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OIP Experience Great Learning Opportunity for Alum Dan O’Brien

Dan O’Brien ‘09 first came to the Queen City for his undergraduate degree; he attended nearby Xavier University, where he majored in history. After graduating college, O’Brien took a year off to move to Denver, Colorado with four friends. “I wanted to explore a different part of the country,” he said, “so I moved to Denver, where I worked during the weeks and went out skiing with my buddies on the weekends.”

After a year, O’Brien returned to Cincinnati, this time for law school. “I wanted to do something where I felt like I was helping people,” he said, “and something that was also more intellectually challenging.” The combination resulted in a decision to attend law school. O’Brien chose UC’s College of Law because of its strong academic standing. In addition, his girlfriend at the time—who is now his wife—and her family lived in Cincinnati. He’d be able to stay close by.

During his first summer of law school, and throughout his 2L year, O’Brien worked as a fellow with the Ohio Innocence Project. “I enjoyed the experience a lot,” he said, “I liked that the work was hands-on because I was able to gain a lot of practical experience that I wouldn’t necessarily have gotten as a law student working at a large firm.” O’Brien also stated that the opportunities to interview clients and talk to them in prison on a daily basis were a very positive aspect of the fellowship. It made him more comfortable speaking with others on the phone, which remains an important part of his current job. He also pointed to the friendships formed with other fellows as one of his favorite parts of the experience. “You work so closely together, you know everyone pretty well by the end of the year,” he said. “So, you form some important bonds.”

While an OIP fellow, O’Brien was directly involved with the exoneration of Robert McClendon, who had been in prison for 18 years for a rape that he didn’t commit. The OIP staff were able to use DNA evidence to prove he was not guilty and exonerate him. O’Brien and his OIP partner, Mike Harrington, began work on McClendon’s case during their year as fellows, and the case work was actually completed the following year by another group of fellows. Experiences like McClendon’s case were an important part of O’Brien’s personal experience as a fellow. “You definitely feel like you are helping people,” he said. “It’s obvious you are making a difference in people’s lives.”

During his second summer in law school, O’Brien went to work as a law clerk for Crowley, Ahlers, & Roth in downtown Cincinnati. He took a position as an associate there after graduation, and he has remained with the firm since. In his current position, O’Brien focuses mainly on administrative law, including social security and workers compensation cases. He occasionally takes on personal injury cases, allowing him the opportunity to do some civil litigation. “I really enjoy the job,” he says. “There was a steep learning curve, but I am starting to feel more comfortable in my second year as an associate.” One aspects of his job that he particularly enjoys is the fact that his clients are individuals who have been injured in some way. “I still feel like I am helping the little guy,” he said.

Written by: Lindsay Mather ‘11