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What is it like in today’s generation to be a criminal justice lawyer?

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DENNIS’s Answer

Hi Nyasia: I am a "semi-retired" civil lawyer from NYC. I did some criminal defense work when I was first out of school but found it was nothing like the "Perry Mason" episodes I use to watch. Criminal justice is a tough practice. You, as a lawyer, often have to face some pretty ugly aspects of our society. It's tough not to let those things impact you along the way. Things you see, things you have to do to help a client, leave marks. Marks that often leave scars. So as you endeavor towards a career in criminal justice, remember, always be true to yourself and your core beliefs. If a client comes in who you feel is contrary to those beliefs - don't take the case. Fighting for true criminal justice is standing up for all people so that the laws are applied equally and fairly without regard to anything other than justice. Every person - even Presidents - should be held to the same standard. The laws should apply equally and blindly. So as you move forward, remember it's what is in your heart that is important.
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Mary’s Answer

Hi Nyasia! I am a criminal defense lawyer (a public defender), and I represent mostly people charged with felonies. It is hard work. We see a lot of addiction, mental health issues, homelessness, etc. It can be really hard sometimes. I believe being a public defender is not only representing your clients, but also advocating for change in your community. Speaking up against injustices. Asking questions others are afraid to ask. Speaking up for the people who others would prefer to ignore exist. It is dealing with people who are in the darkest point in their life. It is trying to understand why someone thinks so differently than you do and frequently having every belief you’ve ever ever held challenged. It is being yelled at, recognizing that you are probably the only person being there for this person who is scared and in crisis, and going back for more the next day. But, most importantly for me, it is telling my clients that they are not the worst thing they have ever done - and meaning it.
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