The Catholic University of America


Office of Career and Professional Development Hosts Careers in the Law: Criminal Defense

   Print Friendly and PDF

On February 15, 2018, the CUA Law Office of Career and Professional Development, led by Director Tonya Gaskins, hosted a “Careers in the Law Series Panel” on Criminal Defense opportunities. Gaskins introduced the panelists: Melinda Douglas, Public Defender Virginia; Gwen Waters ‘09, Office of the Public Defender Maryland; and Arthur Ago, Public Defender Service of D.C.

The panelists discussed their career trajectories and when they knew criminal defense was the right path. “I’ve been really fortunate to know that I wanted to be a criminal defense attorney from the beginning,” Waters said.

“I was really lucky to go to law school in Washington, D.C…I was able to spend my 2L summer at the Public Defender Service of D.C. and was hired after graduation. I went to law school wanting to do social justice work, and quickly decided criminal defense work was for me. I work at the intersection of the law, race, and class,” Ago said.

All of the panelists agreed that gaining practical experience, learning the rules of evidence, and demonstrating commitment to the client population are important factors to finding a job post-graduation. “Take every opportunity you can to get criminal defense work. That can be through a clinic, an externship, or volunteer opportunities,” Douglas said.

“Your cover letter and resume should show that you have worked with our client population directly, and it should highlight your public interest experience. You should be able to demonstrate concern and respect for the people you will be representing,” Douglas continued.

“Practical experiences such as Moot Court and trial team helped me tremendously,” Waters said.

Finally, panelists emphasized that passion for the job is of the utmost importance. “Walking someone out of the court house who hasn’t been free in 47 years is the most amazing experience I have ever had,” Waters said.