I recently won my first motion for judgment during a modification for visitation hearing. It wasn’t the win that had me on cloud nine — it was my client’s level of gratitude. Her appreciation is why I work for Legal Aid.
She has been dealing with her custody case for nearly a decade. I can’t imagine the emotional and physical stress she has been through over the years. I made several attempts to reach out to opposing counsel in attempts to settle the matter, but he refused. As time passed, it became clear that I had a strong argument to support a motion for judgment.
I had a slight setback at the beginning of the trial when the judge decided that he wasn’t going to hear from the child, now a teenager. But things started looking brighter after my oral motion to limit the scope of the testimony and evidence to a specific time period was granted over the other side’s objection. The plaintiff’s lawyer finished his direct in about 30 minutes and offered no evidence.
My cross was even shorter. I made my motion shortly after and all I had to say was “under Wagner v. Wagner, the plaintiff has failed to meet his burden that there has been a material change in circumstances…” The judge abruptly cut me off and asked the plaintiff to respond — and that is when I started feeling good. After a brief dialogue between the plaintiff and the judge and my quick rebuttal, the judge granted my motion.
I immediately leaned over to my client and said, “It’s over.” I wanted her to finally have peace of mind. I didn’t realize how emotional she had become until we were outside of the courtroom. She was still processing the fact that this issue was finally over and she was overwhelmed. She was so grateful for the services of Legal Aid and showed her gratitude by giving my supervisor, two of my colleagues and me tight hugs.
Knowing that I’ve impacted someone’s life in a positive way is extremely rewarding. I wouldn’t trade that feeling for anything. That is why I decided to become a lawyer. I might not make a lot of money, but I do have the satisfaction that I provide a much-needed service to an underserved population in my community. I provided my client with thousands of dollars worth of legal services for free. I can honestly say that I believe I zealously advocated on her behalf.
I know that I won’t have favorable outcomes all the time. But this win validates that Legal Aid is the right place for me. Although it has its challenging moments — and sometimes I could use a larger paycheck — those moments are outweighed by the smiles on my clients’ faces at the conclusion of their cases.