I've spent countless hours in Nashville's juvenile court; thankfully, not as an alleged criminal. The place somehow always managed to be hot and sweaty despite the change of seasons, and the folks you'd find there were often questionable at best. "If you're lookin' into the dating scene, this probably ain't the best place to start," was how the attorney I interned for put it. The first time I went there with him, I asked for a rundown of his case as we walked through the security check. "It's near closing," he began. He struggled momentarily to remove his foot from his Oxfords. "Child abuse; the kid's about seven. He'd accused the babysitter of…" His foot finally popped out and he stumbled backwards: "...touching him." I paused, more than a little disgusted, only able to muster out a quiet "I see." It came to me again that we were the defense. I shivered. It was then, at the beginning of my internship, that I began to wonder whether or not law was right for me - not only in the sense of the investment needed for schooling, but also in its moral implications.
"It was then, at the beginning of my internship, that I began to wonder whether or not law was right for me - not only in the sense of the investment needed for schooling, but also in its moral implications."
- Anna N.
The office itself was a small, general practice with five defense attorneys, each their own manager. The attorney I followed around the most had work that ranged from suing companies for not putting up those CAUTION: WET FLOOR signs to rather heinous crimes I'd rather not think too hard about. While we weren't drafting motions or researching legal precedents, we'd often talk about philosophy. I asked if he always believed his clients. "The guilt'd kill me otherwise," he said. I didn't press him further, but I still hold some doubts about his honesty. After scouring evidence and making calls, it's often difficult to find even a speck of credibility in some clients; those were cases solved using "legalese" loopholes to our advantage. It felt a bit under-the-rug.
The truth is a difficult thing to pin. Ideally, one would be all for using the law as a means to uncover it. However, it became apparent to me that the law's successes came from struggle rather than some smooth course of action. For example, during one trial, I witnessed what I'd imagined only happened on television court dramas: an utterly incompetent lawyer. As I listened to the sweaty man ramble, I saw the plaintiff slowly sink. I felt something only describable as visceral pity pass over me. Even the most honest of men could enter a courtroom confidently and leave utterly defeated, given the right (or wrong) kind of defense.
"Even the most honest of men could enter a courtroom confidently and leave utterly defeated, given the right (or wrong) kind of defense."
- Anna N.
After all this, why law? I want to be the right kind of defense: the kind that people can respect for skill and fairness, and that this legal system desperately needs to thrive. Once I'm done with school, I wish to pursue a career in cyber or immigration law. It is to be expected that cyber law, as it pertains to security, will continue to evolve. In the case that I do decide to dedicate myself to immigration instead, my work would be more directly interpersonal; the fruits of my labor would be more immediately apparent. With cyber security, however, the efforts I make are more likely to ripple out as precedents for future legislation. With either path, I'd feel the contentment of knowing I've made a difference in the world, and that's the key to my interest. I understand that a career path like mine tends not to be the first thing one thinks of regarding "giving back to the community," but I do believe that the knowledge and skill of a good attorney has the potential to bring hope to dark places.
- Anna N.