Nikki Pritchard earned a JD from Lewis & Clark Law School in 2015. Prior to attending law school, she graduated from UC Santa Cruz with a BA in American Studies and a minor in Literature. Nikki’s passion for the law ignited during a summer undergraduate internship at the ACLU of Northern California. She always had an interest in social justice and advocacy, but it wasn’t until she saw civil rights attorneys in action that her career path became apparent. During law school, Nikki worked various public interest internships and externships. She spent one semester as a clinic student at NCVLI. Following graduation from law school, Nikki clerked for the Hon. Suzanne B. Chanti at the Lane County Circuit Court in Eugene, OR. After a year as a judicial clerk, Nikki moved to Coos Bay, OR where she was hired as a staff attorney at Southwestern Oregon Public Defender Services, Inc.
Describe your current profession / most rewarding thing you have done in your professional life. If you are still a student talk about law school experiences/plans for future/ other parts of what you’re doing in the community.
I am a public defender. It is my job to zealously advocate for indigent individuals who are accused of committing crimes. The most rewarding thing I have done in my professional life has been taking a major case to trial with a senior attorney in our office and securing an acquittal on a Measure 11 charge that had a mandatory minimum sentence of 70 months in prison. That experience was nerve-wracking, difficult, and fulfilling. I had the privilege of working with the most experienced attorney in our office on that case and he gave me the freedom to work on every aspect of the defense. I learned a lot from him and from that trial.
What was your favorite part about participating in CLVC?
My favorite part about participating in CLVC was being able to engage with the outstanding attorneys who work at NCVLI and making lasting friendships with people I got to know there. NCVLI’s attorneys are intelligent, approachable, and helpful people. It was a great experience to learn about an area of the law that was unfamiliar to me, knowing that I could ask for help from every attorney in the office. Some of my closest friends are people I got to know while participating as a clinic student.
How did participating in CLVC inform your thinking about law and/or your career path?
My experience at CLVC made me think about the criminal legal system from another point of view. Ordinarily, we think about the State versus the Defendant. That is what the caption of a criminal case reads, after all. Participating in CLVC provides an opportunity to consider the legal system from another perspective. That perspective is helpful in the practice of criminal defense for several reasons. I have been aware of victims’ rights regarding notification and being heard at certain stages of litigation since day one of practice. I am prepared to better represent my clients because I have an understanding of these rights. In addition, CLVC put on an informative presentation about how trauma affects the brain for clinic participants while I was there. That information aids me in understanding my clients and other individuals involved in my cases.
If you could say one thing to a student considering taking the CVLC what would it be?
CLVC is a valuable experience for anyone considering practicing criminal law. You should do it.