Q & A with David
Why did you choose to work with one of the clinics? And why did you choose the Criminal Law Clinic?
I wanted a hands-on component to my law school experience, and everyone I knew in the Criminal Clinic described it as one of their best law school experiences. Having come to law school wanting to make a difference in peoples' lives, I jumped at the opportunity to work with clients and help solve real-world problems. A lot of law school is theoretical, and the reality is that many if not most law school grads may not see the inside of a courtroom for years. The clinic offered the chance to argue my own cases in court. As for why I choose the Criminal Clinic, criminal litigation was definitely something I wanted to test drive before graduation, and thanks to my experience, I now know that I have found a practice area I enjoy.
What was the first time you had to speak in front of court like, and how did you build confidence over time?
The Criminal Law Clinic is structured such that you don't argue before a judge until your second semester. So by the time I made my first bail argument, I had watched dozens, and through our classroom component, I had a very good idea of what to expect and what arguments to make. I was still nervous, but I had been exceptionally well prepared, and that allowed me to enjoy the experience, confident in the knowledge that I had something to offer my client. As we move on to more complicated fare, that experience has helped me recognize the importance of preparation and the confidence it offers as you begin any argument.
Did you work as a defender or prosecutor? Why did you choose this role?
During our first semester, we work both as defenders and prosecutors. This semester, however, I'm working with the defense. During my first semester, I just found defense work a better fit.
What was your most memorable case, and why?
Without getting into the specifics of any one case, I'll say that my most memorable cases have been those where it's clear that defendants have been caught up in the system through no fault of their own. I once had a case dismissed because the defendant was charged with something that wasn't even a crime, and I've had to deal with extraneous charges on more than one occasion. We may be a nation of laws, but people have to execute those laws, and people make mistakes. When they do, the adversarial system is in place to help ensure that justice is done.
Why is it important to represent cases pro bono?
As I alluded to in my previous answer, sometimes things slip through the cracks, and I think there's a tendency for this to happen more often to those people who don't have a voice. Pro bono work is important because it helps provide a voice for those who would otherwise be silenced for lack of resources. It helps us live up to the ideal of justice for all.
What did you gain from participating in the program?
More than anything, I think the program has given me a practical feel for criminal defense work, a chance to roll up my sleeves and get involved solving real problems for real clients--real courtroom experience. As an educational experience, this has meant the chance to test drive a potential career path.
What advice would you give to incoming students curious about the clinical programs?
Find someone you know who's in the program, and talk to them about it. Heck, find someone you don't know. We're all pretty friendly, but if it's something you want to do, apply during your 2L year. There are only a few seats, and if you don't get in your first year, you'll get priority the second time around. It's an experience I can't recommend strongly enough.