I’ve never carried so directly before. It will be my job to help clients who by the nature of their need for that help are having a Major Life Crisis, or at least a Really Shitty Month.

It will be my job to make sure that the justice system gives them what’s fairly coming to them (or at least what the law says is coming to them) without trampling their Constitutional rights in the process.

Sure, in the clinic I’ll be supervised, but the clients will be stuck with what they’ve got. Me. And yes, many of them will be Bad Guys or Assholes, and most of them will have Fucked Up Majorly,, but even Bad Guys have rights, and everyone makes mistakes, has bad judgment, and may occasionally do the wrong thing. And get caught.

My mom doesn’t get it. I think maybe because she watches too much news. Constitutional protections for criminals also protect the wrongfully accused. A public defender (or any criminal defense attorney) does not have the job of “helping the bad guys get off.” Rather, the defense’s job is to make sure that the prosecution does their job fairly and within the rules.

The thing is, it means I’m putting my hand in the mouth of Fenris. Others are depending on me–the clients, and their families. Because even assholes are people with families they care about, most of the time, and who may depend on them. And having a stranger depend on me like that is kind of scary. Maybe even a little terrifying. Because I might know more than the client, but I know enough to know I may not know enough.

I just hope I know enough to help.

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Posted in: Law, Uncategorized