Q & A with Thomas
Why did you choose the Criminal Law Clinic?
I was drawn to the clinics because I really wanted to have hands-on training to see what practicing law is really like. I had a casual interest in criminal law, but the main attraction was the possibility of trying a real case before a real jury.
What was the first time you had to speak in front of court like, and how did you build confidence over time?
The first time I had to speak in front of court I was really nervous and petrified of saying something stupid or breaking the flow of the proceedings. I built confidence through repetition—the more I spoke in court, the more comfortable I became, and the clinic gave me plenty of chances to make speaking in court feel like second nature.
Did you work as a defender or prosecutor? Why did you choose this role?
I worked as a prosecutor, in part because of the great experience I had on a trial case as a junior during my first semester of the clinic. During that case and in my professional responsibility course, I learned about a prosecutor's commitment to seek justice for the community at all times. I was drawn to serving the state and all the special ethical responsibilities that come with that role.
What was your most memorable case, and why?
My most memorable case was one that I ended up trying before a jury at the end of my time in the prosecutor program. It was my only jury trial and required so much hard work from the day I was first put on the case to the day of the trial.
Why is it important to represent case pro bono?
Pro Bono representation is important because our legal system is founded on a concept of fair representation to all—everyone deserves to have his or her "day in court." Without pro bono representation, the legal system would lose much of its important credibility, as it would appear that only the wealthy get fair representation.
What did you gain from participating in the program?
It's hard to list all the things that I gained from the clinic, but a few stand out. Through the clinic, I gained valuable time and case management skills, the ability to speak persuasively and clearly to a court, and confidence in my own abilities in a real-world situation.
What advice would you give to incoming students curious about the clinical programs?
I would tell any student curious about a clinic program to find any student currently enrolled and ask them any questions they have. In my experience, everyone in the clinic loves to talk about what they do and loves a chance to inform incoming students what life in the clinic is like. The clinics here really do present students with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that can really breathe more life into a law school education.