I just got back from the annual innocence conference that is sponsored by the Texas Criminal Defense Lawyer's Association. I've had the privilege at the seminar for several years - this year on Innocence writs - and this year it was extended to 1 1/2 days.
One of the highlights of the seminar is a dinner. Several exonerees are usually invited to speak. This year it was Richard Miles and Billy Smith. Even if you've you've heard them before, their stories are both heartbreaking and inspiring. It always amazes me how gracious these individuals are.
The message that came across this year came primarily from Richard Miles. He reminded lawyers they are the client's lifeline. The lawyer is more than a lawyer - he or she is the client's hope for freedom, and sometimes their only link to the outside world.
Thankfully there are a lot of good lawyers who recognize this, and give their all for every client. They know that sometimes a client just needs to know you are working for him. Unfortunately though there a a few lawyers who look at clients as nothing more than a cash cow. They do the least amount possible - which increases the number of cases they can handle. Fortunately there aren't a lot of those lawyers.
I believe every lawyer needs to attend at least one of those programs. More importantly, I think it should be mandated for prosecutors. They need to know what kind of impact they have on individuals and their families.
I don't believe there is any higher calling than working to free those who exonerated. You aren't going to get rich - in fact if you're not careful you can easily go break. But the rewards are immeasurable. Standing outside a prison and watching someone who had been locked for years is a feeling that cannot be described. It's the lawyer's equivalent of winning the super bowl.
There's always for more lawyers to join the fight. Think about it.