64 Fordham L. Rev. 1699 (1995-1996)
You're My What--The Problem of Children's Misperceptions of Their Lawyers' Roles

handle is hein.journals/flr64 and id is 1715 raw text is: YOU'RE MY WHAT?
Emily Buss*
A lawyer representing seven-year-old James discussed James' op-
tions with him at considerable length. She explained to him that he
had a number of choices about where he would live, some with fam-
ily, some in foster care, and she took pains to discuss the likely con-
sequences of each of his choices. James participated actively in the
conversation, and had no trouble following the substance of the dis-
cussion. At the end of their conversation, the lawyer asked James
what option he would like her toursue. His direction to counsel:
I think I'd like to live with you.
A NY thinking lawyer who represents children has struggled with
A-'the question of what role to assume in that representation, a
struggle that classically comes down to a choice between best inter-
est and expressed interest representation. Most of us end up pas-
sionately committed to one model of representation or another, and
try to live out that model in practice. In my practice, I have assumed
the expressed interest, or traditional attorney role, and have sought
to take direction from my clients about which objectives to pursue. In
soliciting their direction, I repeatedly explain to my clients that they
are in charge, that I will fight for what they want, as long as they tell
me what to fight for.
What I have found, however, is that, for many of my clients, even
the teenagers among them, the message does not sink in. They con-
tinue to assume that I will take whatever action I think is right, and
that I stand united with the public child welfare agency in controlling
their fate. For many of my clients, despite my frequent protestations
to the contrary, I am a part of the all-powerful you all that gives and
takes away placements, visits, and services as we see fit.
* Deputy Director, Juvenile Law Center, B.A., 1982, J.D., 1986, Yale University.
My thanks to Eleanor Bush, William Buss, Jacqueline Duby, Theresa Glennon, Kate
Greenwood, Kurt Fischer, Susan Mangold, Elaine Meyer Lee, Katherine Meyer
Reimer, Robert Schwartz, Judith Silver, Laurence Steinberg, and Merle Weiner for
their helpful comments and direction.
1. The stories in this Article are based on the actual experiences of lawyers, in-
cluding myself, who represent children, and of children who have been represented by
lawyers. Names have been changed to protect the clients' privacy.


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