A month ago I made a big decision, and I took a new job. Change is always scary, especially the kind of change that takes you far away from what you know and will challenge you in all kinds of ways. I’m…leaving legal services. I’m leaving direct client services. I’m leaving nonprofit life.
I’m going to the government. People who don’t know legal services act like going to the government is the same. Government/public interest attorneys are lumped together by bar associations and BigLaw attorneys. I don’t know if they think we’re all the same because we make less money or because we have regular hours or what. But public interest attorneys don’t think that government attorneys are the same as us. So to myself, and my colleagues, I’m making a big career change.
But then I read articles like this. And I think, “that’s why I’m done.” Because my opposing counsels, while sometimes lovely, are sometimes people that make me think, “Our disagreement is not merely political, but a fundamental divide on what it means to live in a society, how to be a good person, and why any of that matters.” Some apartment managers want to bankrupt people over a $400 carpet replacement. Some debt collectors want a confessed judgment when a client was 3 days short of sending their lease termination notice and the lease automatically renewed. I am so tired of explaining to rich lawyers why poor people need a break. I am so tired of hearing story after story of property managers who just want to wield power over people in public housing. This work burns you out not because you are emptying an ocean with a teacup, but because you lose your faith in humanity. Because the people in this who look like you, were raised like you, went to law school to do good, stand there in court and argue with you that because your client was hospitalized and didn’t earn money for a month, they should be evicted.
I don’t know whether I’ll come back to direct service. I don’t know if I’ll find more humanity in government work. But hope springs eternal, and new is always better. And if new isn’t always better, the new job is also about 28 miles closer to my house. Which is, for sure, always better.