Working in a magistrate court, especially as a new attorney, often involves working the night shift at a jail and being one of the first people a defendant sees after they’re booked into jail. Oftentimes, this is the worst moment of a person’s life. Yet, Mallory has spent years preparing for the mental toll a job like this can exert.
“You have to be open to being empathetic with them while still kind of shutting it off,” she explains.
There was one time during her externship when Mallory couldn’t shut off her emotions. One of her clients was a man with young children. She says every time she spoke with him, he did not care whether he was sentenced to probation, inpatient treatment, or jail time; he just wanted whatever sentence would get him back to his family the fastest.
“That made me emotional, because my dad was in jail when I was young,” she explains. “It made me think, ‘I wonder what my dad asked his lawyer for?”
That unique perspective on the value of public defense pushes Mallory forward. Her externship experience deepened her belief that any person accused of a crime deserves an advocate to fight for them. “As a public defender, you have to change how you define a success,” she says. “A success is not always an acquittal. Sometimes a win means getting someone mental health or drug treatment services. Those are the things that people really need to help keep them out of the system. And public defenders can help get them.”
Mallory will soon be able to put her beliefs into practice. About six months after her externship, she was offered a job in the Atascosa Regional Public Defender Office of Texas RioGrande Legal Aid (TRLA). It’s a job offer she says she wouldn’t have without having participated in the Deason Center’s Rural Externship Program.