Thursday November 3, 2016

Real-World Legal Experience

Three students from Dayton Law participated in the minority summer clerkship program which provides opportunities for real-world legal experience while making connections with the Dayton legal community.

“This was the best decision I’ve made since I have been in law school,” explained 2L Timothy Hill, a Cincinnati native and graduate of Xavier University who, following this experience, is prepared to pursue an internship with the United States Department of Justice next summer.

Ebony Davenport, a Dayton native who attended Sinclair Community College and Wright State University before the University of Dayton School of Law, agrees the experience was a highlight in her academic career.

“The opportunity to clerk for a federal judge as a 1L is once in a lifetime. It’s invaluable to be mentored by a judge and sit in a court to decipher between good and bad lawyering,” she said.

Bridget Jackson, a Cincinnati native who attended the University of Cincinnati, agreed, “I can’t express how beneficial this experience was. I met so many good people, awesome attorneys and dynamic judges.”

Each student clerked for a specific judge but had several opportunities to learn from others who guided and challenged them. Davenport clerked for U.S. District Magistrate Judge Michael Newman, whom she described as "a generous person committed to the success of each of his clerks."

“He showed an interest in my personal and professional development and was eager to connect me with different attorneys he thought would be good contacts and potential mentors," she added. "His career clerk, Michael Rhinehart, was also very helpful. He gave me various assignments that challenge my research and writing abilities.”

Hill, an undergraduate criminal justice major who worked mostly with Newman's colleague Hon. Sharon Ovington '81 said, “She treated me as if I was her personal clerk and respected my input and decisions. She showed me what it would be like to work as a judicial clerk. I made outstanding connections and learned the process of the Federal Court system and fell in love with it.”

Jackson, a communications major with a certificate in journalism, clerked for U.S. District Court Judge Walter H. Rice who helped her reaffirm her vision and interest in public interest law.

“My calling is helping the general public and in the courtroom," Jackson said. "Judge Rice is so community-oriented that if you’re around him, it rubs off on you. He was quite an inspiration to me.”

Davenport was also motivated by Rice’s qualities.

“Although I did not clerk for Judge Rice, all of the students in the federal courthouse spent a lot of time in his courtroom and he never shied away from an opportunity to teach," Davenport said. "He was happy to bring us back to his chambers and discuss the proceedings we had just watched and answer any questions.”

Hill was most surprised by how well everyone works in the federal system.

“My only experience has been with the state system, but I found the federal system to be more personable, not only for the workers, but the people being charged, Hill said.”

The highlight of Davenport’s summer was learning about and observing alternative courts like the Veteran’s Court and Re-Entry Court.

“I was surprised by the level of compassion exhibited by the judges. Being able to see the multi-disciplinary community approach to the person, rather than the crime, was so refreshing," said Davenport, who admits watching in awe and getting choked up the first time she sat through Re-Entry Court. “Judge Rice and Judge Ovington were in charge and it was absolutely incredible to witness. They genuinely cared about the well-being and progress of all of the participants. Different community agencies come together and provide a holistic approach to the person in an effort to reduce recidivism rates and break down barriers that send so many people back to prison.”

Re-Entry Court was also Jackson’s most memorable experience of the summer.

“Words can’t describe what I witnessed; I witnessed humanity at its finest. There were five men who had recently been released from prison and were trying to transition back into society. A board of people including Judge Rice and Judge Ovington formed a panel. Each of the returning citizens comes to the podium and shares their struggles and experiences. Everyone on the panel gives them constructive criticism and encouragement. They also give affirmations to the returning citizens when they have done a good job. It was beautiful,” Jackson said.

Robert Gresham, an attorney with Wright & Schulte, is president of the local Thurgood Marshall Law Society (TMLS), an African-American lawyer bar association with members being local practitioners and law students. TMLS provides scholarship resources and support to law students including the Black Law Students Association. Gresham oversees the Minority Clerkship Program, along with Jamar King, an attorney with Thompson Hine. Gresham is passionate about providing minority students with opportunities.

“The feedback I received on these students has been great,” Gresham said. “We look for strong academic performance, community involvement, and self-motivated individuals.

“This is important because as a legal community we need to remain actively committed to diversity and we must be deliberate about making sure our profession reflects the population it serves. If we are not deliberate about diversity, we become complacent and accept the status quo,” he said.

Davenport concurred, “Minorities are so underrepresented in the legal profession, and especially in the federal judiciary, so this is a great way to address that issue. This was my first legal ‘job’ and I could not have asked for a better judge; the bar has been set pretty high and it is going to be hard to match the experience I got with this program.”

Jackson added, “I surprised myself with how much of a leader I became.  It changed by life and my perspective.  I grew so much in a short time. My confidence has been boosted and I feel ready for the next challenge.”  


For more information, please contact the office of communications at the University of Dayton School of Law at lawcomm@udayton.edu.

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