As a public defender, there are people I represent… and people I don’t usually get to represent.
These are some of the people I serve.
I call them the Damsels in Distress.
They get screwed (figuratively or literally) by their families. Their boyfriends steal their money and break their hearts. Their best friends betray them and steal their boyfriends. Children’s Aid wants to apprehend their kids. The police and prosecutors want to convict and sentence them. And it sometimes seems to them that the only person willing to listen to them and help them… is me.
They’re not all angels. Believe me, they’re not. They are not actually thankful or appreciative. In the years since I’ve become a lawyer, I can count on two hands the times some of them said “thank you” to me.
But that’s not why I do it. I don’t do it for their appreciation. There is no prestige in what I do, that’s for sure. I certainly don’t do it for the money. Public defenders are the lowest paid of all lawyers. Despite what some arrogant, ignorant people may say, public defenders are not awash in the princely sums lavished upon us by the Legal Aid system.
I do it for the same reason that I can’t just sit in my deck chair sipping margaritas while watching an unsupervised toddler waddle precariously at the edge of a swimming pool. And should the tiny little terror fall in, I can’t sit there and say, “Well… I COULD help the little squirt. I just don’t want to.”
I do it because it is the right thing to do.