Indefensible Reviewed

I have a hard time leaving my work at work. Sometimes it's a good thing - spending the night thinking about a case means that I might have a "Eureka!" moment in the shower and come up with a perfect solution for a case or a client. Usually it's a bad thing - I'll take a Sunday afternoon nap and have a dream about that crazy judge yelling at me for something completely stupid. And I know I can't be a good friend when I'm constantly thinking about work.

So, I try my best to forget work as I commute home. I'll stay at the office as late as it takes to finish whatever I'm working on, so that I don't have to think about it when I get home. Once in a while, I make a decision to bring home one particular assignment, get it done quickly, and try not to let it consume my night or weekend. And sometimes, like during the middle of a trial, it's just unavoidable - I live, sleep, eat, and breathe my case.

This weekend I did a good job of forgetting my cases and clients for two days. I went to the park with my friend and her kids, I played frisbee with the dog, I shopped for some things I needed, I cleaned up and organized a little bit, I saw some friends I hadn't seen in a while, I enjoyed a yummy lobster bake. And it wasn't until Sunday night that I thought, "Wow. I haven't really thought about work all weekend."

Unfortunately, I couldn't say that the weekend I got Indefensible. I started reading it one weekend, got totally absorbed and was halfway through it, when I finally thought, "I need to put this away, it's too much like work."

But that's a good thing. Indefensible is really well-written and gives a genuine taste of a day-in-the-life of a public defender. Immersed in the book, I felt pulled in ten different directions, the way I do on an average day. It includes the heartwarming cases that make me sigh and say, "Yes, this is why I do it," the victorious moments that keep me going ("I'd gotten my first murder client released without bail. It would be more than a decade before I was able to do it again.") and the truly frustrating, burnout-inducing cases that make me say, "Ugh, I know how much that sucks!" and feel glad that I'm not the only one who feels that way. Reading Indefensible made me think of clients in my past, wonder what happened to some of them, and mourn the fate of others.

But reality can be a good thing. Indefensible should be required reading for any law student or lawyer thinking about a career as a public defender. It amazes me every year when one or two completely naive new lawyers slip through the cracks and get hired at the public defender's office.

From now on, when some punk law student says to me, "I want to be a public defender," I can say to them, "Fantastic! You read Indefensible, right?" When someone says to me, "You're a public defender? So, that's, like, a prosecutor, right?" I can say, "Oh, You obviously didn't read Indefensible yet." Maybe I'll even send a copy to my mother, so she can finally understand what I do for a living.

I highly recommend Indefensible to other public defenders. It can be a lonely job sometimes, and it's nice to know that all over the country, there are lawyers working toward the same goals, surviving similarly looney judges, jumping the same hurdles, and just trying to survive the same kinds of days.

Just don't read it on your vacation. Because we all deserve a break sometimes.


  1. Certainly you meant "epiphany." Although more ppl will know what you meant by "Eureka." Eureka is a town in Northern California about five hours from San Francisco.

  2. Eureka may be a town five hours north of San Francisco, but it also refers to a moment when someone realizes the solution to their problem. Good review.

  3. I just read it this weekend after putting it off for awhile. I had the same feeling that, as a public defender, I had enough of my own stuff to worry about, be outraged about, that I didn't want to wallow in someone else's tough day.

    But reading it actually helped me get recharged and excited to work. So many of the observations were right on, that I feel like I'm on the right track and in the right place.

    Plus it's something I can recommend to friends and relatives who don't get what I do and want to know.

  4. Great blog BJ. Honest and worth the read. Obvious differences between our legal systems - but at least I can compare the two from across the pond.

    Ok to add you as a link?

    Miss H

  5. I just ordered it about a week ago, and can't wait to read it. Thanks for the review!

  6. Thanks for the review! Really glad you liked it. I was starting to wonder if you'd put it down in disgust...
    Glad that wasn't the case.

  7. I greatly enjoyed the book. It's a quick read and helped me understand.

  8. What I have been loving after reading it is the prosecutor & judge's reaction to the book. They hate it.
    We love it. Glad you enjoyed it.

  9. I tend to think the book is relevant to many more than just those who work in the criminal field. The tension between justice and compassion is so compelling in this book. Or, er, probably more than tension - more like all-out war.
    But then again, I'm a member of Feige's fan club, so of course I loved it.