Today, we would like to turn our OJD Spotlight on Burcu Hensley, a four-year career attorney and one of the newest contractors in the N.C. juvenile defender family. Burcu is a graduate of N.C. State University with a Bachelor of Science in Business Management and Norman Adrian Wiggins School of Law at Campbell University. She possesses a strong desire to help anyone in need, and she enjoys photography and the great outdoors.
What inspired you to become an attorney? And what drove you to become a juvenile defender?
Before attending law school, I worked in preschools teaching and playing with kids. Toward the end of that chapter in my life, I began working with children with special needs and quickly realized there was a great need for advocacy for this group of people. That’s when I decided to go to law school and do what I could to make a difference in the lives of these children. Of course, when I moved here to Western North Carolina, job opportunities were scarce, so I decided to stay solo, practicing criminal defense as it seemed to be an area with the greatest amount of work. When the opportunity to work as a juvenile defender presented itself, I was happy to jump on board because I knew this would allow me to work with the children and young population that inspire me so much to be an advocate in a field where I have already familiarized myself with the rules, procedures, and court system.
What is your greatest motivation in your work?
The human element. I love to work with people, whether adults or children, and take on multiple roles, including advocate and counselor. I find it very rewarding to be able to help someone through my work, whether it’s as simple as relieving their anxiety by explaining what to expect during a court session or as dramatic as a verdict of not guilty.
What personal skill do you possess that makes you better in your professional life?
I make it a point to practice being empathetic. I think it is extremely important to be able to see things from the client’s perspective so that I can strive for the outcome the client desires. It’s also a lot easier to answer questions when I can understand why the question was asked in the first place. We work in a service industry and an ability to understand what the client wants is a skill that allows us to do our jobs more completely.
What has been one of the most challenging parts of your job/what has been one of the most challenging cases you’ve had in your career so far?
Since day one, I have always found the hardest part of my job to be “delivering the bad news” to a client. While being empathetic (see above!) is helpful in most aspects of this career, it can also make telling a client something they don’t want to hear that much more difficult.
If you could do any other job, what would it be and why?
I truly love what I do, so this question stumped me a bit. But then a burst of cold air came through the office and I realized that maybe I would like to try my hand at being a bartender, preferably at an exotic beach resort with palm trees and white sand beaches. Margaritas and good stories sounds like a fun job description, and I wouldn’t mind learning a little bottle-spinning trick or two.
Just for fun, do you have any secret talents?
Well it wouldn’t be a secret if I told you, would it? However, if I could have one super power, I would want to be invisible, on command of course.
Is there any advice you would pass on to future juvenile defenders?
I still consider myself to be pretty new to the world of law in general, and most certainly in the world of juvenile defense, but I think one thing that any attorney can do, whether fresh out of law school or well-seasoned, and whether for juvenile defense or otherwise, is to ask questions. Ask questions of colleagues, ask questions of clients, ask questions of clerks, judges, court counselors, just ask questions! Ours is a profession where the more information we have, the better (well, usually), and just asking questions is one of the best ways to gather information. It builds relationships with people, it provides for a more thorough understanding of the problems and tasks at hand, and often even identifies problems or complications we didn’t know existed before so that we can address them before it’s too late.
For a brief background and other info, please see my website attorney profile: http://hensley-law-firm.com/profile/