“For unto whomever much is given, of him shall be much required: and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.” ~ Luke 12:48
Despite my workload, I am often called upon to speak at events to give free legal advice and educate people about their constitutional rights and protections. Whenever my schedule permits me to speak at these events I always do and I am always refreshed and inspired by the people I meet there. Sometimes, I am simply moved to offer assistance to people I see in court trying to represent himself or herself. I learned early in my career that I am cursed with caring about people. I guess that’s just payback for all the people who care about me. I’ve also learned the following:
1. There is a need for honest attorneys. I never make promises on the outcome of cases to clients. I can offer predictions of what I think would be an outcome based on my experience; however, the only promise I make is that I will do my best to get the best resolution possible. I am saddened and sometimes outraged when I hear of promises that other attorneys made to people to get their money. Not only is promising a particular outcome unethical, it could result in serious sanctions against the attorney who made the promise. Most of these attorneys think that people are not savvy enough to report them to the Bar. I make it a point to educate people on their rights concerning attorneys who have legitimately wronged them. More importantly, I work hard to not become an attorney that someone needs to be warned about.
2. I can’t save everyone, but I will still try. Over the years I have been haunted by clients who would not listen to me and take full advantage of the resolutions I worked out for him. It hurts me to see someone serve more time in jail or prison than he deserved simply because he would not listen. I recently was asked by a prosecutor to speak to a self-represented male in court to try to help him. The prosecutor was willing to offer the male credit for time served to resolve his case but the male would not be quiet long enough for the prosecutor to convey the offer to him. He kept speaking out and blamed everyone except himself for his situation. I tried for 20 minutes to speak to him and get him to calm down before I finally gave up. He went to jail that day to serve 10 days when he could have gone home if he would have been quiet and listened to what we were trying to tell him. After he left, the prosecutor and I worked out a deal where he would be released from jail the following day.
3. First do no harm. When meeting with potential clients, I always tell them that I refuse to take their money unless I can help them. I’ve seen other attorneys take money from clients and then get them worse offers than they had with the public defenders. I might not be able to help a person, but I certainly will not make their situation worse.
Some days I get overwhelmed by the demands of the work and constantly dealing with people’s problems. On days like that, I just try to remember that my caring is a curse and a blessing that requires me to rise to the challenge of helping people make their situations better.