New public defender, Frolics and Detours (she doesn’t work in Montana; I’m not sure where she is), just started a couple of months ago and already has a massive caseload of 189 cases. Not surprisingly, she’s already feeling a little burned out:
I’m so exhausted. As a new attorney with a huge case load, it’s hard to determine when it is time to stop working and go home. Once I get home, I just crash. But then I wake up in the middle of the night and my mind starts racing. Aside from getting on meds, any suggestions for a newbie to help me feel better and not get so overwhelmed?
She’s received some good advice in response: do triage daily, focus on the big things and what must be done now, postpone what can wait. Of course, for a newbie, figuring out what is and is not crucial may be the hardest part. Blonde Justice also recommends less caffeine. I’ll just be taking that one under advisement.
Here in Montana, the Public Defender Commission has promulgated caseload standards to help reduce the chance of burnout and also to ensure that attorneys are not so overworked that their clients do not get good representation. Chapter II, section V of those standards says caseload should not exceed the following:
- 150 Felony cases (excluding those in which the death penalt y is being sought) per attorney per year; or,
- 300 Misdemeanor Cases per attorney per year; or,
- 250 Misdemeanor Juvenile Offender Cases per attorney per year; or,
- 60 Juvenile Dependency Clients per attorney per year; or,
- 100 Civil Commit ment Cases per attorney per year; or,
- 25 Appeals to the Montana Supreme Court per attorney per year; or,
- 25 postconvict ion matters per attorney per year; or,
- 12 petitions for certiorari to the United State Supreme Court per attorney per year.
I don’t know how it is around the state, but I’m pretty sure the majority of public defenders have already met—or have come pretty close to meeting—their yearly “quotas” in the five months since the system started on July 1. [tags]caseload, burnout, standards[/tags]