Law school was insanely expensive. I have colleagues who came out of law school with a quarter-million dollars in educational debt. Every year that I’ve been a public defender, I have taken on more cases than I had the year before. … I had 531 new cases last year, which is 131 more than the ABA recommends. Most of us don’t think seriously about things like buying houses. Most of us don’t think seriously about things like getting married or having kids. This is not a job so much as a calling. And that has impacts. It makes it really hard to keep people who get experienced, who developed the best chops, who have the best skills.

This job will kill you if you let it. It’ll turn into the only thing that you do if you don’t draw hard boundaries around it.

— Charlie Peirson , a public defender in Portland, explaining why he and more than a dozen of his colleagues were forced to walk off the job in protest . Peirson, who says he’s “lucky” because he only has about $100,000 in student loans, makes only $60,000 a year and is protesting to draw attention to Oregon House Bill 3145. The bill would cap the number of cases that can be assigned to public defenders and require additional training for new lawyers.

Staci Zaretsky is a senior editor at Above the Law, where she’s worked since 2011. She’d love to hear from you, so please feel free to email her with any tips, questions, comments, or critiques. You can follow her on Twitter or connect with her on LinkedIn .

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