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Criminal Defense Attorney Laura Shaver ‘11 Provides Clients with Justice through Advocacy

June 1, 2015

As a criminal defense attorney with the Mazzone Law Firm, Laura Shaver ‘11 strives to provide clients with justice through advocacy. “I’ve always loved a good fight,” Shaver said to explain what drew her to criminal defense work. “What better fight than to fight for someone’s freedom? Freedom and the presumption of innocence are rights every human being should enjoy. It’s what our Founding Fathers believed to be so important that they wrote it in our Constitution. When the Government wants to take away someone’s freedom, shouldn’t there be a fight? I believe the answer is yes and that is why I became a criminal defense attorney.”

Shaver, aware of the responsibility that comes with her position, works to make a difference one case at a time. “When I first meet with my clients they are usually at the lowest points in their lives. Sometimes they are in jail, struggling with a drug or alcohol addiction, fighting to keep their children or completely down and out with no money, no family and no hope,” Shaver explained. “I take on their biggest fears as my own. I lose sleep, get grey hairs and wrinkles, just like they do when thinking about their case. Their life is in my hands and I’m the only voice and sometimes the only person in the room who gives a damn about them – that is both exciting and terrifying. Being able to give someone back their life or their hope fuels me to do this sometimes thankless job.”

“When I’m in court, next to my client, I know I am right where I’m supposed to be,” Shaver said. “Sometimes it’s just the two of us against a swat team of police, victims and their families, the prosecutor and the State. To be that one person standing next to the most unpopular person in the room and treating him or her like a human being and fighting so others fall into line is my reward.”

Shaver’s experiences growing up are what shaped her understanding of what it means to go through the criminal justice system. “As a kid I realized the power of the police and prosecutors. I also realized that someone had to be there to protect those with no power. I saw friends and family members get arrested, tried and sometimes convicted. The finding of guilt does far more than brand someone a criminal and put them in jail or prison for a period of time. Children find themselves with one less parent at home, jobs are lost, and reputations are forever tarnished,” Shaver noted. “People I loved, people I knew to be good people made decisions that landed them in a lot of trouble and the effects of their choices rippled through my friend group, my school, my family and my community. It was then that I chose to fight for those with no power because people who make mistakes and bad decisions, but who have good hearts were the people I related to.”

Determined to pursue her passion for helping others, the Washington native began law school as a part-time student while working full time. Shaver, who credits the Thomas Jefferson School of Law Admissions team with successfully completing her first semester, soon decided to quit her job and become a full-time student. “By my first year summer, the Admissions team totally stuck with me and I started working in their office or just visiting them in their office whenever I was on campus and not in class,” Shaver said. “They pushed, encouraged, and supported me throughout my entire law school career and I am forever grateful for all they gave during those three years.”

Shaver’s time at Thomas Jefferson was also memorable because of her participation in Moot Court. “My friend was doing it and she was fun to be around, so I did it too,” Shaver said of her initial involvement. “We did have a lot of fun in Moot Court, but we also worked increasable hard. Writing Moot Court briefs made actual legal brief writing less intimidating. Giving oral arguments at Moot Court competitions made arguing motions and trying cases easier. Because of this experience, I felt more comfortable in the courtroom and with opposing counsel.”

Shaver further developed her legal skills by interning at the San Diego Public Defender’s Office for two and a half years. Although interning strengthened her resolve to develop a career as a public defender, after graduation she hoped to return to her home state. So despite a post-bar job offer in San Diego, a week after graduation she packed her things and left for Washington. “It was my heart that drew me back to Washington,” Shaver explained. “I studied for the Washington bar exam and began working for a solo practitioner when the exam was over. I never wavered in my desire to be a public defender, so when the opportunity presented itself I jumped on it – even though it would take me to Yakima. I grew up in Yakima and vowed to never return when I left at seventeen-years old.”

After almost two years as a public defender in Yakima, Shaver crossed paths with Peter Mazzone. “He is one of fifty lawyers in Washington State qualified to litigate death penalty cases,” Shaver stated, “He was in Yakima litigating a death penalty triple homicide case when we ran into each other during the lunch hour. I interviewed with him the following week and moved to Seattle a couple weeks later. I’ve been with Mazzone Law Firm now for about a year and a half with one of the best attorneys in criminal defense in Washington as my guiding light.”

Shaver’s advice to recent graduates is to be proactive but also be patient, “Passing the bar without a job seems to be the trend nowadays and I understand why that position can be stressful, but my advice would be to not worry about it. A job will come along if you are diligent and determined.”