Recently, I found myself back in DC Superior Court. Not for “court-sitting” or for a client, but for jury duty. Not even lawyers can get out of jury duty in DC, though it’s a point of contention if many actually get selected for a trial. In DC, any citizen can be chosen for jury duty as long as there is no felony on their criminal record, and no one can be chosen again for 24 months.
Here’s an account on how my day went.
8:10 am — I got in line outside the Jurors Office with about 30 others waiting to check in.
8:25 am — After checking in, you get sent to the jurors’ lounge to wait until you are called for a trial. The lounge is brightly lit and fairly comfortable with a few amenities, including free wi-fi Internet access and a business center with access to fax and copy services.
8:52 am — Finally watching the orientation video. It’s long. There’s an explanation of voir dire and a note not to take it personally if counsel uses a peremptory challenge to strike you.
10:00 am — Watching the orientation video. Again. For the “9:30 group.”
11:26 am — The disembodied intercom voice finally calls a bunch of people out of the lounge to get empaneled on an actual jury.
12:00 noon — Still here. Just wrote a blog post about Chick-Fil-A.
12:42 pm — I can hear someone snoring loudly, even though I’m wearing headphones. A woman chuckles.
1:00 pm — Lunch. Had a conversation with a client.
2:35 pm — The disembodied intercom voice tells all jurors to assemble in the lounge for a “status report.” People wonder if it means we’re getting dismissed for the day.
2:47 pm — Dismissed! For two years!
Without jurors, our justice system does not work. When you get a jury summons, don’t just throw it out or ignore it — show up. Or use the proper court procedures to get out of it if you absolutely need to.
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I’ll begin by talking about why I decided to become a lawyer — and a solo practitioner, at that.
When I was in 8th grade, someone — the local school district, the school itself, not sure who exactly — decided to change the social studies curriculum to something more focused on American history facts and figures. We were to be the last class taught on the old curriculum, which included an overview of the U.S. Constitution. Up to that point, I was convinced that I would be involved in sciences of some kind, but my first exposure to the nation’s governing documents gave me pause. It was not much more than a basic civics class, complete with a class trip to Washington, D.C., but I found myself with a way forward in the direction of my life. I decided right then I would work toward a career in the legal profession, and my coursework in high school and college reflected that, with an emphasis on American history and political science as there was no “pre-law” track available.
I eventually got admitted into George Mason University School of Law in Arlington, Virginia. Instead of searching for the fastest route to a big DC firm I decided to take a different approach to my career. I took internships in the public interest area and worked for a solo practitioner, getting some courtroom exposure and first-hand experience in law firm management. I learned early on that there was much more out there in the legal profession than the Big Law experience. And because GMUSL is a public school with very reasonable tuition at the time, I did not have gigantic student loans to pay back, so I did not feel overly pressured to follow the big money.
My first exposure to family law was through one of those internships, a summer and a semester at Legal Services of Northern Virginia in Alexandria, Virginia. I did some client intake and performed law clerk duties, which meant drafting court pleadings and client letters, but also included arguing motions in court under attorney supervision. Cases ranged from people seeking divorces to child or spousal support to emergency domestic violence hearings, all done pro bono. It was a very different world from how many see the legal profession. There were no glass walls or giant corner offices or secretaries in central cubicles. I shared a small closet of an office with the other interns and dealt with clients who had trouble feeding themselves and their children, people who are underrepresented in the legal profession. The attorneys were (and still are) overworked and underpaid, but they seemed happy that they were doing good for the community, filling a need for people that society seemed to have left behind.
It may sound trite and contrived, but I decided I want to make a difference with my law degree and license, and that I wanted to do it by opening my own practice in family law. It took a few years after graduating from school, but here I am, trying to get it going. I hope to do well for myself and my family, of course, but at the same time I want to feel like I am doing something for my community, like those Legal Aid attorneys. And, for me, that means giving clients the best representation that I can give. Family law is not for everyone — emotions often run high, and you frequently have to deal with people in the most stressful times of their lives, whether it be ending a marriage gone wrong or trying to do what’s best for their children. I am confident that I am up to the task.
My hope for this blog is that it will contain useful and interesting information about current issues in family law and my experiences in solo and virtual law practice management. Thank you for reading.
The information in this post is not to be construed as legal advice, nor does reading it form an attorney-client relationship.