As Stephen Bright provided closing remarks at the 2015 ACS National Convention, he extoled the virtue of representing unpopular clients ‒ particularly criminal defendants, who are usually poor and often people of color. He listed the names of inmates who have been wrongfully convicted and recently released from prison, all unwitting members of a far-too-large society of American exonerees: Willie Manning in Mississippi, Anthony Ray Hinton in Alabama, Alfred Brown in Texas, and Glenn Ford in Louisiana. But Bright also delighted the crowd by introducing a special guest: exoneree and recent law school graduate Jarrett Adams.
Adams served almost 10 years of a 28-year prison sentence for a crime that he did not commit. After being exonerated with the help of the Wisconsin Innocence Project, he obtained a degree in criminal justice and then attended law school at Loyola University Chicago. He has worked at the Federal Defender’s Office in Chicago and at the public interest law firm Loevy & Loevy, and soon he will begin a dual fellowship with the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York and the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit ‒ the very court that overturned his conviction and set him free.
At the convention, Adams sat down with ACS to explain why it’s so important for law students to develop professional networks. He said, “There are only so many big firms, and if you don’t . . . get a 4.0 or know someone . . . you don’t have the opportunity to summer with them and to get into the door. ACS offers you the opportunity to network with the big law firms at events like this.” He added, “You never know when you’re going to be in a networking event and meet someone that’s going to help you become someone.”
Arguably, Adams – who hopes to practice civil rights law and continue leading the nonprofit organization he co-founded, Life After Justice – is already “someone.” But, as he would probably agree, there is always room for growth and advancement.
Adams’ entire interview can be viewed below.