Today, I stood next to my client as he received the longest sentence any of my clients has ever received.
Moving up the career ladder has its downside.
My client took it like a pro. Maybe more of a pro than me, although, it was not the longest sentence he had ever received. And, truthfully, I wasn't completely sure that he "got it." He was still smiling like someone who maybe didn't "get it." He had a long history of mental illness, but nothing the court cared about.
The judge gave a lecture about why my client deserved the maximum sentence. The judge directed it towards me, like I had done something wrong. Her tone was so condescending, like, "How dare you ask for anything less than the maximum? Your client is so terrible..." and then gave the long version of my client's rap sheet, all in the worst possible detail. It felt strange, like I was being reprimanded, and the weirdest part of it was that I kept thinking that "I don't know where to look." I didn't want to look the judge in the eye, and I didn't want to look at my client, because I was worried about making my client feel bad, or directing the judge's attention toward him.
Afterwards, my client walked happily into the pens behind the courtroom. I'm sure that if he could have, he would have waved goodbye.
I felt like crap.
His mother hugged me in the hallway. My few years of experience have taught me a few tricks of how to avoid client hugs. But I let her.
She kept thanking me.
And I just spent the afternoon thinking, "How does a woman, who shows up for every court date and thanks a lawyer for getting her son the maximum, end up with a son who gets the maximum?"
And feeling like crap.