“Make a career of humanity. Commit yourself to the noble struggle for equal rights. You will make a greater person of yourself, a greater nation of your country, and a finer world to live in.” ~Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.
Last month a colleague, who I also considered a friend, ended her life. Despite attending her funeral and saying goodbye, her death still does not seem real. I could always count on her to listen and offer advice on a trial and I miss her greatly.
I remember first meeting her when I started at the Public Defender. There were many late nights and weekends where I would see her in the office working on a case set for trial while I did the same. She was amazing in trial and always went above and beyond to do her best to defend her clients. I remember one case in particular where she bought clothes for her client to wear during the trial. She wanted her clients to have the best chance possible of getting a fair trial, even if it meant spending her money and time to make that possible. She made trials look effortless and often won. I also remember how hard it was for her when she lost a case. It would take her days, sometimes weeks to recover.
My defense attorney friends and I often talk about how much easier it must be to prosecute instead of defend clients. As a defense attorney, I bond with my clients and I want the best outcome possible for them. When they take my advice and we get a good outcome it feels awesome; however, when they don’t listen and get a bad outcome I take it really hard. I put a lot of effort and time into preparing their cases for resolution and pour my heart into my work for them. This work can take a toll on you emotionally and physically if you let it.
When I told former clients of mine about her death they reminded me that they are grateful for the work I did for them and apologized if working on their cases left me emotionally drained. I thanked them for their kind words but also reminded them that I don’t consider it work when I do something that I love. Like my friend, I consider it to be a calling to defend people and be their advocate when everyone else is against them. I strive to treat my clients the way I would want to be treated if the situation was reversed. My friend’s death is a reminder to me to take time to recharge and rest when I need it but also a reminder of how important it is to be a great advocate and do my best to defend those who need defending.