Katie Jenkins ’15 Finds Early Success After Graduation
January 21, 2016
Like many students, Katie Jenkins ’15, entered Thomas Jefferson School of Law with just abstract ideas about what she wanted to do with her life.
That indecision however, was replaced by determination during her first year of law school, when the young student’s eyes were opened to the many different fields of law. The seemingly limitless possibilities inspired Jenkins to immediately begin immersing herself in a series of internships, a decision that was key to identifying the area of law she was most passionate about and also to landing a job right after graduation.
“It was probably the only time in my life I could bounce around in different fields and get away with it because I was a law student. It was the ultimate trial and error. I was able to figure out which areas I thrived in and which areas I knew weren’t for me,” recalls Jenkins.
While attending school full-time, Jenkins interned in one field of law after another in order to learn as much as she could and build a network of contacts in the industry. She spent time interning with the San Diego County Public Defender’s Office and also the law firm of Warren & Burstein.
At Warren & Burstein, Jenkins was exposed to criminal law, and suddenly, she realized she’d found her calling.
“I was hooked,” says Jenkins.
“I’d always been interested in criminal justice. I studied criminology all through college and was fascinated with the field. But it wasn’t until I started interning during law school that I realized this is what I wanted to dedicate my life to. Once I started meeting clients first hand, and meeting their families, I realized I could have an impact on their lives, even if it were slight,” she says.
After graduating from law school and passing the bar, Jenkins was immediately offered a position with Warren & Burstein. She passed the bar in November 2015 and one month later, was sworn in.
Jenkins’ swift success had much to do with the groundwork she laid during school, which included aggressive pursuit of internships, as well as networking efforts and also connecting with a mentor through the school’s Career Services office.
“From day one, Thomas Jefferson always provided a variety of networking opportunities for me to take advantage of. During my first semester, Career Services helped me join a San Diego mentorship program where I was paired up with a mentor attorney. It was this same mentor that introduced me to my current bosses at Warren & Burstein,” she says.
Now, as an associate, Jenkins works primarily on federal criminal defense cases, the most fulfilling part of which, she says, is giving client’s advice and serving as their voice during what can be a particularly stressful time.
“Oftentimes we meet the clients when their lives are in complete disarray. The stress is insurmountable and they truly feel alone. The most rewarding part is being able to stand beside them as their attorney,” explains Jenkins. “There’s a stigma attached to criminal defendants that isn’t easy to overcome. But people often forget there are two sides to every story.”
The recent graduate also finds it exciting to see all of the concepts, ideas and principles she learned about in school, coming to life each day as a professional. Countless hours are spent during law school, for instance, studying the U.S. Constitution. Working as an attorney defending the Constitution, or the constitutional rights of others, brings all of that study to life in its most vivid form.
Jenkins has also come to enjoy the fact that being an attorney is far from a typical nine-to-five job. Every day is different. Some are spent in court, others working in the office or perhaps visiting a client in jail. Some days involve bouncing between all three.
“It’s been an incredible experience transitioning from law student, to intern, to lawyer. As a new lawyer, the learning curve is high and I’m constantly pushing myself out of my comfort zone. That being said, the journey is far from over and I’m eager to see where this new chapter takes me,” Jenkins says.
Though it may still be early in her career as a lawyer, Jenkins has learned a great deal already and has advice for those following behind her.
“Stay hungry and stay focused,” she says. “As a recent graduate myself, I understand the pressure we are under. There is pressure to graduate, pressure to pass the bar, and of course, pressure to find a job. When I first started law school, the end goal was always to pass the bar. You spend three years of your life preparing for one test. And studying for the bar was probably one of the most draining processes I’ve ever been through. But passing the bar is just the beginning, not the end.”