"How can you represent someone who is guilty?" rifled one middle schooler as we opened for questions on career day. I couldn't tell whether he: had an interest in becoming an attorney, wanted to see me squirm, or simply needed to know the answer.
Instead of giving the typical "all people are entitled to a fair trial speech", I sought to give the class a deeper answer. I decided to tell them my reasons as opposed to trying to explain the motivations of other attorneys. I thought of Mark 2:16 where religious leaders denounced Jesus for dining with sinners and people of ill-repute.
I answered as Jesus answered, "It is the sick who need a doctor." As a criminal defense attorney, I can direct someone away from the wrong path onto the road of redemption. I encourage the guilty to accept responsibility for their mistakes, to make amends to society, and to surround themselves with positive influences. I have more interaction with them than judges and police officers so it's my responsibility to make an impact. I often find the greatest satisfaction from my clients who do not give me repeat business. For my juvenile defendants, I am often the only person who listens to their fears and insecurities. I am often the only person who provides them solid advice on how to pursue a legitimate career and to break the grasp of street life.
I applaud the legal physicians in our profession and all the sick people you have healed. I applaud you for representing the guilty without condoning or condemning them. The world may misjudge you as the self-righteous Pharisees condemned Jesus Christ, but you answered a tremendous calling. People can make lawyer jokes and impugn the noble profession, but take heart in the knowledge that Jesus did not come to call the righteous, but sinners. You give every man and woman a chance at redemption every time he/she confesses a mistake or asks advice about their next step. Your work is glorious!