It was just another Tuesday working at the Leon County Public Defender’s Office when a complete stranger got on the elevator with me. We exchanged pleasantries and right before she exited the elevator, she turned to me and said, “Make today great!” I stood there in silence and thought about those words, but at that moment I did not know that this small phrase would impact me so heavily.
Working at the public defender’s officer has been my most rewarding experience since coming to law school. Growing up in a house with two parents in law enforcement and countless cousins and uncles in the military, there was no hope for me to steer clear of criminal law. I always imagined I would eventually work as a prosecutor, but while in both college and law school, I began to notice my emotions and mindset drifted towards defense.
Taking a chance, I registered for the appropriate courses, participated in the Criminal Practice Clinic, and chose to complete my externship at the public defender’s office. I never would have guessed just how much I would grow to love the work and the people in the office. I represented real clients with real issues. Their personal liberty was at stake and it was my job to meticulously review their cases and make sure that the State of Florida and its actors had properly charged them.
My externship gave my law school education purpose and provided the “ah-ha” moment I had been waiting for to justify having chosen to attempt law school in the first place. Finding my purpose is like the feeling of finding a home. I will never forget the call I made to a client to let her know that the State received the motion I had written and would be dropping the charge against her. Her elation almost put me in tears. That euphoric feeling of helping someone else motivated me to do better, work harder, and “make today even greater”. Even though I experienced angry calls, and some clients who never returned my calls, a simple thank-you at the end of the day can make it all worth-while.
Brooke Tharpe, 3L