Former Equestrian Carrie Wood '05 Enjoys Fighting for Justice
For former professional equestrian Carrie Wood ‘05, working for The Legal Aid Society in New York City is a lot like riding a horse…constantly adjusting, maneuvering, stopping, starting, and racing to the goal line. It presents new and interesting challenges every day; and, she’d have it no other way.
Life and Law in the Bronx
Wood has worked for Legal Aid for the past three years as a staff attorney in the criminal defense department in the Bronx borough. “I enjoy the work very much,” she said. “South Bronx is probably one of the poorest neighborhoods in the country and most of the resources are in Manhattan. That creates day to day struggles for many people living in the Bronx,” she explained. Wood enjoys the variety of people she meets on the job and the added responsibility she has gained with her tenure at the office. “When you begin in criminal defense, you only do misdemeanors,” she explained. “You graduate to lower level felonies and at this point I’m working on a lot of serious felonies,” she continued. Three years of criminal defense experience has taught Wood a lot about the state of law enforcement. “It’s eye-opening when you hear about some of the things people get arrested for,” she said. “You’re always a lawyer but there is a lot of social work involved as well. There are alternatives to incarceration; and, if a person follows through with the programming it’s more cost effective for the state and advantageous for the offenders.”
From Industrial Engineering to Horseback Riding to…Law School?
So how did this professional equestrian from Cincinnati end up a New York attorney? UC Law had a large hand in the career shift. Wood graduated from Cornell University where she studied operations research and industrial engineering. But at graduation, she decided to continue pursuing her first love since high school—riding. An avid rider, Wood realized her experience would serve her well in the professional world. Following the Cornell graduation, then, Wood worked in barns on farms in Tennessee and Florida caring for horses. “I had always thought about law school during undergrad,” she said. Although Wood enjoyed the history and constitutional law classes she took at Cornell, she put this interest on hold as she spent time on the professional circuit. Law school, though, wasn’t far from her mind.
Weathering UC Law
When she decided to attend law school, Wood sought a small school and focused on UC’s size. “Cornell was a huge school and UC was a place where everyone knew each other,” she explained. “It was a nice change.” Once here, she wasted no time getting involved in student activities at the law school. She was a member of Amnesty International and Out and Allies, as well as served on the board of the Public Interest Law Group (PILG) her second year and served as the chairperson of PILG her third year.
Wood was instrumental in helping to law the groundwork for a loan repayment assistance program at the school for law students interested in public interest. “I put together a proposal and sat down with (now retired) Associate Dean Barb Watts ’78 and Assistant Dean Mina Jones Jefferson '90 Director of the Center for Professional Development, to pitch it,” she explained. The proposal was next submitted to the faculty but an unfortunate snag at the fundraising level left Wood’s plan stagnant. “I was really proud of the work I did on that program,” she said. Wood is now recognizing the challenges of working on a public interest salary in a big city.
Enjoying Life After Law School
When she isn’t researching cases, Wood occasionally finds time to ride horses in the big city. She’s also a concert-going enthusiast. Her favorite concerts include Rage Against the Machine and Against Me. But her newest favorite band is Gaslight Anthem.
- “It’s eye-opening when you hear about some of the things people get arrested for.” Carrie Wood
- “You’re always a lawyer but there is a lot of social work involved as well.” Carrie Wood