I am a new member of NAPD and had the pleasure of attending the 2019 Executive Leadership Institute in Frankfort, Kentucky. I wanted to take this opportunity to reflect on the impact that the Institute is having in my professional development. As a leader in the Georgia Public Defender Council, I already was well aware of the value of my relationships with other Public Defenders in the state. We share the same struggles and it is invaluable in how we support each other. I had no idea, however, how much bigger the stage is for finding like-minded people. Seeing Public Defenders, all with different size offices, different political challenges, and different client demographics, come together and universally have the same message was not only moving but also deeply informative. 

Client centered representation is at the core of all of our practices and should not just be in our hearts, but implemented in the strategy of our offices, how we talk about representation, and how we evaluate our own and our employees performances. If we examine our individual practices, all problems can be re-framed as “Is this the best decision for my client?” In our small group breakout sessions, we discussed our various problems and brainstormed possible solutions. Some leaders wanted more funding, some wanted lighter caseloads, some wanted to make sure the Attorneys, Social Workers, Investigators and Administrative Assistants were not suffering from secondary trauma. What we returned to with each problem was how we answer this within a Client-centered framework. Instead of just, “I need more money,” it was “How do we explain the need for funding to stakeholders in order to give our clients a voice?”  Instead of “I have too many cases”; it was “How would lighter caseloads ensure more quality client representation and decrease recidivism?”  Instead of “I hate how tolling work can be”; it was “How would better self-care in turn help us to better serve clients?”  When we think of every problem in terms of our clients, we become better public servants and more effective Public Defenders. I encourage all Public Defenders with an interest in Leadership to attend this Institute and I plan to send attorneys from my office every year in the future.