The South Side of The Law

It is no secret that I am a very Southern girl.  I hold many Southern ways close to my heart: I speak with a Southern accent; prefer a slower pace; and serve my chicken fried.  I am writing from my front porch while sipping sweet tea (seriously).   There are however, some parts of Southern heritage that I do not and will never hold dear.

I just saw the hit move The Help.  I did not read the book although I plan to on my next vacation.  For those of you who are unfamiliar with the story, it is set in Jackson, Mississippi in 1962 .  The book and movie chronicle the lives and relationships of middle-class  white women and their black domestic help.  What hit me, and turned my stomach, was the reality that although the laws regarding segregation were changing during that time, the hearts of many people were not.  I had to ask myself, “Would I have been that white, southern *itch or would I have been the sympathizer risking her reputation to give someone else a voice?”  Of course I hope I would have been the sympathizer.

The shameful characters in the movie were in that day “above the law.”  I suppose that puts the heroines of the movie, the black help, on the south side of the law.  Have you ever spoken up for someone on the south side of the law?  If you have not, think about giving it a try.

Those of us working in the legal profession can speak a foreign language (legalease); we know the customs of a foreign culture (the court system).  Our knowledge and expertise in the legal system give us a unique opportunity to help others.

Everyone acknowledges that they should do pro bono work, but it should not be done out of an obligation.  Volunteering should be done out of compassion and a sense of justice.  Search  for what stirs up indignation in your heart – it probably has to do with someone on the south side of the law.  Use your voice (and your brain) to give them a voice. If you need some inspiration, go see The Help.

 

Postscript:  I do practice what I am preaching.

I work as a volunteer Victim and Witness Advocate as well as serving on the local Domestic Violence Task Force.  I was recently selected as the community representative to review and approve the  Sexual Assault Victim Protocol used by local  law enforcement. It is worthwhile work.

Photo: sonjalovas

5 Responses to The South Side of The Law
  1. Ana
    October 2, 2011 | 9:43 am

    Another great article. I really enjoy your writing. Thank you so much for the blog.

    Read the book, you will love it. I’m not much of a fiction reader and I really liked. Couldn’t put it down.

    The volunteer aspect of your article is easier said than done, however. I recently sent my resume to a battered women’s organization only to receive a response back that they do not accept paralegal volunteers. They are, however, accepting attorney volunteers. Doesn’t make sense to me.

  2. Misty Sheffield
    October 2, 2011 | 12:20 pm

    Thanks Ana. I am glad you like the blog. Volunteering is definitely easier said than done. It is a shame that the organization did not use the skills of someone with your legal expertise. Keep looking, another organization would probably be very grateful for your help.

  3. […] worked as a freelance paralegal for many attorneys who are successful because of their passionate hatred of injustice.   When they meet a person who has been truly wronged they don’t see dollar signs as the […]

  4. […] who are in these difficult situations.  My friends and regular readers know that I advocate doing pro bono work for both professional and altruistic reasons, but here is a selfish reason: it gives you […]

  5. […] who are in these difficult situations.  My friends and regular readers know that I advocate doing pro bono work for both professional and altruistic reasons, but here is a selfish reason: it gives you […]

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About
Misty L. Sheffield is a freelance paralegal helping solos and small law firms in civil litigation. She has been assisting attorneys for over 12 years. Read More »