I must admit that I was sort of nervous and unsure when I found out from my new employer that they wanted me to start off in the juvenile section. I've never practiced juvenile law. And I think it has sort of gotten the reputation as the red-headed stepchild of criminal law. You hear stories about the not up-to-snuff prosecutors being shipped off to the juvenile section. A lot of people seem not to even want to attempt juvenile work. But, I went into it with an open mind. And, I have to say it has been a nice surprise. One of the things I have always loved about being a public defender is having the opportunity to be the one person who stands up for someone when it seems that everyone is against them. With my juvenile cases, I really feel that way. Sometimes, it seems that these kids have no one. And when I talk to them, and explain to them that I am their attorney--not the attorney for their parents or their school or social services--for some of them, it seems to really mean something to them. Our "family/juvenile" section also handles non-criminal matters, and so, I've had the opportunity to do some other interesting things that I don't think I ever would have even attempted if I weren't here at the PD's office. I handled a couple of involuntary mental health commitment hearings. And in a couple days, I'll be representing several children who have been sued by their parents under the "At Risk Youth" provision of Washington law that allows parents to get court orders making their kids follow their rules. This is certainly something I don't think I would have touched with a 10-foot pole before I got here, but I'm already deep into the issues on one of these cases, and have the fire in my belly.
So, new things can be good. It's easy to be afraid to try them, but I'm glad I've been willing to walk out on that limb.