Monday, September 11, 2006

"You can usually spot these imposters right away. Most of them are dressed inappropriately for court."

Juvie Journal vents about public pretenders in a recent post. The post rails against lawyers failing to appreciate the consequences of taking an "it's only juvenile court" attitude in juvenile cases. The focus is public defenders, but, I think, it really applies to any attorney who thinks they can "wing" an appearance in juvenile court.

The stakes in juvenile court are no longer small. "Get tough on crime" has morphed into "get tough on kids" without any regard for the fact that kids are just different than adults but they are now facing lifelong consequences in many cases. Our best juvenile court defense attorneys in Minnesota are public defenders, without a doubt. Most of the local private defense bar will refer well-heeled parents to our office rather than take a juvenile court case (which brings up the issue of whether public defenders should be representing kids of parents with resources to hire counsel - since the kid is the client, we should be on these cases so the client has an advocate independant of the wishes of the parent).

I liked the way the writer (who is, based on a response to a comment on her post, also a public defender) indentified dress and appearance as an indicator of an attorney failing to understand the importance of what they do. There are some attorneys that are incredibly brilliant legal minds and great with clients but they undercut their effectiveness by looking ridiculous.

I am completely sensitive to the fact that we make very little money to spend on clothes, precious haircuts, and whatever other fancy accessories pretty people wear. After housing and student loans there isn't a lot left at the end of the month to replace a suit with one that isn't worn in the knee. I'm no fashion plate so I'm hesitant to even raise this issue due to the risk of being labeled a hypocrite.

But, just dress as well as you can. Wear a clean suit, comb your hair, and use breath mints (we do so much whispering, you simply gotta have those - that mixture of coffee and cigarette smoke coupled with last night's booze just ain't appealing.)

Dress like Reed Hadley (pictured above) in "Public Defender." He looks just fine.