by Jackie Borcherding ('05)
Four talented student advocates from Baylor Law School participated in an inaugural Externship Program with the Criminal Prosecution Division of the Williamson County Attorney's Office this past summer. Michael Gillespie, Erin Hamilton, Laura Ramos, and Kelly Hodge spent their summer in the courtrooms of Williamson County, negotiating plea bargains, participating in jury trials, and advocating for victims in criminal cases, under the guidance and supervision of Jackie Borcherding, a Chief Prosecutor in Williamson County and '05 Baylor Law School Graduate.
The initiative was billed as a "real-life," "throw-you-in", "sink-or-swim" type of externship, and all four students responded to the challenge of performing prosecutorial duties in the County Courts at Law with eagerness, drive, humility and a great showing of natural talent for trial advocacy, which is, of course, endemic to the Baylor law tradition. They specifically prepared for and performed Practice Court-like advocacy exercises before prosecuting and defense attorneys, as well as interacted with pro se criminal defendants, witnesses, law enforcement, victims of crime and the criminal defense bar during criminal docket settings, pre-trials and trials.
"Working in court, working with other lawyers and defendants and victims, and working on trials all presented elements of the law that could not be taught in textbooks or lectures," wrote Gillespie. "Going to the different courtrooms -upstairs, downstairs and to the four justice of the peace courts--helped me to see criminal law in its entirety and better understand the different layers of the justice system."
The students were an essential and vibrant part of the inner-workings of the prosecution of thousands of misdemeanor cases this summer. And, they learned first-hand the true art of advocacy and negotiation. Gillespie and the others learned the invaluable lesson that the real practice of law, on either side of the bar, is about people. They served the people of Williamson County diligently and whole-heartedly this summer, and they each merit gratitude and praise for their outstanding service.