Life of a Public Defender

Currently, I am preparing to enter my first jury trial period. The trial period occurs once every month and lasts approximately two weeks. This month I have scheduled six of my own trials to be heard, and am sitting second chair on nine others. It does not take a genius to realize that it is completely impossible for all fifteen of these trials to go forward. Especially when one takes into account the fact that the other two APDs in my division have set approximately ten trials, and there are private trials competing for time, as well.

I have non-jury trial experience, so I am not terrified of the prospect of preparing myself for trial. Nonetheless, I have not done a criminal jury-trial before and do not have the slightest clue how to proceed. Fortunately, I work in an amazing office with some talented attorneys who are very available for my numerous questions, yet I am still nervous. The reason for my nerves is coming from the fact that my first trial is done with my supervisor as my second chair, and I have not seen how our division runs jury selection. Oh, and I have two suppression hearings to combat prior to trials starting…

This is what I went to law school for, though. There is a huge part of me that inner nerdy, The Good Wife-wannabe part that is jumping up and down with excitement at the prospect of having one or two jury trials under my belt by the end of September! ARE YOU KIDDING ME!? There is no way I could have imagined I would be here even a few months ago. I was miserable. I hated life. I did not want to wake up in the morning. I was in an endless cycle of work-sleep-work-sleep. I enjoyed being in the courtroom, I enjoyed my bench trials, I enjoyed my daily interactions with my co-workers; yet, I had a constant feeling of being thrown under the bus. I was afraid that I would be disbarred for a senior partner’s error or failure to train me properly because I knew (through seeing it happen to colleagues who were let go before me) that there was no great loyalty toward employees and the moment the decision to let you go was made – you were an easy target to lay blame upon.

I go into work now knowing that I have the support of my supervisors, my colleagues are not looking for the next opportunity to stab me in the back, and so far I genuinely enjoy going to work each day because I work inside the courthouse! Now, there are things that are scary about being in a new position, don’t get me wrong… it isn’t all rainbows and butterflies! I am the “new girl”. I do have a very, very sharp learning curve. It is not fun feeling lost, or not knowing the answer to most of your questions, especially when I was becoming the “go-to” person at my former position. Starting back at square one is daunting. There are moments when I stare blankly at my computer screen hoping that the right answer will magically reveal itself. Shockingly, this has been very ineffective.

Nonetheless, I would not change the events of the last few months for anything. God put me through the hell of losing my job to teach me several lessons. I learned that I can handle a lot more stress than I ever thought possible. I learned the importance of showing loyalty to your employees, not just to the company. I learned the value of valuing your employees. I learned perseverance. I learned that I will not compromise my values for money. I learned to appreciate every experience as a learning opportunity. And, most importantly, I learned humility.

Being fired is a humbling experience. No one thinks it will happen to them. No one wants it to happen to them. Heck, I had the most wins in my division for the time I was there and felt pretty darn great about my level of ability while I was there… maybe too good about it. The way I started to think about myself as a litigator was not entirely the type of litigator I want to become – my head was getting to big for my own good. Now, I was still taking advice from my superiors and learning from others, yet – if I’m being honest – I was picking and choosing whose advice I took. I cannot believe I allowed myself to become that person – a person I hardly recognized. I did not like what I was becoming and I am so thankful to God for making the decision to get me out of the toxic environment.

Becoming a public defender was the obvious choice, it was my original dream that I gave up because of my student loan debt. Yet, due to God’s plan, He had it all figured out! I was able to have free housing if a PD job opened up in my desired city… turned out, there was an immediate opening! I was called in for an interview, the job was offered and the rest, well, you’ve been reading about for three weeks.

This new adventure is going to be a rollercoaster for sure… add in the wedding planning and you know this will surely be a journey you do not want to miss out on! One way or another, we are going to make this all work out… $250,000 in student loan debt, $7,000 in credit card debt, a dog to bring back from the Great North as soon as I find an apartment, a wedding, and I’m scared to even type this… babies in the next 18 months, perhaps? How will we make it through all of this craziness without sharing it with all of you???

You know I never could!


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