2L Olivia Luehrmann Sets Her Sights on Career as a Prosecutor
A tri-state native from Boone County, Kentucky, Olivia Luehrmann ’16 feels right at home here at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. “I love Cincinnati,” shared Luehrmann. “Both the city and the school have so much to offer, so it was naturally one of my top choices for law school.”
Before law school, Olivia attended the University of Louisville where she majored in psychology and minored in political science and justice administration. This background in psychology drew her to UC Law’s Glenn M. Weaver Institute of Law and Psychiatry, of which she is now a fellow. “Throughout my undergraduate studies, I began to see the unique ways in which the law, psychiatry, and psychology are forever intertwined,” said Luehrmann. “I wanted to further my studies in this field, specifically in criminal law.”
During her time at Louisville, she worked for a small law firm, and saw how mental illness and psychology play a significant role in the overall functionality of our judicial system. The issues of recidivism and lack of treatment for the mentally ill stood out to her, and she has set her sights on helping to reform the system in these areas in her career after law school.
Outside of class, Luehrmann currently works for the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office in Boone County, Kentucky. For about 10 years, her family has lived just down the road from the office, and she has always been interested in working there. Now this is an experience she is excited to be having during her second year at UC Law.
In her past few months at the Commonwealth’s Attorney’s Office, Luehrmann has been able to see and take part in a number of cases and investigations. She has written motions and responses, taken part in a complete murder trial, a grand jury investigation, dockets, suppression hearings, and a Daubert hearing among other things. “I have been able to see a side of the justice system that not many people are able to see,” she explained, noting in particular that her work has allowed her to see the functions of the Sheriff’s Department and to understand the mechanics of a police investigation.
“Take as many criminal law-based classes as you can,” Luehrmann advises, “but do not expect to know everything — don’t be afraid to ask questions!” She has also found it enormously beneficial to learn as much about the entire process as possible. “See if you can do a ride-along with an officer, or shadow the crime investigation unit for a day. There is so much more to criminal law than cases, and you must have a deep understanding of it all to truly appreciate where the law is coming from and what those involved do every day.”
After law school, Luehrmann hopes to continue working for the Commonwealth, or otherwise as a state or federal prosecutor, or even possibly for the FBI. “I want to be able to have an impact on the system,” she shared. “Lately, you hear so much about how the justice system is failing and people have lost all faith in the way things have always worked – this saddens me. While some may think my ambitions sound naïve, I want to make a difference.”
3L John Holschuh Talks Criminal Defense, Externships, and Writing for Ohio Lawyer
“Four years ago, I was eating lunch with my grandfather and my best friend, Mike, who mentioned that he was considering going to law school to be a prosecutor. My grandfather smiled and told Mike he thought that was a great idea. He then said something that inspired me to become a lawyer, and that best represents why I am interested in pursuing a law career,” said 3L John (Johnny) Holschuh III.
“He told us that too often in criminal cases the scales of power are tipped in favor of the government against the defendant, especially when the defendant lacks money. The government has the superior resources and manpower to bring cases, while public defenders are [often] overburdened and under resourced, which can lead to unfair trials. The law, then, needs committed public defenders to help prevent miscarriages of justice. So that idea – to use the skills I have to help even the scales of justice by advocating for the marginalized whose rights are at risk – has always stuck with me and inspires me to be a lawyer.”
Holschuh, who plans to pursue a career in public criminal defense and human rights, hails from a family of attorneys: grandfather Hon. John D. Holschuh, Sr. ’51; father John D. Holschuh, Jr. ’80; and mother Wendy G. Holschuh ’83. A Cincinnati native, he earned a bachelor’s degree in history from Tulane University (New Orleans, LA), returning to Cincinnati for law school.
Holschuh commented that the experiential opportunities he’s had at the College of Law have been very beneficial for preparing him for a career in the legal field. Currently, he is participating in the Sixth Circuit Clinic. “I … assist in the representation of an indigent criminal defendant’s appeal. Although it has just started, we reviewed our cases, and so I have already learned a lot about what not to do as a criminal defense lawyer.”
While at the College he’s also had opportunity to extern at several places around the world. “I have undertaken several human rights internships over the summers, thanks to the help and guidance of Professor Lockwood. In the summer of 2012, I worked as a legal intern at the University of Essex’s Human Rights Centre Clinic. From June until December 2013, I worked as a research fellow at the International Commission of Jurists’ Southeast Asia office in Bangkok, Thailand. (The ICJ is a human rights organization that promotes and protects human rights through the Rule of Law.) Last summer, I worked as a legal intern with EarthRights International’s Mekong Legal Team in Chiang Mai, Thailand. (EarthRights works with local communities and uses the law to protect against human rights abuses connected with environmental destruction.)
“All of these internships have been extremely beneficial, helping to provide me with an understanding of human rights practice and theory. Additionally, they have given me friends from all over, and expanded my perspective of the law as well as the world.
“I also completed an externship under Hon. Judge Susan J. Dlott in Spring 2014. This, too, was a great experience. Judge Dlott is a wonderful judge and person, and I gained a valuable understanding of how the federal court system operates.
“The most important lesson I have been taught by the professors at UC Law, though, is not to be afraid to think creatively and out of the box when addressing challenging legal issues.”
Recently Holschuh penned an article that was published in the September/October issue of Ohio Lawyer. “I originally wrote the article for the UC Law Review Blog, and after my dad read it he recommended that I submit it to Ohio Lawyer. So I sent it in, and was fortunate enough to be selected for publication.”
The response to the article has been positive thus far, he noted. “Dean Bilionis and a few professors have told me they enjoyed the article. I think the death penalty advocates have politely withheld their criticisms (so far), although I would encourage everyone to be open in discussing the topic. I think one reason the death penalty is still around is because no one likes talking about it, and so I hope this article will spur discussion on the issue.”
When asked if he plans to continue a writing career, he stated, “I hope so, though I’m not sure what topic is next!”
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