Well, I've been a Defense Attoney for a few weeks now, and I've come to realize that there was some merit to what Mark Bennett (who is for some reason claiming this blog is humorless) said when he pointed out that former prosecutors becoming members of the Defense Bar are starting out as rookies. Here are just a couple of things that I've noticed over the past couple of weeks:
1. Prosecutors just think that they hate the CJC Elevators-yes, that morning commute from the 4th or 5th floor up to your court in the morning can often last longer than your commute into work from, oh, say, Katy, but if a prosecutor remembers all their materials, they only have to make one trip up and one trip down. Defense Attorneys have to hop on and off of elevators all freaking morning long. That brings us up close and personal with Stupid Elevator People much more often than the State.
For those of you who would encourage my cigarette smoking butt to try the stairs every once in awhile, I do try when we aren't talking about climbing from the 9th floor to the 18th floor. However, damn Murphy's Law has been in play lately. Every time I've taken the stairs, it seems that the particular door on the particular floor I need is locked.
2. It is Amazing that a former Prosecutor who has tried Capital Murder cases can't figure out how to fill out a voucher- honestly, trying to fill out vouchers in the District Courts has made me feel like the slow kid in a 3rd grade art class. Seriously, it's just one sheet of paper with not all that much to fill out, but for some reason that's incredibly confusing when you are starting out. Special thanks go out to 177th coordinator Vickie Long, as well as defense attorney Lori Gooch for taking the time to explain the vouchers to me without breaking into tears of frustration once.
3. Speaking of Court Coordinators-I don't think I ever realized as a prosecutor how over-worked these poor folks are. When you are the prosecutor in a court, you just sign a reset and go back to work dealing with other defense attorneys. You never really pay attention to what happens after that. If you paid more attention, you would notice the herd of defense attorneys who have piled up in front of the coordinator's desk and are chirping for their resets.
The court coordinator is like a "den mother" to a group of spoiled children who all want his or her attention at once. After standing in line for a reset a couple of time, its a wonder that more attorneys haven't been shot to death in open court by a coordinator who has taken all he or she can take.
They really deserve to be commended for the jobs they do every day without killing any of us.
4. The HCCLA is a Very Impressive Organization-the first check I wrote from The Law Offices of Murray Newman went to my membership dues with the Harris County Criminal Lawyers Assocation (headed by the humorless President, Mark Bennett). All day long, you see defense attorneys helping other defense attorneys with complex legal and logistical issues (and there are alot of them). They also show the same sense of camaraderie that I enjoyed so much with the D.A.'s Office. It is beyond me why any criminal defense attorney in Harris County wouldn't want to join HCCLA.
5. Going through the Metal Detectors Sucks-I will say that I sincerely miss having the ability to bypass those damn metal detectors. I can just feel the Wackenhut people undressing me with their eyes when I am taking off my belt and boots every morning (just kidding). Actually going through the metal detectors isn't so bad if you get a formula down, and learn the secret ways to avoiding the lines. (HINT: entry through any building other than the CJC is helpful).
6. The Job of Prosecutor and Defense Attorney is much more similar than one would think- the thing I loved the most about being a prosecutor was helping victims of crime. There was a profound feeling of doing something important when meeting with the victim's family on a murder case, or the surviving members of an aggravated sexual assault, robbery, or assault and telling them you would do everything in your power on their cases.
By analogy, the same thing happens when you meet with your client for the first time. As a prosecutor, I had become very used to the "tough guy" posturing of so many Defendants in the holdover cells whenever I was asked to come back to talk to them. It's different as a Defense Attorney. The Defendants back there are more scared and desperate for help than anything else.
And they are looking to their Defense Attorney to help them. The felling of saying that you will do everything in your power to help them is also a profound feeling of doing something important. I think the thing that prosecutors and defense attorneys have in common (regardless of what side of counsel table they are sitting on) is the desire to help others.
And finally . . .
7. Yes, the Stress Level is Definitely Better-as I've told plenty of people the past couple of weeks, that I'm not financially prepared to buy that house in the Hamptons quite yet, but the stress level decrease is really remarkable. I don't know if it is the smaller caseload or the not having to keep a timesheet, but I'm feeling much less stress and tension than I've felt in ten years. I'm working just as hard (if not harder) running back and forth and figuring out the logistics, but for whatever reason, it just feels like less worry. I didn't really expect that as much when leaving the D.A.'s Office, but it is the truth.
I will keep you posted as more thoughts develop . . .