The Joy of Working with Joy #4

Throughout my internship at the Washtenaw County of the Public Defender, I have been working with Attorney S. Joy Gaines. During this internship, Joy has not only shown me what a great lawyer looks like, but that I too am capable of being a lawyer in the future.

I think what people say about someone when they are not around, tells a lot. In Joy’s case, people cannot stop raving about her. Truthfully, the first day we met Joy, another attorney called her the, “Beyoncé of law.” However, I was a little skeptical. I never doubted Joy, but people spoke of her in an almost intimidating way. Yet, anyone who meets Joy will quickly observe that she is quite soft-spoken and always laughing. After a few trips to court, I quickly learned why Joy is the “Beyoncé of law.”

Her advocacy style does not align with popular depictions of lawyers in the media. Joy is kind, thoughtful, and thorough. Rather than attempt to bully as most people think lawyers do, Joy sticks to the facts, asks the right questions, and crafts strategic defenses. In other words, she is a good attorney and she wins.

What I’ve also come to appreciate about Joy, is that she wants to make more good attorneys. After court, she takes time to answer our questions, explain her defenses, and discuss why she think the judges ruled the way they did. From this I have learned a lot about thinking like a lawyer and checking my own perception of what it means to be a lawyer.

Honestly, I had never met a lawyer prior to this internship. So, like many people, most of my “knowledge” about lawyers came from media portrayals. Therefore, I thought that I was going to have to toughen-up a bit before law school and prepare to become a shark. Joy has taught me that is simply not the case.

I have come to learn that you can be kind and be an attorney. There are definitely sharks in the courtroom, but that is not the majority. Joy has taught me that all it takes to be a good attorney is to be smart, diligent, and genuinely care. That I can do.

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