This week was very different than my first few weeks at the Public Defender’s Office. As per my last blog post, I made a shift from working on state misdemeanors to juvenile abuse and neglect cases. I’m in a strange place right now where I don’t dislike what I’m doing, per say, but I’m not enjoying it.
Going into this internship, I was unsure whether or not I wanted to go to law school. In the first few days and weeks, I was certain that I would. And now, after four weeks, I’ve realized that I might be wrong. I don’t know if this is for me.
…Or is it that criminal law isn’t for me?
The fact of the matter is, working with child abuse and neglect cases is tough. Misdemeanors are tough, too, but for different reasons. Misdemeanor court is a “plea mill” — everyone is just trying to get a lesser sentence or charge. Not many cases go to a bench trial, let alone a jury. It’s not a matter of whether or not someone was operating a vehicle while intoxicated — it’s whether or not they can get the High BAC charge dropped as well. It’s hard to feel like you’re making that much of a difference.
Child abuse and neglect is obviously difficult for different reasons. We work to have mothers terminated for every kind of abuse you could think of. This division includes driving all over Michigan for home visits to children who are victims of incest, physical abuse, and a broken system. It may be easier to feel like we’re doing what’s right in these cases, but it’s so much harder to witness firsthand. It’s deeply uncomfortable.
So maybe I’m not cut out for criminal defense. Maybe I’d have better luck with civil law, or divorce law, or tax law, insurance law, entertainment law…? Maybe a JD could lead me to a job in policymaking, or somewhere in politics. All I know is that I’m trying to learn how to be comfortable with being uncomfortable in these last few weeks with the Public Defender’s Office. Whether I stay with juvenile abuse/neglect or if I move back to misdemeanors, I’m hoping for a moment of clarity somewhere down the road.