Saturday, October 15, 2005

Being a Lawyer: The First Week

The most important part of this week for me to share is that I'm deliriously happy. I love my class. I love my job. I love my new city. I'm not so excited about my office assignment - the commute may be prohibitive. But the office is great, the attorneys are great, I got to meet some judges and see the bowels of the courthouse and criminal justice system, I have some great people (we're a small group) assigned to my office as well.

There are already some political snafus, but overall, I'm so excited. And I am so proud of us. It's such a great group of fun, smart, dedicated new attorneys, fresh faces and boundless energy, chomping at the bit to get going. I'm so proud to be part of a great group of new attorneys in my own office - they're incredibly friendly, super nice, and even though we're all pissed about the commute, I think ultimately we're all going to love it.

The world of indigent defense is a small world, indeed. I ran into people I knew last summer, or people who know people that I know, people I may have even worke don cases with before. Most of us have friends or acquiantances in common, and it's unbelievable how small the public defender community feels.

I'm already hitting a few touchy areas about my own background. For instance, the name of my law school has others drawing inferences with which I'm not comfortable. I don't know for sure, but I think it makes some people feel uncomfortable. One of my new buddies and I got in an argument about who knows how to party. We went to law school not too far, and he said, "Don't you tell me that your law school knows how to party! I don't go up into your library and say, "Ooooh, I study soooo much!" And I was really left at a loss. People are drawing conclusions about my abilities and my personal experiences based solely on the name of my law school, and it is a sore subject for me. One of my best friends from law school comes from a similar background as I, and we've had intense conversations about how it feels, how we think other people regard us, how it changes how we regard other people. It's very upsetting to me, and I guess I can't really explain why or how. The guy with whom I had this conversation went to law school near me, and he loved that I described my law school geographically, instead of by name. I do that because so many people come from this area and went to law school in this area that I try to explain that I'm sorta new to it. However, the other girl with us said, "Why bother? You assume that I care where you went to law school. You assume it makes a difference to me. It doesn't." And I was so glad she said that. I can't stand it when people are shallow, and particularly in this job, I want people to see what drives me to do this work, and what my individual strengths and undeveloped skills are right now. One of my friends from law school, not a public defender, said to me, "You went to a great law school. Deal with it." I suppose that's true too. I went to the law school because of its prestige; its name opened doors for me that would have otherwise been unavailable; I can't now pretend like it means nothing.

About 6 times today, I grinned like a fool and squealed, "I can't believe I live here! I can't believe I'm really a public defender! I can't believe how happy I am!!" Life is good. And as my dad said, if the only thing going wrong for me is my long commute, then life is pretty good. That's the truth.

Once I get into more substantive training and start taking cases, I'm going to be a wreck - I've never actually represented someone in court before! But for now, with just HR forms and beer and getting familiar with my new digs, I'm lovin' life.


Blonde Justice said...

The longer you work, the less and less your law school name becomes important. It's kind of like the first week of law school, when people are concerned with where everyone went to undergrad and what their lsat scores were - a few weeks later, you can't remember who went where and you can't remember your own lsat score.

Within a few weeks, your new identity will be public defender, not whatever-school grad. When you meet people and tell them what you do, they'll be much more interested in your work than where you went to law school.

Blonde Justice said...

Oh, and what kind of political snafus?

womanofthelaw said...

inter-office snafus regarding office assignments, who was allowed to switch, who isn't, etc. and what type of 'reputation' each office has. It's been so long since I worked full time, I forgot what these things are like.

Anonymous said...

"We went to law school not too far, and he said, "Don't you tell me that your law school knows how to party! I don't go up into your library and say, "Ooooh, I study soooo much!" Huh?

Just tell them where you went to undergrad; that should make them feel more comfortable.

"What their LSAT scores were"--wow, what school was that at?

womanofthelaw said...

that was supposed to read, "We went to law school not to far apart." for some reason the computer keeps dropping entire words and phrases.

Anonymous said...

I'm kind of surprised by the school thing. I haven't noticed that too much. More so when I summered where law students always asked about that but now that I'm working at a firm I don't hear about schools at all. It's about doing the work right. Plus my firm had a few top five school students not get offers because of work issues. Maybe they're getting over it. I hope so because once the doors are supposedly opened, it comes down to a lot more than the school on the resume.

I'm going to try to take your dad's commute advice. My commute is terrible and it colors my whole day. Getting there is tough and I know when I leave it's going to be more of the same. I'll keep repeating to myself your dad's comment. He's right.

Sanchovilla said...

I have a great MS Word program that let's me print out my very own law school diploma. It's great! It really allows for more "flexibility" in impressing the ladies.

Okay. I'm an idiot.

I know it's easy for me to say but don't be ashamed of where you went to school. I have friends that went to small law schools in California and Idaho and even an unaccredited school in CA. Two of them have worked as public defenders for the last 7 years (very successfully) and one just started working as a new attorney at the Cochran firm in los angeles.

Just be the best attorney you know you can be for you and your clients. Fuck everyone else.

Oh yeah, CONGRATS again!

Blonde Justice said...

Well, I assumed people talked about LSAT scores at some law schools. They didn't at mine, but I think I read a book where that happened.

Anyway - my point was - once everyone has their own cases to worry about (and great stories to tell) all of this stuff will be old news.

notguilty said...

I'm so excited for you. Remember, other people like drama and its sort of sad when the only drama they can create is about what law school you went to.

Keep almost hooking up with co-workers and you'll get REAL drama.

notguilty said...

P.S. You will probably always feel like an imposter. I still do. In a way, its the pretending that makes you good at what you do. Remember, the best actors are those that convince the audience that they actually are who they portray. Just keep telling yourself you're a good attorney, make sure you know your lines, and break a leg.

wordnerd said...

Ah, that'S SO wonderful! Am very happy that the wait was worth it. Take the time to enjoy that first period where everything is SO scary, exciting and fun.

Really happy for you!

Gideon's Guardians said...

don't worry about the law school thing in two weeks, you'll be so involved in case and so will your co workers you'll be talking about trials and not the past. Congrats on the job and welcome to the wild world of public defending. janet