Center for Gender & Sexuality Law
She surveyed my office for signs of conspiracy. We had had two or three telephone conversations that had conveyed my ambivalence about representing her. A former colleague had urged her to call the clinic for help but I was reluctant to accept her case for the clinic: we rarely represented foster parents and the procedural complexity of the case convinced me that I would be unable to assign students to represent this client so late in the semester. I was resigned, however, to help her find a lawyer, both because a former colleague had sent her and because the snippets of her story that I had heard so far were troubling. So, for a few weeks I had tried to find former students to take her case pro bono, but none was available. After failing to secure anyone's help, I telephoned her once more and listened to her story in more detail. I couldn't imagine what was compelling me to consider representing her myself. The semester was well in progress. I was already thinking about the summer and balancing the time I wanted to spend with my year-old daughter, my clinic responsibilities, and some unfinished research. To protect myself, I told her that I was willing to meet with her and decide whether the office could represent her (I continued to use the office as a shield against taking the case). I was sending very mixed messages and neither of us felt comfortable with this accommodation when our telephone conversation ended. Nevertheless, she persisted. My former colleague had told her about my experience in representing clients in foster care matters and I had reinforced that story in our discussion. My indecision contained advice which might eventually have to satisfy her. The information I offered her told her I knew the system and was part of it. Thus she searched my office and my face for signs of allegiance with her enemies.
Jane M. Spinak,
Reflections on a Case (of Motherhood),
Colum. L. Rev.
Available at: https://scholarship.law.columbia.edu/faculty_scholarship/205