Thursday, February 09, 2006

Who are those people?

In my years of working in criminal courts all over this great nation, what sort of people have I defended? First, aren't they criminals? Well, I never represent a person guilty of the charge they rae facing, well except for sentencing, post-conviction motions, and appeals. After all, they aren't guilty until I help them plea or lose at trial. But I have represented a good number of truly innocent people, caught up by police wrongfully accusing them because the police are lazy and the person looks guilty on a facile examination.

But seriously, most of my clients are criminals (from before), and all of them are poor (or faking because they know how expensive hiring a private is). There are some things common to these people. They are often uneducated. Predominantly minority. Many people from other countries, usually third world. Don't get me wrong, there are sometimes 18 year old white boys from the suburbs who get in trouble and I see them.

Sometimes clients don't want to listen, until I show them that I care. Sometimes they are too deferential and won't make decisions themselves, until I show them what their options are and tell them how I can't decide for them, I can only advise.

Another generalization: Those who break society's rules and get caught are often not too bright. If they were successful, they wouldn't be my clients. On those lines, they are often either below intelligence or they have mental illness. Many have substance abuse problems, often in conjunction with low IQ or mental illness.

On the other hand, plenty of young men, particularly those involved in the drug trade, are quite cunning and street smart. They have no problem understanding things. Even if the language they choose is different, we can converse as equals about many legal concepts. These people, in a different environment, would have flourished.

So, many clients are selfish, they think mainly of themselves. When I have time to delve, I can usually discover that they feel they've been wronged in their lives before, abandoned by others. So they often have a victim mentality, some of them cannot take responsiblity. Others are focused extensively on others and their needs, sometimes to their own detriment.

All I can do for most is make a sad situation a little more clear. I can be there for them. In trying to do this, I have also discovered a great many people who have insight into their problems, and helped them gain some. For example, the drug addict that wants to improve, but lacks the ability to do so. God knows jail isn't going to help.

The best thing about these people is the thanks that they give me. They seem to know that I am not getting much for this, that I work hard for them, and even if they have many other things messed up, they know to say 'good job, I appreciated your help' for my efforts, even as I apologize for not doing more. That's quite rewarding. It movtivates me to do more. Sure, many can't give a flying fig about help I give them, until they get in trouble again, but I am always pleased when I get true, heartfelt praise from my clients. Sometimes it means a lot because I know that nobody has ever really done anything for them, so they are doubly appreciative that I, a complete stranger, care for them. I need to keep that in mind next time I'm overworked and want to snap at a client who is far too slow on the uptake for me.


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