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TJSL Alum Kerry Armstrong ’97 is Criminal Defense Bar Trial Lawyer of the Year

April 11, 2013

Kerry Armstrong

Thomas Jefferson School of Law alumnus Kerry Armstrong ’97 has been named as the San Diego Criminal Defense Bar Association’s “Trial Lawyer of the Year.”

Armstrong has quite a story to tell about his career and what led up to this award:

“I moved to San Diego from Nashville in 1994 to attend what was then called Western State.  I had worked a lot through college and paid my entire way, but because of working so much, my grades were not what I wanted them to be.  I knew that if I got into a good law school I could pass the Bar the first time and be a successful attorney.  I just needed to get into law school to prove it.  Thank goodness Thomas Jefferson (Western State) gave me that chance.  I recall that first semester and having several students make fun of my fairly thick Southern accent.  It was then that I decided that the only way to have that stop was to get very good grades and show my fellow students that the accent did not mean that I was stupid.  So I worked like crazy and had the highest GPA in the entire school at the end of that first year.  I ended up graduating cum laude and in the top 9 percent of my class.  I really owe a lot to Thomas Jefferson.  The professors were excellent and I was able to go part-time and clerk a lot during school. 

Clerking during school was such a huge part of me eventually becoming a good defense attorney.  I started clerking for Kerry Steigerwalt (another Western State graduate) in 1996 while going to school at Thomas Jefferson.  I recall walking into his partner’s (Bill Nimmo) office one day to get something.  That was the first time I had seen the CDBA’s Trial Attorney of the Year plaque.  Mr. Nimmo had it on his wall.  If I recall correctly, he had won it a year or two before.  I remember  just staring at it for a few minutes and thinking to myself how bad I wanted that award someday.  And seventeen years later, I have it!”

Part of the reason that Armstrong was honored is the remarkable year he had defending his clients in 2012, where he had nine jury trials. 

“Doing nine jury trials this past year just about killed me.  From early October to Christmas Eve day, I was in four back-to-back trials.  I think I had four court days off in twelve weeks.  It was miserable.  There were days that I was not sure I could make it to trial the following morning.  I was totally exhausted physically and emotionally.  But I kept on and it, of course, paid off.  So, while this award might be nice to past winners, it truly means everything to me. “

Congratulations to Kerry Armstrong from everyone in the TJSL Family!