Dealing with: "Are you a real lawyer?" question
On the other hand, who wants to pay lots of extra money to get your hand held by some dude who is so bad that they're always asking the PDs in the courtroom not just how the judge is but how to do simple procedures?
Bottom line is that although I wish to avoid generalizations, I have noticed that a few of the PDs most offended at being called a public pretender or not a real lawyer are also the ones who perhaps most deserve criticism for not exuding confident professionalism.
Perhaps I'm just lucky, but after the hundreds and hundreds of clients (maybe I'm up to a thousand), nobody has gotten past the initial 'are you a real lawyer? ' thing. Maybe it has something to do with confidence. Guess what, if you are a real lawyer, you're not going to argue with your poor client about what they call you!
Let me set the scene. A client sees you and makes a comment demonstrating how they are unsure if you, a PD can help them.
Bad PDs think: 'why do I want to help this a-hole, who committed a crime and now wants to give me flack for trying to help his poor ass?'
Good PDs think: 'hmm, this would be a tad offensive to a lesser lawyer, but no more than the crime that this person committed. I have a thick skin because I am confident enough in my constitutional role to stand up and defend people who have often done things that I personally disagree with. In order for me to help this person, I need to succinctly explain to them my role.'
I spend less than a minute explaining my role, if necessary, and then demonstrate my comptency with my actions, not with fighting words. I'd say 'yes Mr. X, I am a lawyer. I decided to become a public defender because I believe that the amount of justice that a person receives should not be determined by the amount of money that the person has. Now, what is going on with your case?'
C'mon, the client who asks this question is often scared or worried and lacks the social skills to adequately ask about or even evaluate the level of service and effort that they are receiving. I bet that most clients are thinking that, perhaps because of the many bad PDs that we know of that they may have experienced. They are basically asking 'are you lazy and going to screw me because of it?'
Isn't that a natural question? I am a little more worried about the clients who don't ask because I know that they are placing their trust in me. Do I deserve their trust? I try. I have to appear confident.
Was I a great attorney when I first started? Well, I won my first few jury trials. But then I lost. Would I lose this trial now? Probably not. I might have planned it and done better or I probably would have convinced the client to plea.
Why do I think that is the best reaction to a person who questions you? Showing that you care about listening to the client, work hard for them, prove that you do a good job is the best answer.
Geez, this little comment turned into a rant. I think I'll post this on my site now!