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Jim Sproat '11 Wants to Effect Change—One Bill At A Time

Why does Jim Sproat want to become a lawyer? It isn’t to become a career attorney, although he plans to work as a lawyer for a few years. His ultimate goal, he said, is to effect change—from the inside out. “I want to develop a better understanding of law in relation to politics,” said Sproat ’11. “You can really change things by working within the political system.”

Sproat’s political work is extensive. A former legislative assistant and researcher for Senator Ronnie Cromer in the South Carolina Senate, Sproat has had significant opportunity to work within the government and observe how the legislature functions. In fact, he was responsible for researching the fish, game, and wildlife industries in South Carolina, providing his analysis and impacting policy changes. “I dealt with a lot of politicians and saw how of many them don’t understand the impact of their actions, particularly when they’re stopping reform. The knowledge and experience I’m gaining will help me to look at legislation and its effect on people—from all angles.”

In addition to working for the senator, he was also a regional director for the Obama campaign during the presidential primaries. Sproat was responsible for South Carolina, North Carolina, Georgia and Tennessee. In fact, he was at the 2004 Democratic Convention when then-Senator Obama spoke. “I knew, at that time, that this man was amazing. It was very powerful.”

The Road from Richmond to Columbia to Cincinnati

After spending almost half of his life in Columbia, South Carolina, Sproat is enjoying his time in Cincinnati and at UC Law. “When I was was looking at schools, I promised myself I’d visit any school that gave me money,” he laughed. “So, UC was among one of my choices. When I got here, though, I really liked the size of the school. But the kicker for me was John Stiles. He answered my questions—for three hours! Outside of being a really friendly person, he could address everything I asked. And, he showed me that there really are good people in Admissions.”

When asked if law school is like what he expected, Sproat said a resounding no! “Books and movies had me scared about what it would be like.” Echoing many of his peers, “But the people here are friendly and the competition isn’t cutthroat.”

What I did Last Summer

For his first summer as a law student, Sproat knew he wanted a position where he’d get broad experience. “My friends went to work at firms,” he said. “But I got to see many kinds of law working for Judge S. Arthur Spiegel.” Judge Spiegel sits on the United Stated District Court for the Southern District of Ohio. “He is around 90 years old and handles a full case load,” marveled Sproat. “I had the opportunity to write draft orders which his clerk reviewed. We (Judge Spiegel’s team) would also learn about the law by listening to his “war” stories about some of his favorite cases over the years. It was a great learning experience.”

He hopes to balance that experience this summer by working for the government. Plans are to work for the Attorney General’s office in South Carolina.

Getting a Head Start in Politics

Last month Sproat was elected the new SBA president. As such, he has big plans for the student group. One major goal is continuing their emphasis on giving back to the community. “I’d like to consolidate our various fundraising efforts and work with a local charity,” he said. “I’d also like to see SBA more involved with the arts community, working with local organizations to provide free or reduced price passes for students to experience Cincinnati’s art scene.”

In addition, Sproat sees his role as continuing to advise student groups as necessary and assisting them with managing their funds. And, he said, he definitely wants to continue the social aspects of SBA. “We’re so tightly wound during the week, we need an outlet. Time away is very important.”

He continued, “Erin (the current SBA president) will be tough to follow. A lot of what I’m planning is continuing what she started.”

Law School: Best & Worst

“The best part of my law school experience so far has been the people I’ve met and gotten to know really well,” Sproat commented. “This is a pressure cooker. We’ve all suffered through hell and we’ve developed tight relationships.” He noted, however, that he hasn’t had a “worst experience” so far. Not even his first year? “The 1L year is a rite of passage,” he laughed. “Everyone has to go through it.”