Tuesday, December 27, 2005

on being an attorney: how being a new PD is like being a Disney cartoon character or a drunk college kid

I didn't want to blog but I had to get that cheesey picture off the top of my page. So what occupies the thoughts of Woman of the Law?


I'm not sure how much I can blog about it. To be honest, there isn't much going on right now, which is understandable. I do have a few general observations about my own sense of what I thought criminal practice was going to be, and what it actually is. I guess my biggest observation about it right now is that I'm shocked how much it looks like my job is just to shovel shit as quickly as it gets dumped on me. A lot of it is just trying to move things along. I'm trying to guage from my peers what my role in the courtroom is, and I honestly thought the environment would be a bit nastier, a bit more acrid that it is. I really thought that it would be quite apparent that I was NOT a cog in this machine. But it's not really apparent at all, I don't think. That it isn't may actually be a really great thing. I'm not sure yet. It is important to me to be respected in the courthouse(s) in which I work, so I won't be visibly obstructionist just for the purpose of being so. However, the disrespect for other human beings in that courthouse is staggering. The way the DAs treat me as though I'm unwelcome infuriates me. To some extent, though, they're right. I'm not one of them. I don't fit in this system. I'm not here to make this system work. I'm here to make sure this flawed system doesn't pin its crushing foot on the neck of my client.

I'm getting more comfortable making 'arguments' that are actually legally irrelevant but sound good. Everyone knows I'm new anyway, so I might as well I start arguing things that are favorable for my client, and I'd rather look foolish by asking for something that is impossible or impractical than not ask for it at all. There's one judge I see frequently, and all I can say is, bless the sweet lord for patient souls like that. Also, I like to think that every time new attorneys come on, it's time to shake things up a bit. We're here for a fresh perspective, and I think it's our duty to keep that strong.

On the other hand, when I seek assistance from other attorneys, I frequently get a short, harsh, "Why are you doing that?" I'd like to chalk up all my youthful ignorance to just 'putting a fresh perspective on things' but that's probably not really true. I am just generally ignorant. Most attorneys have been practicing long enough that the way they doing things makes sense to them. I'm of the, "Why not give it a whirl?" mentality - because as long as it's not wrong, and even though it might be a waste of time, I've got plenty of time to waste. If it doesn't necessarily help but can't hurt, why the hell not try? I appreciate that each and every attorney tries to explain to me why, although it seems swell, some of the things I want to do might be legally irrelevant (see above). That type of information is generally helpful, really. Other times, I just get annoyed that the way I handle my cases depends on which attorneys are in the room. I don't have any particular individual who supervises what I do throughout the day, which is a freedom I enjoy but can sometimes be frustrating. One attorney will have one theory on my case, and rarely do two attorneys see a case identically. This often results in my progressing merrily on a case that looks like a case I've already done, so I'll go about handling it that way again, until someone stops and sternly points at me and says, "Stop being stupid." They don't really say that, but that's how I feel. Sometimes I get so turned around, trying to separate what is definite and what is just a preference for each attorney. It throws some chaos into what's already, unavoidably, a very bumpy learning process.

And now for the appropriate metaphors and similes. Let's see. It's like being Bambi, trying to get up on wobbly legs, and then trying to walk - unsuccessfully sometimes, wobbling, getting a few scrapes and bruises along the way. And then having your mother shot in front of you. (Just kidding. Ok, that's not funny. Yes, I am going to hell). OR, it's like being WASTED your freshman year in college, and you're just trying to get back to your dorm room, and somehow you've managed to trip over every tree limb or crack in the sidewalk or car parked on the side of the road, and the only way you get down the hall to your dorm room is because the walls are there for you to crash into them, left, right, left, right, as you stumble to your bed. I'm just crashing drunkenly into walls at this point. I'm really looking forward to being in bed.

And on that note, good night.


Sanchovilla said...

Ha! You are SO going to hell...but I'll be laughing about that Bambi comment for at least the next 10 mins.

Anonymous said...

I think the courtroom setting rarely has to be nasty between defense counsel and PA. You can make your points and take your stands and do it respectfully. I think it's much better to make the PA think they're doing you a favor or that the judge is screwing them over rather than have them think you "beat" them on a particular point. It makes them easier to manipulate. You can kill them with diplomacy.