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My Job-y Job

September 6, 2007

I work as a paralegal in a family law office. The office has one attorney, one other paralegal and a part time candy scented teenager who answers the phones and pretends to “do work”.

My job requires me to strike a balance between the highly emotional lives of people in crisis and the muddily mundane Justice System. I almost always get pulled into the drama and think maybe that’s why I don’t crave drama in my life outside of work.

At times my job is greatly rewarding. At times it sucks. Both the reward and teh suk typically come out of my interaction with clients. I fall in love with some of my clients. I engage in huge amounts of counter-transference . I really enjoy listening to my clients talk about their lives, giving them advice, helping them cope with whatever craziness they are going through. I am fiercely loyal and will go toe-to-toe with any opposing attorney (or even my own boss) to do what’s right by them. I am a more self-aware person for having worked with them.

Some of the folks I work with are a bit more challenging. They are so caught up in what’s being “done to them” (a lawsuit) that they loose sight of the big picture. They get extremely paranoid and refuse to trust anyone including those they are paying to fight for their interests – my boss and me. They are highly demanding yet scrutinize every 10 dollar charge on their bill. They take everything personally.

For me, the worst clients are those whose moral and ethical beliefs do not line up with mine or some version of mine. This is why I could never be an attorney – I have a very difficult time defending someone who I know is not behaving in a moral or ethical way.

For example, I have a client who hired us to appeal his dissolution of marriage. During the dissolution trial the Judge made some technical errors and in addition based a custody decision solely on the hearsay testimony of a third party. Essentially, the Judge took the man’s children away from him because when he was 19 he was convicted of and served prison time for corporal punishment (this was the third party hearsay testimony).

My boss fought hard and won the appeal which gave us the ability to go back in front of the trial court and plead for our client to get (at least shared) custody of his children.

I was heartbroken and disgusted.

Now, most people would say:

“Meh. Corporal punishment is just spanking a kid, right?”.

Yes.

“So why take his kids away because he spanked a kid back when he was 19?”

Because in this case the charge of corporal punishment was a plea down deal.

Through some research, I found that he was initially charged with lewd and lascivious on a minor. From what I understand, my client, nineteen at the time, was living with his girlfriend who had a child, an infant. There was an “incident” and the baby was taken to the local emergency room. The evidence indicates that the infant presented with “fellatio syndrome”. It chills me to even type that. He did THIS** to a baby! How could I help this man get his children back?

Interestingly, he never did. After he won the appeal he “couldn’t come up with the money” to go back to the trial court with an attorney so he was going to move forward on his own. Nothing has been done on his case since. He has made no attempt, as far as I know, to see his children.

Honestly, I expected nothing less. This is a man who would call his ex-wife a bitch and a whore to my face. This is a man who was having a private investigator follow his ex-wife and children despite the fact that there was domestic violence injunction in place preventing him from having contact with her, third party or otherwise. He is obsessed with her. In turn, I fear for her. And loathe him.

But, he owes us money. So, every month I get to call and listen to his sleazy voicemail greeting and leave a message for him to call me about his bill. Knowing that he never will makes me feel much better.

for housekeeping purposes – i do believe that there were technical errors made by the trial court, including allowing hearsay testimony about the abuse.  however, that doesn’t change the fact that i think the abuse is relevant and wish the evidence could have been introduced in an error free way.  also, when asked about the abuse the client has always either denied it by saying simply that his girlfriend at the time was a “crazy bitch” that couldn’t take care of her kid or brushed it off by suggesting that since the offence was over 15 years ago and he served his time, that it should be irrelevant.

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