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International Women's Day: Attorney Lisa Greenberg aims to bring empathy to courtroom

Why is she so passionate about her clients? 'They’re humans like me and you.'
Lisa Greenberg.jpg
Posted at 3:01 PM, Mar 08, 2022
and last updated 2022-03-08 20:12:45-05

CORPUS CHRISTI, Texas — Growing up, Lisa Greenberg said she had a nickname one wouldn't normally expect from the daughter of a prosecutor.

“It was ‘Lisa T,’ " she said. "(T) for trouble. I was always an instigator. I always questioned things.”

Greenberg has been a criminal-defense attorney for 13 years, and has defended several high-profile clients locally, including Jaime Sandoval, a doctor accused of inappropriately touching patients and David Davila, who is accused of the shooting death of a 14-year-old boy in the Treyway neighborhood.

It is not our job to judge a person whether a person is good or bad. That is not my role.
--Lisa Greenberg, attorney

She realizes that most people don't understand why she chooses to defend people accused of such serious crimes, but to her, their right to a strong representation isn't up for debate.

“It is not our job to judge a person whether a person is good or bad,” she said. “That is not my role. My role is to make sure their rights are protected. My role is to make sure that their story is heard.”

It's a role she said comes naturally to her.

“I think this is a mama-bear quality I have,” Greenberg said. “It is so easy for me to stand up for somebody else. It is so easy for me to fight for somebody else.”

Raised by a single dad, Greenberg said she was one of four sisters who spent much of her childhood wandering around the El Paso County Courthouse, peeking into courtrooms, snack in hand.

“We’d get in big trouble if we did that, but I would try to watch some of the trials,” she said.

She was curious — yes — but she wasn’t interested in following her father’s footsteps.

“He was asking for a lengthy prison sentence for the defendant, and I remember seeing the person accused and his family," she said. "I remember feeling really sad for them.”

Greenberg went to Texas Tech University, originally as a theater major, but she quickly realized Hollywood probably wouldn’t come knocking on her Lubbock, Texas, door and changed her major to political science and got a master’s degree.

I was always an instigator. I always questioned things.
--Lisa Greenberg, attorney

Still unsure about what she wanted to be, she stayed in Lubbock and got her law degree.

“I was never the student who could rattle off case law or write the most beautiful brief,” Greenberg said. “But, I was the person who cared and I like to be, in the courtroom, the person that cares the most.”

After moving back to El Paso, she took a job at the El Paso County District Attorney's Office.

“I was a baby DA in the DA’s office,” she said. “Right next door to my dad.”

Greenberg got married, became a mom and moved to Washington state before settling in Corpus Christi. With her kids in pre-school, she said wasn’t ready to go back to work full time, so, she started taking on court-appointed cases.

It was a role in which she felt like she could make a difference.

“Nobody had listened to them before,” she said. “Nobody had cared enough for them to listen.”

She said that when she visited the jail for the first time, she realized a lot of the people there were a symptom of a bigger problem.

“I remember people telling me they can’t read and nobody knew that, or that they had mental-health issues, or they couldn’t afford something for their children, so they stole,” Greenberg said.

She said it was then that she realized what she wanted to do: become a fighter and a voice for people who wouldn’t otherwise have one.

I remember going to the jail a few times and clients saying, ‘Do you work for the lawyer?’ And having to be like, ‘Well actually I am the lawyer
-- Lisa Greenberg, attorney

Many people in her life didn't understand her decision, including the moms at her children’s school.

“They said, ‘Do you really defend those people?’ " she said. "I had actually just gotten out of trial. I was still in my suit and I said, ‘What do you mean by 'those people?'’ and the moms looked taken aback and I said, ‘They’re people. They’re humans like me and you.' ”

Greenberg said she, too, knows what it's like to be underestimated. It happened often when she was a young female lawyer starting out.

“I remember going to the jail a few times and clients saying, ‘Do you work for the lawyer?’ And having to be like, ‘Well actually I am the lawyer,” she said.

But she sees being a woman as a strength in her chosen career.

“I feel like no one can cross-examine a woman like a woman and I feel like no one can cross-examine a kid like a mom,” Greenberg said.

And it puts her in a position to be empathetic, and model that empathy for future generations.

“Teachers tell me that my kids have said, 'My mom stands up for people that nobody else does,' so I hope they are proud of me,” she said.