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Career Conversations: Discussion between YA Librarian Llyr Heller and Lawyers
LLYR HELLER: Hello. I'm Llyr one of the librarians here at Teen Scape. Thank you to all our participants today.
So the first question is just please say your name, where you work, and how you got there in terms of say schooling and internships.
GRETCHEN LAWRIE: Hi. I'm Gretchen Lawrie. I currently teach tax law—taxation law CAL State Los Angeles in the business school. And when I went to law school in Detroit at Wayne State Law School. I was from there. When I got out of law school, I didn't like what I was doing. I was actually replaced by my client's son. So I went back and a master's in tax, and that's how I ended up teaching in tax. I worked 10 years for one of the accounting firms.
BITA SHASTY: Hi everyone. My name is Beta just like Rita but with a "B" and I went to school—I went to UCLA for college and then I went to law school in San Francisco at Hastings. And, after that I was a public defender, and I did that for about five years. And, after that, I became a prosecutor. And I started prosecuting lawyers who were doing bad things to their clients. And then from there, in the last nine years, I work at the office of the Inspector General, which basically is we and oversee the LA County Sheriff's Department, and we do what's called constitutional policing. So I sort of just make sure that the police are, you know, if they shoot someone, I make sure that I go to the scene, that they're not try trying to cover anything up, make sure that I have access to everything. And also if they do commit misconduct while on their own time like whether it's domestic violence are DUI's, I oversee all those cases as well. So yeah, it's a neat job and I've been doing it, like I said, for about nine years.
DANIELLE TAMIR. Hi. My name is Danielle Tamir. I went to undergrad at Northwestern University as a theater major. I wanted to be an actress. That didn't happen, but I get to—kind of—I always think that being in law is kind of like a real-life theater. You're speaking in front of people. You're talking to your jury, your judge, your client. So after that, I went to of law school at University of Florida. I moved here, and then I started out in family that had its own of difficulties so I left that. I really wanted to do criminal law the entire time that was my whole reason for wanting to go to law school. So I thought why am I trying to do anything other than that. So after that I started out in a small kind of DUI practice and then moved on to the firm I'm at now, which is *. It's a private criminal defense firm so a different bit different than a public defender's office in that our clients pay for us. And it's really just been an incredible experience.
Internships, I interned on at the [indiscernible] County Sheriff's Office, [indiscernible] District Attorney's Office in Florida in the domestic violence unit. So I tried a couple of domestic violence trials. And did an internship in Israel working on cases under the Alien Tort Claims Act, which is really kind of complicated piece of international law, but it's basically about terrorism and victims of terrorism so I did that in my second year. And so yeah, hello.
CANDIS GLOVER: Hi, I'm Candace Glover. I went to college at Cal State Dominguez Hills in Carson. And then to law school, I went to UC Hastings in San Francisco. When I was in law school, I interviewed my last year for a senior clerk position in the public defender's office. And, of all the interviews I had with firms and other agencies, the public defender's office was the place I wanted to be. I knew instantly during the course of that interview. And so I joined the public defender's office as a trial lawyer, a misdemeanor lawyer. I worked my way up. I did misdemeanors in Compton and Long Beach, downtown. Then I graduated to a felony practice where again in Long Beach and Compton—especially during the time of three strikes where we had clients who were facing 25 to life, I was practicing felonies in Long Beach at the time that three strikes came into being. We had tons of clients who were facing life sentences just because they stole a piece of candy or because they possessed a small amount drugs. We did a lot of trials during that time period. We saw a lot of people go to prison who shouldn't have gone to prison for the amount of time that they were sentenced to.
I was a Deputy in Charge at different locations, locations in the office, supervising misdemeanor lawyers and felony lawyers. I was a head deputy, which was the first level management in our office. I was over juvenile operation and the Beta Shasty was one of the attorneys that worked in Juvenile East when I was in Juvenile West. I am now an assistant public defender, which simply means that we have the public defender. We have the chief deputy public defender. And then we have a group of four people in my level assistant public defenders. I am over central operations, which means that I am the assistant over misdemeanors and felony operations for all of downtown. Probably about 250 people more or less are under my direct chain of supervision.
It's a wonderful job. I love being a public defender. I never had any thought of working outside as a lawyer of our office. And when I retire at some point in a few years to come, I don't see myself practicing any type of other law. It's been one of most of fulfilling experiences I've ever had; and I recommend to anyone, if you're interested in a career in law, that you consider the work that we do.
LLYR HELLER: Wonderful. Thank you so much.
Before we get—delve into the questions I have, does anyone have a question in the audience? We'll start. Okay.
As a follow up to that, do you allow or does your work allow teens and/or adults to shadow for a day or intern or anything of that sort either high school or college or adult? And we can share the mic if you want.
GRETCHEN LAWRIE: I'll go first. Because I teach, I teach undergraduate students and sometimes I teach graduate students, I don't really have students shadow me, but I'm certainly open to students sitting in my class. Now as far as laws goes, tax law isn't the real interesting law like sitting in a trail law class where'd you see people do a court case. But I really like talking to students about getting a career in law and their aspects because it's more than just we see on television.
BITA SHASTY: I would say in my work no we don't only because, part of my job is to attend a lot of meetings with the Sheriff's Department and, as you may know, a lot—we discuss a lot of personal issues and those are currently under California law and not disclosable. They are secret. You may have heard that there was a law that was recently passed that is trying to make those things public; but until that happens, because of the nature of the meetings and the discussions that we have, we—it's very difficult for us to have anybody shadow us. We have had some interns just in our office, but I would not say that's very exciting because really the fun part of my job is to go out in the field. So unfortunately not really.
CANDIS GLOVER: We've had a couple of interns mostly college age and, you know, they immediately start doing some stuff—like the stuff that we don't have time to do like redacting. Like our client has the at the right to get the reports and stuff that revolve around his case; however we're not pursuant to law allowed to disclose the names and addresses of witnesses things like that. So they can get a copy of that, but what we have to do before that is redact it, which means sit with every—every sheet of paper with a black marker and black out all the names and all the addresses of all the witnesses or, you know, things like that. And that's not fun so we have our interns do that.
As far as, you know, walking around day to day, you know, I mean—the great thing about court—courthouses and courtrooms is that they're open to public. You can kind of walk in—except for some very small exceptions where possibly minors are involved and they close the courtroom—you can walk in and watch kind of like an arraignment proceeding happen in the audience. It seems very glamorous but a lot of times there's a lot of numbers and things are just getting thrown around and it happens very quickly and it happens in a way that it's kind of like unless you know what's going on you're like what just happened. Because a lot of people have to go through the system every single day, but you can always go to the courthouse and take a look.
>> We do encourage students—high school students come and shadow us. We do work with the Constitutional Rights Foundation, and one of their programs is a two week—maybe in the summertime—I think maybe it's a little longer than that, but we've had students come through that program and they'll work a couple of weeks with us on that. And we'll have them do some clerical work, some work connected with the cases we prepare. We've had kids who come in and, you know, not even just high school students, but college students, people interested in going to law school, and we'll pair them up with someone who works in the courtroom and you know kind of take them around. What we like to do—what we really want to do—we want people to come in to learn about the work we do. And what we are really interested in doing as well is see if we can get or develop awareness in the work that we do at an early age. The age that you are now before you even get to college or law school it would be great if you found an interest and if you are interested in the work we do, we encourage you to contact our office. It may very well be that you see something, or you'll have an experience where you figure out this is what you want to do and that'd be great.
DANIELLE TAMIR: Can I add one thing, I just want to say how when I was in high school I was always interested in criminal stuff. I liked watching stuff about serial killers. I was just really into just, you know, my mom was a little worried about me.
>> That’s the same for me too.
>> That's true for me as well.
DANIELLE TAMIR: Actually, when I was in high school, I went at that time, I don't know Santa Monica criminal courts. I just went there and said can I do anything to help. I want to sit in a courtroom and watch murder trials. They actually found me a spot. You know, I helped I think the clerk do some paperwork while I watched all these amazing murder trials happen for an entire summer. I was absolutely fascinated and that's really how I got into criminal law as my interest which led ultimately to, you know, law school a few years later.
I do think you can find opportunities if you're interested by literally just walking I had no counselor guide me—I just walked in. Can I do anything here because I want to sit in a courtroom and watch what the lawyers do.
>> Can I add? I did that right after college. I volunteered at the public defenders office. This is before I even took the LSAT. I said I want to make sure I want to do this. And I volunteered at the public defender's offices in multiple parts of it. The juvenile section and then they moved me over to felony intake. Intake being we interview the clients after they'd gone through their arraignment and we kind of talked to them. Yeah. That was where I decided yes this is this is exactly what I want to be doing. So yeah. Definitely volunteer.
LLYR HELLER: Okay. The follow up on that because everyone is so unique on the panel today. I usually do a what's a day in the life, but what's a week in the life because I know your weeks take you all over the place?
GRETCHEN LAWRIE: For me mine changes each semester, but I'm always teaching individual taxation. Maybe you haven't, but you will at some point, file your on tax return. I teach my students their very tax class is individual taxation. So I have two classes where I teach that every semester. Then my other class is what's called corporation tax, and I teach that twice. So I'm in the classroom four times a week, and I do office hours to talk to students. And then a lot of my time I spend writing because I'm supposed to as a professor write papers and they're on tax issues. But I love it. I love being in the classroom. It just happened to be that way. I didn't think I'd fall into tax law. Most attorneys—I don't know if it's true for the rest of you don't like tax. You know, if you're not good at math—when I lost my job, I fell into tax and I love it. So you just never know. That's my week.
BITA SHASTY: So I think, if you're going to be a lawyer, there's a couple things that I think you have to kind of be into and one is reading and one is writing.
So a typical week for me, my job, I feel like is more like a reporter now. Because what I basically do is I find information by talking to people in the Sheriff's Department whether it be about some policy that they have that I think is harmful to the public, or any sort of internal policies that they have, you know, that revolve around misconduct. But on a typical week, what I do is I talk to people. I go to a lot of meetings, and I'm on the phone. I do e-mail. And, once I gather up all my factors, I then start to do more intense research about kind of what I want to put in a report. And then I write a lot.
So—and that was actually one of the things that led me to law school. When I was in college I had a lot of professors telling me you're a really good you're a good writer. I was a political science major. So there are only to paths for people who are poli sci majors. You will be either a teacher or professor or go to law school. So I ended up in law school. So, yeah, it's really just sort of about collaborating with people in your office and people in the Sheriff's Department to get the information so that you need so that you can write a report. And most of our reports are public and are on our website so you can take a look and see the kind of things that we look at. So, yeah, that's a typical week.
DANIELLE TAMIR: So I guess in private criminal defense we're taking cases all over the place. I'm mostly out of Ventura and Santa Barbara so in a given week I'm in Ventura court and Santa Barbara court a lot. I know our LA counterparts are in courtrooms all over LA County all week. It is every day you're in court. You're there for everything from like a quick first appearance where you just enter a plea of not guilty. You get the discovery which is all the evidence or at least the first packet of evidence they're going to give you and, you know, go to the next one, to full-blown hearings big evidentiary hearings, big preliminary hearings which are part of a felony case. We'll leave it there. So in a given week, I'm in court most mornings, some afternoons as well. In between there's going to be some phone calls to clients updating them. They're going to ask you questions. They're going to want to talk to you for hours about all kinds of things. Sometimes, I also feel like you're also a social worker. You're dealing with really, really intense emotional things. And besides just representing our clients, we kind of listen to them and talk to them because they're in a really stressful situation. So a lot of my time is spent on the phone calling people, talking to them, updating them on their cases. And then there's also a lot of writing, and reading, and researching, writing motions.& On the defense side, you know, you're on the attack. You're constantly trying to all right, how did they get this evidence? All right is there a problem with the way the police got this evidence? I'm going to file a motion on it. I'm going to research all about Fourth Amendment, search and seizure stuff, file a motion, have a hearing on that, and I'm going to try to get this evidence out. That happens a lot. Before trials happen, you have to write trial briefs. Some people do, some people don't. You write trial briefs. So there's a lot of reading.There's a lot of writing. There's a lot of keeping up with research. Yeah. So, that's a week.
CANDIS GLOVER: You know, it's interesting that the work that I used to do in a courtroom, when I was a courtroom attorney, I really had to just focus on my clients. I would try cases in front of juries, write motions, argue motions, visit clients in custody, meet with witnesses and experts. But it's interesting that work or what I did doesn't translate into the work that I do now. Because I'm an executive manager now.
At the level that I'm at now, my interests or my work with operations is all about making sure we have the right staffing. So I participate and I help interview and hire clerical staff and lawyers and student professional workers. We have a budget of about $220 million more or less and part of that budget goes towards attorney's salaries or employee salaries. We have about a staff of 1100 people. You know, you're trying to provide service to all of LA County. Any individual who's been charged with a misdemeanor or felony in LA County, if you're indigent or if you're poor and can't afford an attorney from the public defender's office, we'll represent you. That translates into representation of hundreds of thousands of people or cases should I say.
It's more than just making sure that, you know, we have the right staff. You know, we have enough staffing, but also looking at how can we improve service to our clients and to our communities. You know, what new statutes or what new law is going to help us to help our clients in a different way. I go to meetings all the time so we meet with other you know stakeholders in the criminal justice arena who may not have the same interest that I do. I go for the betterment of my clients and our clientele. There are judges there who represent the courtroom or the courts. There are prosecutors. There are people from other county departments, other city departments. Everybody has an interest in, you know, the work that we do. So we spend a lot of time in meetings. I spend a lot of time meeting with people outside the office, inside the office. I work on projects.
I think one of the best things about the job I'm in now is you can identify what you think is important and you can work on that. If there's a change in the law, like next week I have a meeting where there's a group that wants to work on this Senate Bill 823, which provides for those people who are convicted of offenses of nonviolent and, if you were the victim of human trafficking, you can petition to get your case dismissed. We have a lot of clients in the past who were convicted of different offenses because they were a victim of human trafficking and they did certain things because of that. So, since there's been so many changes in the law that assist people now, we have to look at that group of individuals we represented who fit that criteria. And, if we are able to show they were in fact victims of human trafficking, we can go back and petition and get their convictions set aside.
So there's the ability to kind of figure out what's important to your clients, to your communities, to work on those projects and try to bring relief to people who qualify. It's, like I said, it's really great work. And it's very freeing in that it's great to work in the courtroom, but I think it's also great to work in work—you're not just helping one individual person. You know you can help groups and groups of people at the level that I'm at. So that's—I love that.
LLYR HELLER: You had a question, sir?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I was curious to know—you had mentioned that sometimes trial briefs aren't prepared—I was a little curious to know in what case would that be?
DANIELLE TAMIR: I mean it depends on the attorney. Some attorneys kind of well for civil cases trial briefs are prepared, and that's something that happens and goes to the judge. But for a criminal case, sometimes people sometimes people don't necessarily need them. They have their own way of doing it. I'm kind of anal and I have to have everything in a small compartmentalized way for me to see, but that's just me.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Usually what does that brief consist of?
DANIELLE TAMIR: It's going to include the theory of the case, the facts, the witnesses that are going to be called, the evidence that you're going to be presented, so kind of a list of exhibits A is this, B is this, C is this that kind of stuff.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: What do you mean by the theory of the case?
DANIELLE TAMIR: The theory of the case—when you're a defense attorney every case you have is kind of a story. It's a story and you're telling that story. And there's a theory behind it.
You know, for example, what's a good theory of a case would be, you know, what is it? You can't always get what you want or something or some kind of you know. That was one—that was a theory of a case I did in the prosecutor's office where I was prosecuting side. I was second chair and it was a domestic violence case. It was a case where this incident happened because the individual didn't get what he wanted. And so our theory was you can't always get what you want and, you know, this is why this person should be punished because you don't get to behave this way when you don't get what you want. So that's kind of the theory of the case. That's what I would put in a trial brief. I don't know if anybody else can—
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It sounds like it's a matter of explaining the rationale and justification for your case, for what you're laying out your case for; does that sound about appropriate?
DANIELLE TAMIR: Yeah, that's sounds like what a trial brief would be.
LLYR HELLER: Thank you so much. Any other questions so far. Everyone's really quiet today. Okay. Moving on. What kind of technology and platforms do you use? And how comfortable does one need to be with technology?
GRETCHEN LAWRIE: Prior to teaching, I worked at the accounting firm KPMG because when you're a tax attorney you can either work in a business setting like a accounting firm, or you can work in a law firm, or you can teach at a business school or a law school. I was going to say, when I worked at the accounting firm, the main things I did was research and writing. So I had to be really family room with how to find tax law, how to find a case and how to write it, but to also know how to explain it in plain English. Those, I think, for me now are the things for me even now the big thing was learning like how do a Google search. I do that in the legal setting. If I need to know this particular definition, I know how to do it and find the information. So that's the biggest thing for me beside typing. So mine's more research that I have to do—use software to do research.
>> I would not say that technology is huge in what I do—it's okay. That's fine.—I use the internet. I use e mail. I do research on Lexus which is a program that you learn. It's a research-based—a legal research computer program that they teach you how to use in law school.
When I went to law school, showing my age, we still used books for research too. I'm not sure they teach that anymore [Chuckling] I'm not sure they have books anymore.
>> They did. I was wondering why they were and they also taught us west law so I'm like why are we learning this.
>> So, yeah, I would say the one area that I need to probably get better skills at would be PowerPoint and Excel. Those are things that I use a lot because I do presentations and different panels, and I don't know how to use excel at all. But I just found out that the LA County Library has a teaching thing that you can watch.
>> As do we.
>> So I'm really excited. We had somebody from the library yesterday and gave out library cards and I'm so excited to use the resources that I did not know were available. You all probably know more technology than I do sitting right now so I think you will be fine once you get to your careers.
GRETCHEN LAWRIE: Can I add? Because I work with tax attorneys and accountants and stuff, I never had to prepare tax returns. But the people I worked with when they came out of school, even law school, they did tax returns so they had to know how to use software to do tax returns. So that's a big part of what happens with tax attorneys.
>> I mean, you're not in a technological field, but certain tools will help you do your job faster. Adobe. PDF stuff. Learning how to work in PDF's. I do a lot of—I have to—OCR text recognition on PDF because a lot of text recognition on PDF's because of a lot of the discovery you're getting is on PDF. So if you want to quickly search Through 200 pages, 300 pages of a police reports. If you do an OCR, you can quickly type in a thing: Oh, I'm looking for the report or the interview with so and so. So I type in so and so's name and you can find it. You can do that with PDF. I didn't know you could do that with PDF, but I learned. So working with Adobe is really important. We do a lot of cloud-based storage so working with Dropbox, Dropbox business things like that, being able to manage files on the cloud.
We use a online—yeah. It's like an online database file—filing system called CLEO. A lot of attorneys are starting to use that now as well. So it's pretty straight forward user friendly. If you know how to use the internet and know how to use basic things, you'll be able to figure it out pretty quickly. Yeah, again, we're not in the tech field so.
CANDIS GLOVER: You know we use Excel too. I'm not that conversant in it either so I have to learn. But a lot of information, I mean we're trying to gather a lot of data from the systems, from the court system, from our own system and often times that information will come in the form of a spreadsheet. We'll get data from the California Department of Corrections. And we'll have to figure out—and that spreadsheet will be dumped into a database.
So, in our practice now, you're going to have to be more tech-savvy than we've ever been. We're getting a new case management system which we're gonna have to wrestle with. And the court is now, in LA County, they are updating and getting the new case management system as well. We do have a lot of, you know, documents that we deal with in PDF form and try and turn that from PDF into a word document that's fillable. We use box as well. I'm not very tech savvy, but I find that I have to learn because if you're going to get access to the data that you need, you're going to have to—you have to be more sophisticated when it comes to tech.
>> I do want to add learning how to do effective search terms and knowing how to search well is a good skill to have especially doing research. Because crafting a good search query inside West Law will save you hours and hours of time. So, if you can search really well and really efficiently and you know what to look for and how to look for things, you'll be a better researcher. So definitely learn how do effective searches.
LLYR HELLER: Yes, what's your question? Here I'll give you the mic.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: It's actually anybody can answer it. Do you have any worries that tech might take away certain jobs in a law practice? Since there has been a recent advancement in technology, that's what they say, and it's been taking a lot of jobs so I'm wondering if that can also take some jobs from the law practice?
LLYR HELLER: Does anyone want to tackle that one?
CANDIS GLOVER: There is software now that they're developing that will allow—for expungement purposes. So let's say a person was convicted of an a offense that—can they can petition the court to have set aside and dismissed. Normally, I mean, often times we have lawyers who will search the Penal Code to figure out if the person qualifies. But right now there is software that lay people can use to provide the same service, and they feed the information into the software or into the system, and the system kicks back an analysis as to whether or not the person is eligible or not. I don't see the software taking the place of individuals because you still have to have a lawyer review it, but we use paralegals often times to do a lot of that work. If there's more reliance on systems to do the analysis, then, I mean, you still need lawyers to go into the courtrooms and argue cases to represent clients. But it will be interesting to see how this moves forward. I mean I don't know how I feel about the reliance on that kind of software alone to make a determination as to whether or not a person gets relief or not. But I was really surprised when I became aware that kind of software is existing. And I'm sure changes or developments or modifications are being made all the time.
>> Yeah, I mean, a lot of law is based on rules, laws, and legal codes. A lot of times you can easily feed those things in. But I think that there is a certain level of human element in law. And the human element, at least in litigation when you're in a courtroom and you're talking to people and making a connection with a jury or you know showing some kind of passion in front of a judge and making an impassioned argument, there's a certain finesse and art form to it that I don't think can never be replaced by a machine. So I don't know that's my romanticized take on it.
BITA SHASTY: I don't think that there's anything that can—that can take over in my field, but technology has had a huge impact in what I do in the sense that now any time a police officer is doing something bad, it's on video. It's on a cell phone.
There's all sorts of cameras now inside of jails because of those videos that came out in the last 10 years where police are not treating people in a very nice way. So, although, technology has not had a direct impact on what the kind of thing that I do, it has had a huge impact on how we conduct business. So...
GRETCHEN LAWRIE: For me, I guess the teaching aspect we're switching. I haven't done it because I like the interaction with students is teaching online. Unless the intelligence where the computer changes where they can quickly argue in front of a judge or sitting next to a client and responding quickly to a argument because you have to think about this person has said this what's my counter-argument. I think technology at this point can't replace that. And I don't know if clients would really want to talk to a machine per se. I mean that sounds kind of glib. Especially the fees you're charging.
Like my boss when I worked at KPMG his hourly rate 10 years ago was $600 an hour. You know, I guess you can have a machine that's charging similar, but you probably for that money you want a connection more.
LLYR HELLER: Oh, yes?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: I wanted to know how—you have a very stressful job and sometimes we as the public don't know all the specific details of certain cases. How do you deal with, you know, there's sometimes we only hear the little blurb of horrific cases or whatever it might be, how do you deal with that stress personally on your level so you don't take it home?
GRETCHEN LAWRIE: Being a tax attorney, I don't have a lot of stress. But we did have stress in the sense of being on time with what a client wants and deadlines. But I do know from what they did—I did interviews—intern two years at a prosecutor's office and my husband was previously a public defender. It may reach a point where you get out of that area. I think in criminal law there's a lot more in that sense. I can still picture pictures in my head of what I saw of people being beat. So like it can wear on you. And I'm not sure totally. Some people—like my husband knew he would have to get out of being a public defender. He couldn't do it forever. But I think its kind of a stereotype. I guess you kind of leave it at work. You should to a certain extent, but I don't know—you all probably have more stressful jobs than I do.
>> You know, when I was a public defender the first five years of my career, I would say that's how it was for me. I took it home. And I was really invested in the outcome of the cases because these were my clients. And I actually think the lawyers that are successful in being a public defender are the ones that can leave it at work. And when I say successful, I mean it wears you down. If I was in trial, I was, you know, preparing until 2:00 in the morning and then up at 6:00.
If I, you know, if I really believed my client was innocent, it was even worse because I was the only thing standing between their freedom. And so it was a lot of pressure. In my current job the stress is, you know, it's difficult. I have to get up at 2:00 or 3:00 in the morning if there's a shooting by a Deputy, and I have to go see the scene, and it's late at night, and it's, you know, a dead body, and that's—somehow I can deal with that a little bit easier because there's a layer of distance. I'm not representing, you know, anybody so. I'm just overseeing that they are doing their job right. So I have to say that was part of the reason—I'm fussing this up in front of my very first supervisor—part of the reason I left was because I could not separate. And mental health is important and it was really, really difficult. And I knew some public defenders who were able to do that as soon as they left, and I envied them. You have to see who you are as a person and there's no shame to it. If you're very tuned and sensitive, it's going to be harder for you to disengage which you really need to do as a criminal defense attorney to have some sanity.
GRETCHEN LAWRIE: Like I said, I didn't do criminal most of my career, but I did work in mergers and acquisitions and we represented always the buyer. And you knew they were buying targets and people would lose their jobs. So mentally at times I would think about that, but you kind of had to separate that. But also we weren't meeting the individual people who were losing their job, you focused on the client and getting. So it is hard. You do have to kind of separate yourself.
I wonder for you all if having other people that are attorneys it helps. I think it helped my husband to have me. I didn't do the kind of law he did but he could talk to me about it.
>> Yeah. There are—I mean, I'm still actually—I'm still pretty fresh into doing this. You know, I've been barred since 2014. I think I'm still in the place of taking it home, and I cry.
I come home and my husband has held me and I've cried. And it's okay to cry. I've screamed into a pillow. I've—and that's okay too. You got to take your time and be kind to yourself. I think the one thing I have to consistently tell myself is it's not your fault. None of what's happening is your fault. You're doing the best you can. And, you know, there's systems around you and things in place that are greater than you and sometimes you can't always help, but you are helping. You know, I keep, you know, I tell myself that a lot. You're doing something. It doesn't always work out, but sometimes it does and that's what makes it worth it.
I would also say make sure you have outlets, hobbies, friends. Go out see your families, your spouses, your partners, your children, your cat. Have—I draw. I do art and a lot of times that's really helpful. So, yeah, there's ways of coping, but you can not cry sometimes.
>> When I was in felony trials, I don't think I managed it that well. I remember going out to—on this one murder case, I mean I have to track these crack houses where my client was being held hostage. You have to find in the work too you have to figure out when's the best time you can go. We would go to neighborhoods where, you know, a lot of things were happening. And yeah we had investigators, but you have to make connections with people. You got to talk with people. You got to go into their homes. You got to get them to talk to you. And the backdrop is you're in trial, and you can't get a continuance, and you need this witness, and you're client is depending on you.
I remember, I think I developed high blood pressure because of the work. I would ruminate. I would think about it all the time. You're operating at such a high level. You know, you have case load full of cases. And what Bita is talking about, what we're all talking because we all experienced it. You can't help take the work home because these are people. And, you know, every single person I encountered every single one of my clients would say, Ms. Glover, I need you to help me. These people are desperate. These people are incarcerated. They need something to happen, and you you know, you feel a real responsibility to them. So it was hard I think in felony trials. It's not until I got to this job that I figured out how important it is to do other things. So now with the help of Livy through overdrive I joined the city library and county library.
I listen to books on the way to work, on the way home. Because I—it's like an hour and a half each way, and I don't think about the work the way I used to. I wish I had learned this earlier on, but having that time you're not focused on all the things that are going to greet you when you walk in the door. All the things people need—I mean it's not the same stress as representing clients in trial who are looking at prison, but now it's about somebody's about to be held in contempt, or there's a flood at the courthouse. You know, there's an earthquake and we can't get in. There's things now that aren't the same as what I was dealing with before. But listening to books—audiobooks when I get to work, whatever, so.
LLYR HELLER: Thank you. Yes, question. I'll repeat it you don't have to oh, all right.
AUDIENCE MEMBER: So I was wondering of all you women, there's a question that I've been wondering, when pursuing your career have you faced any discrimination or situation because you were a women? And do you believe that now a days are those problems like getting better or getting worse for a woman in the workforce?
LLYR HELLER: I would like to touch on that one as well and follow up with additional do you see more diversity in your workplace as opposed to before?
GRETCHEN LAWRIE: I was trying to think. I never did when I was at KPMG and it's a huge accounting firm and it's around the world, but it is mostly men. I always kind of wonder. I was never put into an awkward position as a woman. I never felt that way. The only funny thing, and I ended up—one of my coworkers, I spoke to her about it. I got married and one of my coworkers who's my age said, "You will probably be having children now." And that was the only time I ever felt—but he actually said a lot of inappropriate things at times. Like he described one of my coworkers as he was light in the loafers, if you recognize what that phrase is. But I did talk to somebody about that, I didn't go above. So I felt pretty lucky I haven't had that.
My mom was a legal secretary so I knew it's a very male dominated. I feel like I've been lucky. Even my mother as a legal secretary, never felt that she was put into an awkward position.
I do think—I think it is different now in the sense, when I went to law school, you know, my classmates generally used to being in the school with women. I think that can make a difference.
I'll give you this to at KPMG partners were forced out to retire at a certain age. So the people I work were my age or younger so I think the ideas were different about women.
BITA SHASTY: Well my field is very diverse. When I started out as a public defender there was an equal amount of men and women and very diverse backgrounds.
I guess sometimes I felt like some judges that were like older, whiter were maybe a little bit tougher on the women lawyers, but I took that as a challenge to better myself as far as if he was picking on me when I was trying to pick my jury and telling me you can't ask that question. You know, I would try to make sure that, you know, I knew exactly what I was doing so that if he—they came at me. If he, you know, started kind of telling me to tone it down, that I could tell him I don't have to and this is my job.
But, interestingly in my current job because I work with police, majority of them it's a very male-dominated profession. There's not that many women in management at the police department, and I deal a lot with the management. So there's definitely culturally you can tell that they have a hard time sometimes with a woman telling them, you know, that they're not doing their job well or right. And you have to kind of overcome that and get them to listen to you. So it's always challenging, but you know what as a lawyer a lot of what you do is advocating for your position. So you're always trying to convince people to think the way—to get them to think a certain way.
So I look at it as a challenge. But yes there is undertones across, I think, the profession that you still have women having to, I think, work a little bit harder to get into management and work a little bit harder to gain the same respect that I think is kind of automatically given a little bit easier to men. So...
GRETCHEN LAWRIE: Even though I said about being a women not having an issue, I do think there's a issue about diversity, ethnic diversity. Especially—depending—in the accounting setting where I worked at KPMG, hopefully, it's gotten better because they do have a CEO who's a women. That's a different issue having minorities and people of color in that setting. I don't know if that's the experience here, but it seems like in government jobs diversity is a lot better.
>> Well, I mean, I haven't readily been able to track a shift for very long because again 2014, but as a woman I've definitely had situations where a client will call me sweetie.
I've had situations where the bailiff asks me to step behind the behind the bar, which is in every courtroom there's kind of a little swingy door and you can go past it if your an attorney. Most of the time you just walk in and check in with the clerk and go on your merry way. And I've had bailiffs say, "Step behind the bar, ma'am." And I'm like I'm an attorney checking in. "Oh, your an attorney?" "Yes, I am."
I've had situations where I've been mistaken for the secretary. Oh, I thought you were the secretary. Nope. I'm short and a woman but I am an attorney.
So, yeah, even now I've felt that a couple of times. The worse is when the clients call you something like sweetie or honey, and they're also your client. And, you know, you just kind of take a minute, okay, and keep going. You can't address it. You can't.
But, as far as diversity is concerned, you know, I've seen many different backgrounds amongst the attorneys that I've worked with/against/for, but that's pretty recent.
CANDIS GLOVER: Yeah, I think with clients you spend time with them right and whatever ideas they have or expectations they have when they first meet you over the period of time that they've spent with you, those change; right. So I don't know if I experienced any sexism necessarily with clients or things of that sort. I mean maybe I just didn't pay that close attention to it. But I do think though that as a woman manager supervising people, I think that I am more conscious about what I say, and how I say, and what people are going to perceive when they hear it.
I don't know if men—maybe they do spend as much time thinking about it, but I do a lot. I think about how I appear because there's power dynamics and you're I think you're always walking a line because you want to you want people to take you seriously. I mean you have the same education that any man has that's a lawyer in our office. You went to the same schools. But I do think that you're perceived differently. I think that you have to know that.
How you deal with that and how you respond to that, I guess, that's individual. But it is almost sometimes like walking a minefield trying to navigate all the land mines you can stumble into if you're not aware that there are perceptions out there about what you can and cannot do.
LLYR HELLER: Thank you. We're almost out of time, but I know you had a question. Did you?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Going back to technology, I forgot where I read this, but I remember reading somewhere about how there are there's certain systems that take into account certain variables of someone who's getting convicted in terms of how likely they are to recommit a crime or whatever so that will sometimes determine how long their sentence will be or the—what's it called? The rules?
AUDIENCE MEMBER: Yeah, stuff like that. So it's not necessarily a question about the practice of law, but about a question of the law itself. What area of law is in charge of or that overlooks the government's use of tech when it come to stuff like that?
CANDIS GLOVER: You know, I think you're talking risk assessment tools. And we see it play out when a client is arrested and being charged, and now the question is whether or not the client will get released. So, you know, there are tools that have been created to assist a court in determining whether a person should get out.
I think often times people don't think about the fact that those tools can be biased. And if it turns out that you're using a tool that is creating bias, then the decision that you make will be based upon that.
You know, I have a real difficult time with these types of tools because some of the questions that they ask...I mean, there's some tools that ask about where you live and who lives in your neighborhood. Now you don't have any control, if you are a young person and live with your parents or you live with a family member, you have no control over where you live. But if you live in a community where there's gangs or you have family members that are gang members, that's being held against you, being used against you in figuring out whether you're risky and should be released or not, how you should be treated.
You know there's so many inherent problems in these tools. I don't know how closely prosecutors and judges are looking at the problems connected with these tools. Some people think that they're better because the court uses less of it's own discretion and maybe if you relied more on this formulaic tool then more people would get out of custody. I don't know if that's a given.
So, you know, there's this Senate Bill SB 10 in the works right now. It was passed. There's been some legislation or there's been some attempt to delay it's implementation. And part of that fight has been about the use of risk assessment tools as part of the release process as to whether or not people are going to get released. The thought or the hope is more people would get released if they used this tool, but I don't know if that's true. I don't know if you can rely on that. I think we're still in a holding pattern with the use of SB10.
But if we rely too heavily on tech or risk assessment tools, there's so much, I don't know, so much damage that can come with that. And that's not something we'll know until sometime later down the line. I mean lawyers on the front lines are seeing whether or not clients are getting released from custody but—
AUDIENCE MEMBER: So the area of law that is currently dealing with this and overlooking is barely beginning to take point?
CANDIS GLOVER: I mean they're using it now in the issue of pretrial detention. I think in some other areas, back when I was in juvenile, when they're trying to figure out—I can't remember. I mean I know I've seen it in other aspects of our work.
There's something else too called MMPI, which is a personality test. And the results of those types of tests are to determine whether or not a client is dangerous or antisocial. I've seen prosecutors using those types of tests, you know, to make arguments with respect to your client should be treated differently because, you know, they scored high on these types of tests. Essentially, they're personality tests.
So, you know, we'll see how this plays out. But there are, I guess, factions that believe if you rely on these types of tests, then you take a lot of the discretion out. Therefore, it's also going to be more fair. But I don't think you can say that, I don't know if you know that. I don't think we've seen that.
LLYR HELLER: Well thank you so much. We're out of time, but do you have one more quick question?
LLYR HELLER: To recap, have you had anything dangerous or anything you've had to look out for?
GRETCHEN LAWRIE: You may not think of it, but I had a student this year who did not like the grade I gave him. No, I'm serious. It was very, very bad to the point where I do feel physically even today that I could be threatened by him. So it's not just in the criminal setting.
Fortunately, when I was at KPMG, I never felt that way because I didn't have to deal with that but there could be people at work. Your guys situation is very, very different.
BITA SHASTY: Well I don't know if you remember, a few years ago that there was a LAPD guy that went around and fired his former capital because he was fired from the police department. Because I'm involved in the discipline process at the Sheriff's Department, there's always a little bit of a concern that there's a person that's disgruntled and has before an fired, so, you know, I think I never really thought about it until that incident happened where he went around and killed a few people.
And we have had some people on blogs, some police officers, that make comments about—about us and what we do and how we're basically firing people, which we're really not. Ultimately, the Sheriff's Department makes that decision. But, yeah, you worry that there's somebody who has a gun, you know, legally walking around and can follow you home or something. I mean I don't really worry about it, but I think you're just always cautious because you're dealing with anybody that's unhappy that they got fired can come after you.
DANIELLE TAMIR: I mean, we've had some threats at our office sometimes. They're usually unfounded, I mean always unfounded we've never had an issue. We're dealing with high emotion. People don't like the outcome of their case is. You know, not angels a lot of the time, but you know sometimes you get a threat here and there. It's kind of par for the course. It's like all right. It's cool buddy. Thanks. Then you move on. I think it's just par for the course sometimes.
And it's funny because I used to be very paranoid about those things. I'm a very—I was a very high strung individual. And I find now I've learned to just be so like water off your back, duck in the pond water roll off your back on a lot of those things and so those things don't really phase me.
CANDIS GLOVER: One thing I've learned in my practice is you treat people the way you want to be treated. I think when people spend time with you over a period of time.
They don't know you when they first meet you. Our clients don't interview us and decide whether or not they're going to hire us. You know, we get appointed and we assign a lawyer, and the lawyer represents the client. So certainly there's going to be people where at first blush, at the first couple of meetings, you don't hit it off. But my experience has been, if you show people respect, if you treat people with dignity, you know you expect that in return and they give that to you.
I think, when people see you working hard and you treat them with respect and you care about the work that you do, even if it turns out the result you get is not the result you wanted. You know, I've had clients and I've had colleagues that their clients have said, Ms. Glover, Mr. So and so, thank you for what you did for me. I know it didn't go the way we wanted it to go. I didn't get the not guilty. I didn't get the hang. Thank you.
You know, when you approach the work that way, then all this other stuff it has not been my experience that people have done that to me. You know I've had situations where, you know, a client and I did not—he just did not take to me. I had a client every single day we were in trial, he fired me or tried to fire me. Then the case hangs and he's not convicted, and luckily somebody else took that case.
You know, I just think if you are—if you treat people with respect, if you treat people and let them know you're here because you want to be here and that you really care, and you care about them as individuals, and you share some of yourself, that usually doesn't, you know, factor into a concern about what's going to happen afterwards; if they're going to sue, what they're gonna say, what they're gonna do. It usually doesn't go that way.
>> I don't want anyone to get the impression that happens a lot. For the most part, that is the case. You know, most of the time, I'd say 99 percent of the time, people are thank you for helping me. But you know, occasionally, 1 percent.
>> A lot of the stuff you see in criminal dramas, it's so overblown. It really—that kind of stuff doesn't really happen, but it has.
LLYR HELLER: Well, thank you so much to the panelists for joining us this afternoon. And thank you to the audience
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CAREER CONVERSATIONS PODCAST, February 2019, CAPTIONED BY TOTAL RECALL, www.yourcaptioner.com