Justice, Fairness, and Dignity for All

Justice, Fairness, and Dignity for All

Informational Interview aka Great Conversation

“Hi, Ms. Sylvia Long? My name is Jahmel”.

 

I followed my introduction for my informational interview with, “in what way does this type of work interest you, and how did you get started?”  Ms. Long’s warm and receptive greeting foreshadowed the transformation of an informational interview into a genuine conversation between two people.


She spoke about her thought process behind her decision to go to law school, which was not a decision made until after four years of being a journalist and doing odd jobs after her graduation. She expressed her love for history and the importance of understanding one’s place in constructing history; whatever career she was currently in, she kept in mind how she could impact the current historical moment. What a great way to approach life!

 

Ms. Long represents parents/legal guardians, who have lost their children to the government due to neglect or abuse of a child. I had to ask her, “Why did you choose to work in this division (CINA division) and defend parents charged with probably abusing their child?”

 

She responded with her own set of questions. “What do you do as a parent that can’t find work? If you do find work, how do you pay for day-care?” Instead of finding solutions to prevent people from losing their children to the foster care system, she suggests we need to start helping these parents learn how to raise and treat their children. Ms. Long pleads to me that she is representing good, good, good people in HORRIBLE situations. There is no low-income housing in Montgomery County, and there are few jobs available. If a parent finds a job outside the county, their housing is far away which means they have to find a source of transportation.

 

Ms. Long admits to me that she feels that the justice system is very flawed.  As a supervising attorney, it is hard to keep her team's spirits high, but she states that she loves what she does even though she knows she will lose a majority of her cases. She feels like she is the voice of the people, especially those who live below the poverty line. After a hard fought case, a client will usually be the one comforting her because they are really just happy that she did her absolute best to voice their situation and feelings in court.

 

This “informational interview” with Ms. Sylvia Long cleared up any doubts in my mind about going to law school. She explained the tough job market for lawyers through stories about her son who recently graduated and is considering law school as well. She explained the importance of understanding law as an active citizen, which really hit home for me too. Even though I never had an urge to work in the CINA division as a Public Defender, as I spoke to her I could just envision myself on the other side of the desk. Both of us share the same passion for being the voice of the people and making an impact in history. 

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