I like Karen's post a whole lot, so I thought I'd do the same! Here are some things I've learned so far:
1. Somedays I really worry that I'm making peoples' lives worse. For example, I'll look back at how I handled something, and think "... so I could have done that better ...". And then I wonder if someone's life will fall apart because I didn't do my job better. It's a really big responsibility doing legal work, and I feel that there's a lot of pressure that comes with peoples' trust. But in reality, I really won't make or break peoples' lives. If someone is determined to get something done, they will do it. If I don't provide all the information the first time they'll come back again a second. If someone is determined to not get something done, they won't do it, regardless of how well I do my job. People have agency! We just help. We're not perfect, but that's okay (as long we're not negligent).
2. Trust your instincts and have faith in your work. This is something that my supervising lawyer told me the other day. We have instincts for a reason. A few weeks ago someone (who I had helped a client face in a dispute) came in to the centre to make a complaint about me. I guess I shouldn't be too surprised, since I help clients with disputes against a whole host of people who would rather not be confronted with legal action. I didn't think I did anything wrong, but it made me really second guess my actions, which then made me really nervous and feel very bullied. When I spoke with my supervising lawyer to ask if I was in trouble he said "you did nothing wrong - except be too hard on yourself".
3. It's a small world. Sometimes, even a vague description is enough to give away information that is confidential. Especially in a small town! When in doubt, don't talk about it.
4. Just because we care doesn't mean we can. I'm really tempted to say to everyone who walks in the door that I can help them, as much as I can. Unfortunately we turn people away sometimes - for example, the centre's funding covers poverty law, and excludes family law (even though they sometimes intermix). And sometimes we turn people away because what they're asking is too high liability, and should really be done by a lawyer. A lot of the time I just want to wave my arms and say "They can't afford a lawyer!! We're the best service they can get! Can't we just do what we can??". But the answer is we can't. My supervising lawyer asked me why I thought I should help someone with a divorce and I said "because I care!". To which he responded "well so does her hairdresser - doesn't mean they should be providing legal help". Fair enough. But I wish there was more funding to help low income people with family law issues.
5. Life is better when you have evenings off.
6. If you transplant radishes, they will all die. Same for beets. Pretty much any root vegetable.
7. If you make a goal to score one goal during the soccer season, make sure you specify that it's a goal for your team. Or you might score that one goal in your own net. During your last game. And lose 6-0.
8. Despite being the "common law", the law's not intuitive. Just because you have a lot of very legitimate complaints doesn't mean there's a remedy for you. The law's not a mix and match system of "here are the things someone did to me" and "here's what I want as recompense". It's instead a highly complex set of paths and you have to find your way to one of them and ride it to the end. I guess the purpose of equitable remedies is to provide more flexible solutions, but imagine how hard it is for someone to self-represent and argue that they should get an equitable remedy. I mean, I hardly understand what/ where the court of equity is.
9. Self-care is important: