Law student relishes role at prosecutor's office

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

The fictional D.A. Jack McCoy in the TV show “Law and Order” was a childhood hero for James Kehoe, inspiring him to take part in his high school’s mock trial team.

“From there my passion for the law really bloomed,” he says. “I always loved classes dealing with government and social studies, so law felt like the perfect fit.”

Kehoe earned his undergrad degree in pre-law, political science, and Spanish from the University of Michigan.

“I was one of the weird freshmen that didn’t change their majors or career plans, I came in and left wanting to be a lawyer,” he says. “My parents and siblings would also say I’m highly argumentative, so there’s that, too.”
He enjoyed the city, the university, and the diversity of the student population.

“Even in a school as large as U-M, I felt at home and was able to make lifelong friends,” he says. “I was fortunate to meet so many different people and I think that helped me to appreciate other viewpoints and strive to listen to others more. And the academic rigors prepared me for the challenges of law school, whether it was staying up until 4 a.m. writing a paper or preparing for a presentation.”

After graduation, Kehoe spent 15 months clerking at Eby, Conner, Smillie, & Bourque PLLC in Ann Arbor.

“For my first legal job, it was perfect – I was able to get an introductory lesson in the legal field and take some real experience from it,” he says. “The partners and staff were more than instrumental to some of the success I was able to have in my first year as a law student and I learned lessons I know I’ll be using throughout my career.

“I was able to gain more practical knowledge, which helped to place what we learned during school in context, as well as gain skills about working in the real world that I would not have been able to learn in the classroom.”
Now a rising 2L at Wayne State University Law School, Kehoe enjoys the camaraderie among students.

“Everyone knows everyone,” he says. “I felt the competitiveness of law school would outweigh everyone’s desire to be friendly – I’ve been pleasantly surprised at the level of cooperation everyone demonstrates.”
Another highlight for him is the school’s focus on public interest and its goal of shaping community leaders.

“As someone that wants to work within our community, I’m appreciative to be at a school that shares my passion,” he says.

He relishes the variety of work in his current internship at the Wayne County Prosecutor’s Office, working in the Auto Theft Unit and with White Collar Crime.

“Some days I work on case summaries, and they all vary in difficulty and depth,” he says. “I’ve done some pre-trial work by getting evidence together and working on briefings for the court. I never really know what I’m going to be doing when I walk into the office and I love it.”

In a concurrent internship with the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Michigan, he is fine-tuning research and writing skills.

“I’ve been working on a draft for an opinion, which I could not be more excited for,” he says. “I’ve also been doing research for the judge’s book on employment law. The pace is slower, but the work is just as challenging.
“My favorite aspect of the internship is the wide variety of experiences it offers – whether it’s a seminar through the Federal Defender’s Office or being able to observe a trial, we’ve been given a plethora of opportunities to learn beyond the judicial side.”

Kehoe hopes eventually to work in the Criminal Division of the U.S. Attorney’s Office.

“Between now and then, I’d like to get some trial experience or maybe continue working in a judge’s chambers,” he says.

He currently serves as vice president of the Wayne Law Student Bar Association Board of Governors that in the spring hosted the Wayne Law Ambulance Chase, with proceeds going to Cass Community Services. 
“I’m very proud to be at a school that stresses community involvement and provides so many opportunities to give back,” Kehoe says.

“Serving on the board has its challenges, but it’s been a blessing to serve my fellow classmates and try to address the needs of students. SBG is a beacon for change and progress, and I think it’s served as a great platform for students’ ideas to help shape our school.”

He also volunteers as a student speaker at Crime Stoppers.

“It’s been a great experience, to connect with various community groups and explain the program and benefits,” he says. “It’s empowering to work with the people in our community to take back the streets and end crime.”
In his downtime, Kehoe has enjoyed playing intramural basketball.

“It was a great stress reliever and time to get some of the law students together to take our stress out on the undergrads and med students we met on the court,” he says. “It was even better when we finally were able to win some games.”

A native of Fort Madison, Iowa, Kehoe and his family moved to St. Clair in Michigan’s “Thumb” in 1997. Although he continues to live in Wolverine territory in Ann Arbor, he enjoys studying in the Motor City.
“The amount of stuff we can do here is incredible,” he says. “Even though I’ve been here for about a year, I feel I’ve not even begun to scratch the surface of all the things Detroit has to offer.”

An avid runner, foodie, and sports fan, Kehoe hopes one day to travel the globe and explore new places. He has great memories of an undergrad study abroad program at the University of Santiago de Campostela in Spain, at the end of which he walked three days of the El Camino de Santiago pilgrimage route that many people make from France to Santiago de Compostela, the alleged burial site of the apostle James.

“It was picturesque and the best hiking trail you could ever go on,” he says. “I hope to return and make the full voyage.”

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