Book For New PDs

I have a book to recommend for the new public defenders out there.

It's called What Patients Taught Me : A Medical Student's Journey by Audrey Young.

I read it a couple of years ago, when I was a brand new public defender. At the time, I thought it was just interesting timing, how it seemed to tie-in to some of the things I was learning.

Now, working with the brand new public defenders, I feel like maybe they'd get something out of reading this book.

I'll admit, I have terrible reading comprehension. Actually, just a terrible memory. I can't remember the ending of a movie I saw a few weeks ago. (Which is nice, I can watch it again, and it's always a surprise!)

But, here's what I remember from What Patients Taught Me: The author, who is a medical student, is doing her internships or rotations. She meets with the patients, gets their basic information - symptoms and medical history, and then has to go to the actual doctor before she does anything to say, "This is what I think the problem is, this is what I'm going to recommend."

In the beginning, she gets frustrated, because the experienced doctor, always asks her, "Did you check for this? Did you do this? Did you ask this?" and always wants her to boil the medical history down more concisely.

And, eventually she learns how to do it! And then she's a good doctor!

There's a lot more to the book (and it's all good), but that's what I see the new lawyers having a lot of trouble with - looking at a client and their case, and knowing what's important, and what's not.

So, for example, a brand new attorney will come to me in arraignments and say, "Ok, I talked to this client. It's a shoplift. He says he did it."

My response? "Ok, How old is he? Does he have a record? What kind of sentence did he get on his last shoplift case(s)? Could he be ROR-ed? Could he make bail? Drug problem? Drug program?"

And the new attorney's usual response is "Oh, I don't know. Let me check."

And I think that's about learning what's important (for arraignment, you're looking at whether or not the client will be released, whether or not they can or should take a plea, and, if so, what is the best plea you can work out), and what's not as important (whether or not he says he did it).

So, I recommend this book. (I feel like I'm on Reading Rainbow! I always wanted to be one of those kids!)

I will warn you, I remember there being very sad parts to this book. I probably cried. But, then again, I cry at almost anything. Oh, and, the good news: There is no law involved whatsoever. Because you're dealing with enough of that every day.



  1. Speaking of being a new public defender, I was wondering if you know why some public defender's offices require experience? I would apply to the PD's office in my city but they require a year of experience. Instead, I would consider just sending a resume to the DA's office. I know a lot of other people have done this in the past and they end up staying with the DA's instead of leaving for the PD's. Does your office have this policy? Grrr.

  2. No way. I came to my job straight out of law school. I think they prefer experience such as an internship with a PD's office, but don't require it.

    Another city where I have a lot of friends that work requires that you be admitted to the bar before you can apply. This generally means that you have to find something else to do from graduation to the following year so you can get admitted, apply, interview, get hired, and end up starting about 15 months after graduation. Most people clerk for a judge for one year.