When I began law school, I committed myself to using the skill set I would develop during my time at McGeorge School of Law to help people. My 1L summer internship at the Sacramento County Public Defender’s Office solidified my passion for indigent defense work. At that point in my law school journey, I began to see how my desire to help people could manifest into a career. Once I knew that I wanted to be a public defender, I started making plans to participate in the McGeorge Federal Defender Clinic.
I chose the Federal Defender Clinic because this year-long program provides law students the unique opportunity to get comprehensive real-life litigation experience under the supervision of two highly qualified federal defenders. The Clinic is only open to eight students per year. The small group setting allows for a lot of face time with our supervising attorneys.
Additionally, because the students are divided into teams of two, this Clinic creates a highly collaborative learning environment where we are able to pool knowledge and support each other. What drew me most to this Clinic was that fact that it would allow me to represent real clients in the courtroom from arraignment through appeal.
During my first semester in the Clinic, I was accepting appointments and working up cases right away. I was also able to negotiate dismissals. By the end of the fall semester, my partner and I represented one of our clients in a bench trial. This semester, in addition to routine misdemeanor intake work, my partner and I are currently working on an appeal and have a jury trial set for spring.
The COVID-19 pandemic has brought many significant and new challenges to all of us. For me, law school has been radically different than what I expected it to be at the start of my 1L year in 2019. Unfortunately, because of the courtroom, classroom, and office closures in 2020, many of us did not have the chance to be inside the courtroom or interact with our mentors and supervisors in the same way that our predecessors did. This is another reason why I feel so privileged to be a part of the Clinic this year. As a part of this cohort, I feel like I have had the chance to make up for some of that lost time. This Clinic has not only allowed me to learn firsthand about federal defense work, but it has also allowed me to continue to develop the real-life litigation skills that I need in order to be successful in the future.
By Kendra Hall, a third-year law student at McGeorge School of Law.