Work of OIP Gives Justin Jennewine Broader Perspective on Criminal Law
When it came to choosing between law schools, Cincinnati was an easy choice for Xenia, OH native Justin Jennewine ‘16. He always had a connection with the Queen City and he wanted to stay in state to remain close to family and friends. The College of Law was especially appealing because of the strong sense of community he felt when he visited and because of the small class sized, which he had learned to enjoy while at the University of Dayton.
At UD he majored in finance and economics, keeping his eye on a business career. Jennewine strongly considered pursuing a MBA. In the end, however, he opted to seek his JD, something he had been interested in since high school.
The summer before coming to Cincinnati for law school, he worked at the Dayton firm Flanagan, Lieberman, Hoffman & Swaim. There, he was able to employ his business background while gaining experience and learning about working at a law firm. “Working at a law firm before law school was an excellent experience,” Jennewine shared, noting that he received useful advice and gained quality experience leading up to law school.
His interest in OIP began when he took a tour of the College of Law. His tour guide was working with OIP and they stopped in the office during their tour. Seeing the work close up, Jennewine was inspired to work there himself. While he still has a strong interest in business law, Jennewine knew that working with the OIP would be an excellent opportunity. Additionally, he wanted to test the waters working in the criminal law context. “It has been such a great experience,” Jennewine said, “but it has actually made my career decisions more difficult. I still find the intersection of law and business very interesting, but I have also very much enjoyed my time with the OIP, and can tell that I would enjoy this kind of work down the road as well.
“From the short time I have spent so far with the OIP, my perspective on the status of individuals after they have been incarcerated has changed,” he shared. “You really have to teach yourself that, no matter what they were accused and convicted of, these are human beings you are working with. This is their life they are trying to regain, and if there is even the smallest chance that they were unjustly incarcerated, we have to do everything we can because we have the skills to help them.”
To current first-years and prospective law students, Jennewine strongly recommends OIP. “If you have even the slightest inclination you might have any interest in it, the OIP is the perfect experience to see what public interest and criminal law offers. I haven’t met more passionate attorneys than the ones I work with at OIP. It has been a wonderful experience thus far. Give it a chance, that’s the one thing I will say.”
Wells Channels Life Experiences into Public Interest Work
Catlin Wells ’16, a Dayton, Ohio native born at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, spent her formative years as a military kid, travelling all over the United States with her family. She lived the “military lifestyle” throughout her childhood before returning to Ohio for her collegiate studies, graduating from The Ohio State University with a bachelor’s degree in communications. With a growing interest in the area of public interest, Wells decided to focus on a legal education and joined the UC Law community.
Now working with the Ohio Innocence Project, she had been engaged in public interest work for some time. While in Dayton she was involved in an after school care program and worked with special needs children. By the time she moved to Columbus for undergraduate school, Wells knew she wanted to stay involved in this area of work and did so as a Head Start teacher. It was her experiences doing this work that, in part, inspired her to seek a legal education so that she could work to improve the situations for struggling families.
“I was particularly drawn to the OIP from hearing what previous students had to say about it,” she shared. Now several months into her time as an OIP fellow, she has benefitted enormously from her experiences thus far. “It’s sometimes too easy to get lost in the cases you read for class. But my time with the OIP has given me an outlet to apply the sometimes nebulous classroom lessons in a very real, practical setting.”
Wells admits, however, that her work is sometimes frustrating. “The work at the OIP can feel like a losing battle some of the time,” she shared. “I may spend all week calling witnesses who don’t want to talk with me, begging overworked public employees to send me records from dusty and unorganized file cabinets, and trying to find evidence that might not even exist.” It’s at these difficult moments that she remembers her supervisor’s advice on how to channel her frustration: “Don’t get mad for you, get mad for the inmate.”
When asked about her future, Wells shared that she plans to continue working to benefit the community. “I tell people I want to go into politics, but I think that’s a little bit misleading."
She continued, “I was blessed with access to good education, health care, and a house in a neighborhood that was safe enough for me to knock on a stranger’s door when it was time to sell Girl Scout cookies. I don’t want to spend the rest of my life begging for campaign donations and votes, but I’m serious about working with local government officials to make sure that the next generation can say the same thing about their community.”
Jackie Welp Likes Being a Truth-Seeker
“The Ohio Innocence Project was a big factor in my decision to come to UC Law,” shared Jackie Welp '16. While attending the University of Cincinnati (for her two degrees) she was involved with the Pre-Law club. There, she arranged to get an OIP exoneree to come speak to the club. “It was a great experience, and afterwards I almost immediately wrote my personal statement and applied!”
Welp is a 2L working with the Ohio Innocence Project. A Columbus, Oh native, she has strong family ties to the Queen City. After graduating from UC with majors in history and political science, she chose the College of Law as the place for her legal education.
Working on 20 twenty cases (a typical caseload for an OIP student) Welp has been truly immersed in her work. “For one reason or another, myself and other OIP students sometimes have trouble pulling ourselves away from one particular case or another—whether it be the particular facts or our belief that the defendant is innocent,” she shared, noting that the experience is useful and educational from a time and caseload management standpoint. It is also work about which it is easy to become enthusiastic.
Being a ‘Truth Seeker’
Since she began working at the OIP, Welp has found that her perspective on post-conviction work has evolved. “The prosecution (in these cases), in the midst of defending their convictions, look at us as ‘defense attorneys.’ We, however, see ourselves more as truth-seekers,” she explained. She noted that while the prosecutors are simply doing their jobs, it can be frustrating at times when her truth-seeking efforts are resisted.
Welp has always been interested in criminal law, and, in particular, sees herself doing prosecution work after graduation. OIP, while on a different side of the criminal law spectrum, has been an excellent experience for her, and has really reinforced for her the interest she has in practicing criminal law.
Her advice to any students potentially interested in criminal law is to check out OIP. “Get involved in the OIP, even if you are just exploring criminal law. While the experience has really reinforced my interests in criminal law, it has led other students to the important realization that this sort of thing isn’t for them. Either way, you learn how to handle a large caseload and how to work with an office full of your classmates, which is really a valuable skill.”
Hannah Brooks’14 Shares Her Experience at the Lavender Law Conference
I have so many wonderful things to say about the Lavender Law Conference and I'm honestly not too sure where to begin. I just want to thank you, as an office (the CPD), again for having sent out the information; and, I also want to thank you and everyone you worked with to help me get funds to ease the financial burden of the trip. It was beyond worth it. There were so many opportunities for networking, lots of job opportunities, and opportunities for professional growth. I was beyond pleased with each moment.
Next year the conference will be in Chicago so I want to encourage as many people, students, and grads-to-be to head there after the bar exam. If they are able to come, I would like to ask to have my information kept on file so I can help them secure cheap/free accommodations and help them figure out how to navigate the city and ways to get the most out of the conference. I would love to be a resource to help others participate. I entirely intend on returning next year.
I am writing up several e-mails about different workshops and contacts that I made at the conference to e-mail to different professors regarding related work. If you have any questions or want to know more please let me know. I'm still gushing about it to everyone.
One more thing - The shorter man with white hair in the photo next to me is late civil rights' activist, most notably MLKs advisor, Bayard Rustin's partner. His name is Walter Naegle, and I took this picture shortly after wiping my tears. I couldn't believe he was there. They talked quite a bit about the Brother Outsider documentary so that's part of what I will be sending into other students, organizations, and professors. Definitely a highlight for me.
Addressing Human Trafficking Problems Fuels Zemmelman
Growing up in Toledo, Ohio, Rebecca Zemmelman ’16 became passionate about social justice and human rights becuase of her environment. Her mother, the Hon. Connie F. Zemmelman, is a judge on the Lucas County Court of Common Pleas Juvenile Division (Toledo, OH). As she learned more about her mother’s work, Zemmelman realized the seriousness of the human trafficking problem in Toledo, and became interested in taking steps to be in a position to affect change.
Before joining the College of Law, Zemmelman studied at Miami University in Oxford, pursuing journalism and political science. It was during her time in Oxford that she first connected with UC Law. As a leader in the Pre-Law Society there, Rebecca became acquainted with the College’s own Professor Christopher Bryant. It so happened that he was involved in a lot of the programming the student group organized that year. “Professor Bryant and I went to coffee the year I was applying,” she shared. “He was extremely nice and helpful.” Not only did Professor Bryant make her confident that UC Law was the right choice, but the entire Admissions team, faculty, and staff were very welcoming. She also was drawn to the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) here at the College of Law of which she is a fellow.
Additionally, Zemmelman works in the College of Law’s Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice as a Program Assistant. In this position, she does a bit of everything to help the Center and its programs run smoothly: she attends meetings with the Center’s leadership, helps plan events, and assists with Center events and clinics (including this semester’s directed reading course at the National Underground Railroad Freedom Center downtown and with the Domestic Violence Clinic). To round things out, Zemmelman is also the vice-president of the American Constitution Society here at the law school.
Shining a Light on Human Trafficking
When she was a junior at Miami University, Zemmelman worked with Congressman Dennis Kucinich in Washington D.C. “It was very interesting working with him,” she said, noting that the experience was very educational. In her time in Washington, she began taking a closer look at the attention human trafficking was receiving on Capitol Hill, and saw that, while the problem was recognized, not a great deal of support was to be found for any bills that aimed to impact change. “I did a lot of research going to seminars, and learned as much about the problem as I could,” she explained. “Human trafficking seems to mostly avoid the media spotlight, as the issues are not overly political. A common misperception is that the problem is not here in Ohio, or even the US. But, in fact, human trafficking is a serious issue right here at home and it needs to be addressed.”
Zemmelman’s experiences have inspired her to take steps in her own career towards effecting change in our communities. After gaining her J.D., she aims to work with local government and policymakers. “I’ve really been motivated through my work with the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice, as well as my work with OIP. There are some serious issues that have struggled to gain traction in our legal system, and I feel I am in a position to be able to make a difference.”
Walia’s Life Experiences Lead to Career in Social Justice
Second year law student Priya Walia ’16 finds strength and satisfaction working with those from disadvantaged communities. Originally from the mountain state, she grew up in Morgantown, West Virginia, and stayed there to attend West Virginia University. There she studied philosophy and political science, and further involved herself in the world of social justice thorough her work at a nonprofit organization West Virginia Women Work.
West Virginia Women Work primarily focuses on assisting women to explore, train for, and secure employment opportunities with a focus on the skilled trades. Walia spent four years there, doing the gamut of assignments including putting on construction training classes twice a year in different locations across the state. She started as a receptionist and eventually became an office manager, taking on a lot of additional responsibilities. “I really liked serving that community,” she shared, “and I knew that when I came to law school that I wanted to do similar work and stay in the realm of nonprofits.”
Now, Walia works in the College of Law’s Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice as a Program Assistant. In this position, she does a bit of everything to help the Center and its programs run smoothly, including attending meetings, developing and planning events, and assisting with program implementation.
The Appeal of Cincinnati, OJPC, and Social Justice
When deciding on law schools, Cincinnati appealed to Walia for several reasons: the urban environment, the size of the city, the friendliness of the law school community, and the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice. And Cincinnati has treated her exceptionally, as she expressed her interest in remaining in the Queen City after law school. This past summer Walia worked at the Ohio Justice and Policy Center (OJPC) downtown. This summer job fit perfectly with her desire to work with nonprofits, and she was able to work with disadvantaged communities here in Cincinnati. OJPC’s stated mission is “to create fair, intelligent, redemptive criminal-justice systems through zealous client-centered advocacy, innovative policy reform, and cross-sector community education.” Walia contributed with her research and blog writing regarding Ohio’s record sealing practices and her work with the Second Chance Project whereby former offenders receive assistance with re-entering the community after release from prison.
While she acknowledged that burnout is a common fear of people considering a career working in disadvantaged communities, she found encouragement from her experience at OJPC. “Once I was able to see people in the field, doing great work, and not getting burnt out, it was inspiring to me.” Now, she finds the work to be a way of recharging.
“There is an intimidation factor in coming to law school,” she shared. “Be prepared to guard your goals. You may have to look a good salary in the eye and turn it down, but if you stick to your guns you will find the work you do to be rewarding.”
Fellows Sherry Porter and Andrea Brown Discuss the Role of Social Justice
Fellows Sherry Porter and Andrea Brown Discuss the Role of Social Justice
Center for Race Gender, and Social Justice Fellows Sherry Porter and Andrea Brown shared their thoughts about the legal field, social justice, and how they hope to make an impact in the field.
Porter, from a small town in southern Indiana, attended Indiana University Southeast, receiving a B.A. in psychology. Prior to UC Law she worked as a probation officer for almost a decade. In her role as a fellow she supports the Center by helping with panel discussions, editing the Freedom Center Journal, and conducting social justice research. “My research interest on pregnant women in the U.S. prison system will fit well within the Center's mission as I strive to be an activist and advocate for the rights of prisoners and institutional change,” said Porter.
Brown, from Hamilton, OH, is a graduate of the University of Chicago. There, she received a B.A. in English literature, minoring in gender studies. She worked for Working America, the community affiliate of the AFL-CIO, both organizing communities around labor issues and managing the data collected. “In addition to taking courses, I will be able to participate in a Center sponsored research project,” said Brown. “I’ll also be helping out with the Center’s events, including the upcoming screening of Private Violence.
What drove your interest in the legal field?
Porter: I became interested in the legal field many years ago working as a corrections officer at a juvenile detention center. This is how I transitioned into working in probation. After spending many years working in the criminal justice system, law school seemed like the next logical step in my career. I received a master's degree with a focus on gender studies in 2012. This led me to UC Law and the dual degree program with the Women's, Gender, and Sexuality Studies Department. My thesis will focus on incarcerated mothers in the U.S. prison system.
Brown: I see law as the practical tool that, when combined with passion, can be a vehicle for social change.
Why are you interested in social justice?
Porter: I am interested in social justice feminism because I am passionate about making a difference in the lives of the disadvantaged. I am currently a volunteer advocate at Women Helping Women in downtown Cincinnati. This organization is designed to encourage and support survivors of sexual abuse and sexual assault.
Brown: I’ve always had a drive to work to enact change that will make our society more righteous and ethical. Seeing ‘up close’ the injustices the communities that I organized faced only solidified my desire to do work in this field.
What do you plan to do with your degree?
Porter: I hope to spend a long career in the law working to make positive changes in our legal system concerning female offenders, particularly incarcerated mothers.
Brown: I plan to continue my work in the labor field, whether that be in a private firm that works on employment issues, an agency like the National Labor Relations Board or Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, or directly with a labor union.
New Collaboration Proves to be a Great Experience for Law Fellows
This summer, four third-year College of Law students, working closely with local entrepreneurs in a range of industries, put their growing legal skills and acumen to the test. Under a new collaboration between the College’s Entrepreneurship and Development Clinic, the Hamilton County Business Center, and the First Batch Business Accelerator, students got “live client” experience tackling real, tangible legal issues for the entrepreneurs. The first legal fellows to work as part of this partnership, the students received a “taste” of what their professional lives will be like very soon as lawyers.
“This was an incredible opportunity for these students,” said Professor Lew Goldfarb, Director of the College’s Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic (ECDC) and one of the supervising attorneys.
A Seat In the Middle of the Action
“When we first arrived at the Hamilton County Business Center (HCBC) and First Batch, we saw our clients in action,” explained Matt Dubin ’15 , one of the four legal fellows. “They were developing formulas and constructing products, but took the time to talk with us about their needs.”
The students, working in teams of two, completed a range of business assignments. Their work included selection and formation of business entities, preparation of agreements among business owners, and preparation of agreements with vendors, customers, and consultants. They also provided advice on intellectual property issues and business-specific regulatory issues. In total, nine companies were counseled this summer.
“Being able to leverage the skills and experience of the clinic was great,” said Pat Longo, Director of the HCBC. “Our clients benefitted greatly from the high energy, knowledgeable and personable law students who performed many assignments concerning legal issues and early stage businesses,” he said. “They are definitely better off due to the relationship and effort of the UC Law Clinic team!”
The HCBC, located in Norwood, OH, provides a full service business incubation program to local start-ups, including office space, training, mentorship, access to capital, and other valuable resources.
The experience at First Batch was similarly successful. “Each of our companies benefitted tremendously in having guidance on issues that they would usually resolve alone and without a full understanding of the surrounding laws,” said Matt Anthony, Co-Founder of First Batch. “I think the UC legal teams not only instilled more confidence in our companies’ operations, but also educated us on a lawyer’s value in helping young businesses.”
“We felt like privileged clients of a good team. This partnership was another great way that UC is both making an impact and engaging students with the larger social and professional world in Cincinnati.”
First Batch, located in the heart of Over-The-Rhine, selects manufacturing startups to participate in its four-month accelerator program. They provide work space and equipment, capital, valuable manufacturing connections, entrepreneurial training and – as of this summer — legal counsel.
Now, About That Office Space
The four legal fellows worked in the same space as the HCBC startups, but also travelled to meet clients at First Batch’s facility. This proved to be invaluable. “Being so close to our clients gave our work a more ‘personal’ feeling as we saw directly how our efforts benefited these local companies,” said Lauren VanHook ‘15, another legal fellow. “We were motivated to provide the best assistance to these local businesses as we addressed their needs.”
The internship program is made possible under the guidance of Professor Goldfarb, the HCBC and First Batch. “I am grateful to the leadership teams at HCBC and First Batch and to the local lawyers who volunteered their time to help me supervise the program,” said Professor Goldfarb. “Through collaborations like these, we can make a real difference in the education of our students and the economy of our region.”
The legal fellows felt the experience was invaluable too. “Law school teaches students how to spot legal issues, but interacting with clients, discerning their legal needs, and delivering a useful work product to real people is something that cannot be replicated in a classroom,” explained Nicholas Ehlert ‘15. “We were fortunate enough to have great clients working in a wide variety of industries, each with different legal issues.”
Looking to the Future
The summer program will be held again next summer, with the possibility of expanding it to a year-round program in the future. “This internship was an all-around great experience,” said Julie Payne ‘15. “The skills we learned and relationships we made this summer will carry us through our final year in law school and into our careers as practicing attorneys.”
Authors: Lauren VanHook'15 and Sherry Y. English, Director of Communications
Katie Cornelius '16 Shares Why She Likes Cincinnati
There is always something great to do in Cincinnati. I love the unique culture and atmosphere of the city. There are great museums and historic areas intertwined with new restaurants, shops, and sporting events.
Katie is pictured in front of Cincinnati’s historic Music Hall.
Get to Know Remington Jackson ‘15
Why do you want to become a lawyer? Why the interest in law?
From an early age, my father conditioned my desire to become an attorney, even going as far as contemplating adding the title “Esq.” to my name before I even attended Kindergarten! He expounded upon the prestige associated with being an attorney, especially as a minority, and that it would be more than a job but a career. He impressed upon me that the heart of the legal profession is one of public service—promoting the rule of law and pursuing the common good. He also mentioned the potential financial stability it could provide and the ability to make use of a J.D. in many areas, even if I didn’t end up practicing law.
To find out just how much of this was true, I spent my summers throughout high school and college working at various legal entities such as the American Civil Liberties Union and the Allegheny County Law Department to get as much experience as possible at my “predetermined” life career. For my senior thesis at the College of Wooster, I focused on the arguments in favor and against the practice of the death penalty with the paper “The Necessary Criteria to Save a Dying Practice: An Attempt to Morally Justify Capital Punishment”.
Throughout these opportunities, I found that the satisfaction I experienced from trying to understand and debate complicated issues through my speech and writings intersect well with the legal profession. Most importantly, I feel that being an attorney—an act of serving and service to others—is, as Muhammad Ali put it, the rent we pay for our room here on earth. These experiences have all played a role in fueling my aspiration to become an attorney. In the end my father was right all along!
What area(s) of law are you interested in?
Currently I am getting experience with corporate law areas like securities fraud litigation, protecting shareholder rights, and corporate governance issues. I am interested in labor and employment law, tax law, and I am open to learn from new arenas and challenges.
At my time with the Ohio Attorney General’s Office I had the opportunity to work with the Worker’s Compensation department and found that it was never a dull day. Sitting in on the settlement conferences to see the negotiation and cordial but zealous advocacy between the representatives for the employer and employee was intriguing. I found that the area involved complex relationships between people in the workplace and consequently had a very human component to it. You get a sense of who the individual is and their contribution to society.
What types of professional experiences have you had that will help you on your path to becoming an attorney?
During my 1L summer I worked as a summer associate with the Ohio Attorney General's Cincinnati Office and as a teacher with the Ohio Law and Leadership Institute. With LLI I taught youth from traditionally underserved communities about leadership, writing, self-expression, test taking, and study tactics while providing a basic understanding of the study and practice of law. During my 2L year, I worked as a legal extern for the General Counsel's Office for the University of Cincinnati.
I am currently the President of the College of Law’s chapter of Black Law Students Association (BLSA) and the Vice-Chair of the Midwest Region of the National Black Law Students Association (MWBLSA). I also serve as the Reprint Editor on the Immigration & Nationality Law Review and a Senior Article Editor for the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights’ Human Rights Quarterly. In the Fall I will be serving as a judicial extern to the Hon. Jeffery P. Hopkins, United States Bankruptcy Court – Southern District of Ohio and as a representative for the University in the Potter Stewart American Inn of Court. Finally, I am a student representative for Kaplan Test Prep.
A few final thoughts on career (and personal) preparation…
People hire people. No matter how great your grades or who you know, if you are a jerk or people just do not want to work with you, you are shooting yourself in the foot before you can even get it in the door. Be yourself, speak about your interests without reverting back to cookie cutter responses, and let your personality prove why you got to your current place in life. Never fear rejection but rather savor the opportunity to learn something from each experience you are given because each setback is only a setup for your next success.
Take full advantage of legal and judicial externships. While they do not pay, what they provide in terms of hands on experience and connections is priceless. There are few other opportunities available where you can get so much feedback without worrying about a grade or curve and get the kinks out while learning the right way to do your work.
Chase your passion, whatever it may be, and the money will follow rather than chasing after money and hoping the passion will come along. There are too many different paths to follow to happiness to end up hating the place you spend 8-10 hours of your day. Your career is a marathon, not a sprint, so go the extra mile to have coffee and lunch with those already doing the work that you are interested in to hear the good and the bad. Professionals are more than willing to "pay it forward" in remembrance of those that did it for them. Do not be discouraged if you do get a "No" reponse. There are 100 "Yes" responses out there just waiting for you to ask.
Dig your well before you are thirsty. That is something my closest mentor has always preached to me: network constantly so that I can reach out to a wealth of resources long before I need help with a reference or position. Not being from Cincinnati and not being in the top 20% of my class, any time not spent on studying and working goes towards networking and building relationships to ensure that I am never just a name on a piece of paper for any position I apply. Hard work will always prove your mettle, and while you will almost certainly experience setbacks throughout law school, never let an exam result decide your fate.