My practice is exclusively criminal appellate law. I have been with the Office of the State Appellate Defender since early in my legal career. Our agency is appointed to represent indigent defendants on appeal from their criminal convictions, as well as on appeal in collateral, post-conviction proceedings.
How has your practice evolved in the last few years; from your perspective, what’s in store for the next few years?
Because of the nature of our agency, the scope of my work does not change or evolve much from day to day. Early on, I was interested in so many different areas of law and I thought it would be difficult pick just one. However, I have discovered that there is also a great enjoyment that comes from narrowing your focus and honing your expertise. Despite handling criminal appeals exclusively for over eight years, I am constantly learning, and the work has never been dull.
If you could offer one piece of advice for young lawyers, what would it be?
Always remember that you are first and foremost an advocate for your client.
What is the one technological device you could not function without daily?
Really, just the good old-fashioned desktop computer and Westlaw. Most days I am sitting at my desk researching and writing for the better part of the day, so that is really all I need.
How has civility made a difference in your practice of law?
As a law student and a young lawyer starting out, I had no idea how important and central to my practice civility would become. I think most of us get caught up in learning the law and honing our skills, and are not focused on the concept of civility within the profession. However, it does not take long in the real world to see how important it is. Tempers are often high during litigation, and, sometimes, the line between passionate advocacy and a lack of professionalism can become blurred. However, a lawyer quickly loses credibility in my eyes if he loses his cool and cannot remain respectful.
Fortunately, in appeals we do not see blatant incivility as often. There is less opportunity for “heat of the moment” frustration during the brief-writing process than in person and in court. Because rude or unprofessional comments stand out so glaringly in a written brief, very few ever make it into the final draft of an appellate brief.
As a newlywed, is it difficult to balance time for family especially with the demands of your job?
It is probably a bit less difficult for me because my husband is also an attorney at our agency. We do actually discuss our work a lot (which is not as boring as it sounds, I swear!). It is great to have someone who can listen to you rant about obscure procedural rules for hours and get just as excited about them, or who can truly commiserate with you over a tough loss.
What do you do for fun?
I love exploring the Chicago restaurant scene and also the local farmers markets. I have recently gotten into the localvore food trend and have joined both a vegetable and meat CSA [Community Supported Agriculture] from local farms. I am convinced that simply using fresher, quality ingredients has greatly improved my cooking. I also try to travel as much as time and money allow, visiting far-flung friends. We recently returned from our honeymoon in Santorini and Mykonos in the Greek Isles, and it was perfection! But honestly… just relaxing on the couch with a book is still my favorite thing.
Lauren A. Bauser is an Assistant Appellate Defender for the Illinois State Appellate Defender.