Tuesday, November 17, 2009

I Don't Want To Be A Criminal Attorney Afterall

By Adriana Noton

I grew up wanting to be a criminal attorney. I changed my mind after my first DUI case. I went to a small unaccredited law school. This meant I could take the bar exam but I would not have the job offers graduates from ABA accredited schools would get. But that was all right. I figured I would break into criminal law somehow.

One of the drawbacks to going to a small non accredited school was limited job opportunities once I was ready to look for a law job. No large corporate law firm came to our campus located in an office building recruiting for entry level associates. But that was all right with me, I simply wanted to be able to take the bar. I would worry about finding work later.

However, the practical experience in criminal law came from working for the government. Most criminal attorneys working in the private sector started as a deputy public defender or deputy district attorney. And I was not going be able to break into that area coming from a small school. On top of that when I graduated the state had a hiring freeze because of budget constraints. About a year later however, the freeze was lifted for one opening. I interviewed and scored an 88 out of a possible 100. This was not good enough to land the only opening in a year with all the competition out there I knew.

A week later, I received a letter from the state saying that the hiring freeze was reinstated. They did not even fill the one position before putting the freeze back on. I decided to take a continuing legal education course on drunken driving defense. The course was a three day program and after the course I thought there was really nothing to it and it should be simple enough.

I ran a small ad in my local shopper after I finished the course. It cost me twenty five dollars a week. My phone started ringing off the hook. I never realized how many people get arrested for drunk driving. I went to court with my first client in the municipal court of the city I grew up in. Across the street was the college I graduated in. I had never been in their courtrooms.

There was no defense to my client's charge. As my DUI class instructor said sometimes lawyers are there simply to hold their client's hand in court. That was my job. But I wanted to go through the steps just the same. I walked over to the district attorney's desk. She was chatting with the female bailiff.

I went over to the deputy district attorney to discuss the charge and the penalty she would agree to as I learned in class. She was chatting with the female bailiff. I patiently waited for her to finish. The bailiff looked me up and down, turned her nose up and walked away. When I asked the deputy district attorney about the charge and penalty she curtly said I would find out from the judge. She said this without looking up from her files.

I was treated very politely by the female judge however. I think she probably came up the ranks of the public defenders office. My client got the basic penalty he was due and although his license was suspended for one year, I was able to allowed to drive to and from work and while he was working since driving was part of his job. But I pulled the ad from the shopper. One DUI defense was enough. One criminal case was enough for me to change my mind about criminal law. At court I felt like I was the one who was on trial not my client. But the truth of the matter is, the criminal attorney is the agent of the accused and has to know that going into not only the courtroom but into law school.

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