The person I interviewed is Charles Hobbs, the senior staff attorney, here at Street Democracy. Over the course of the following month I've been able to learn more about Charles and his passions inside and outside the office. In preparation for this program Carly and I learned a lot about Jayesh, the president and director, and his background in creating Street Democracy. I thought it would be a good opportunity for me to not go through the motions but to sit down and understand the perspective of Charles who has been working at Street Democracy for a little over a year about his background, view of the work he does, and the social entrepreneurial environment he is in. Here is the conversation we had:
Q: I think a lot of times when you think about being a lawyer, when you think about law in general you think big law, you think law firm, corporate law. So what drew you to Street Democracy and this social justice environment your in?
A: I wasn't a very traditional student. I didn't go to law school until I was 23 and undergrad at 28. That helped inform what I really wanted to know by having that life experience. I think overall there were a few factors of why I got into it. My mom always says that I told her when I was five that I was either going to become a fighter jet pilot or a lawyer. I also think just being raised in a home where a sense of service to others was a big deal played a big part in where I am today. That was instilled in us very strongly from a young age. My dad and the entirety of my dad's side of the family are correctional workers so I grew up hearing stories about prisoners and the issues they experienced in prison. My grandparents would actually bring parolees into their house. If an inmate didn't have a place to stay or didn't have family they would bring them in. When we would go to visit there would always be a new uncle. I didn't even realize they were parolees until I was a teenager; they were always seen as family. I always had this strong sense of empathy and giving people a second chance, so I think that is what really informed my person world view and why I wanted to go into law.
Q: Why Street Democracy? Why not in another city? in another organization?
A: I started law school with the mantra follow the dream, and the money will follow. And the dream is to be able to help other people as cliche and generic as it sounds. When I started law school I didn't know how specifically I was going to help people; I just knew I could. There's nothing wrong with prioritizing money. There still can be nobility in those professions, but I saw Street Democracy as an opportunity to be of direct service to clients, have close impact on litigation, as well as to actualize my goal I set out for myself in the beginning of law school.
Q: What do you think about the TechTown and Street Democracy culture?
A: As far as Street Democracy is concerned we have a lot of freedom. That's how Jayesh wanted the culture of the company to be — to not be a traditional law firm environment, which is great because it's conducive to my personality. Being in TechTown has been great as well. The fact that everything is shared space it really does create a community. It's more than just something that is written on the website. There has been many times where we've been able to brainstorm with others that are not in your field specifically, but can offer a different point of view on any and everything.
Q: How would you describe your year working here? The struggles? The frustrations? The triumphs?
A: If I were to describe it in one word it would be awesome. The victories we achieve for our clients; that feels amazing. But there's always a balance somewhere, and those lows are just as lows as the highs are high. There are some injustices that you can't do anything about. You can stand up, yell, and scream all you want but it doesn't effect that issue. There has to be a change on a much higher level in order for there to be an impact on how we treat others in our community. Sometimes it's appalling. But the impact I've had on people's lives, as they told me, is something I'll never forget. The real benefit is hearing that I helped someone through a time that seemed unsurpassable.