I thought, before entering private practice, that private practice had a few advantages over public interest law. Things like: your clients show up to your meetings. On time. Your clients pay you. Your clients value your services more because they pay you. Crazy people don’t call your office and expect you to help them. To the girl that thought that, I say, "HA".
Private practice decreases these incidents, but it doesn’t eliminate them. We get calls from people with all sorts of legal problems. My favorites being the ones who call about obscure land their family owns in another state and they want us to give them legal advice. But a lot of calls from people whose parent’s nursing home just told them something bad, or who want to find a way to avoid medical assistance placing a lien on their home, or who can’t provide the care their parent needs but don’t want to have to put them in a home. Most of these people can’t actually pay for our services, but need whatever information I can give them over the phone. These calls are basically the same as the calls I would field at my old job.
So far, in the six months I’ve been here, I’ve only had one client be a no-show. And we’re helping him with an issue relating to his mental health disability, so I give him a free pass. We had another client show up really late once. At my old job, I regularly had 1-2 clients a week be no-shows, and just as many, if not more, would be late. (Since my clients took public transit and had health problems, I never let it bother me that they did not show up for meetings, but it did bother me when they did not show up for court dates and I had to beg the judge for a continuance.)
As for being valued more, I’d say it’s a 50-50. Half of our clients appreciate us, half of them think that we are cheating them and they could do what we are doing themselves. Would I prefer to eventually go back to public interest work? Probably. Do I feel like I’m making any less of a difference in private practice? No. I’m not really sure where these answers will lead me once I’m more in charge of my career than I am right now, but I think for now, I’m asking the right questions.