Advocacy: Law student hones his courtroom skills

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By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

After earning his undergrad degree from the University of Michigan, David Adgate who had long known that his future career must provide opportunities to interact with people and serve the community volunteered at the Washtenaw County Public Defender Office to see if law would be a good fit.

"I was able to get a lot of client interaction," he says. "I was also fortunate enough to work alongside attorneys who were great advocators and cared deeply about representing clients who could not afford representation."

The experience firmed up his career decision, and he headed to Wayne Law School. He returned to the PD Office in Ann Arbor in the summer after his 1L year, and represented clients; and also received a Warrior Pro Bono award for completing over 50 hours of pro bono work there.

With a fiercely competitive streak, Adgate has enjoyed the law school's Mock Trial program, which has given him a chance to apply, practically, much of his academic learning as well as giving him a great admiration for attorneys who provide representation at the trial-level.

"Mock Trial has been an incredible experience," he says. "Being familiar with procedural and evidentiary matters, forming cohesive arguments and having strong oratory skills are all necessary in order to argue a case effectively at the trial level. The combination of Professor Mann, the coaches and my fellow team-members creates an atmosphere where we can become effective advocates and have a lot of fun at the same time."

Working this summer at the Federal Defender Office in Detroit through a Wayne Law Public Interest Law Fellowship, he finds the work differs significantly from the County Public Defender Office, where he was kept extremely busy visiting clients in jail, drafting motions and representing individuals in court.

"The work at the Federal Defender Office mostly consists of research and writing. I get to research complex legal issues, then efficiently draft answers to those issues in a way that is useful to the Deputy Defenders in the office," he says. "I'm also able to represent clients in federal court, which has been challenging and rewarding exciting.

"I've found the Deputy Defenders to be incredible advocates," he adds. "I feel fortunate and grateful that I'm able to work alongside some of the best criminal defense attorneys in the country."

Adgate adds that the back-to-back work at the County and Federal Defender Offices couldn't be a better experience. "At the county level, I was able to hone my courtroom skills, by representing clients in court several times a week and at the federal level, I have opportunities to sharpen my research and writing skills on a daily basis," he says.

In the coming Fall and Winter semesters, Adgate will be part of the Civil Rights Clinic, where he will be representing clients on discrimination issues.

His career goal is to be in the best position to help others. "So far, that's been in the form of public defense work and all other career-related goals are derivative of this goal," he says.

A personal goal is to always remain teachable. "I can't be of maximum use to a client if I think I know everything," he says.

Adgate and his wife Michelle, who works for the U-M Health System, live in Ann Arbor, where he grew up and graduated from Pioneer High School. "Ann Arbor is home," he says.

"I have several life-long friends that live here and I've made some great connections with attorneys in the area. My parents live in Ann Arbor and have always been extremely supportive of my goals and aspirations."

Despite his passion for Wolverine territory, he also enjoys being at law school in downtown Detroit. "I love the food for being 5'4" I can eat a surprising amount of food, especially when it's as delicious as the food in Detroit," he says. "It's also exciting to be in Detroit, on a daily basis, when so much growth and revitalization is taking place."

In his leisure time, he loves to bike "for me, it's a form of meditation," he says and spend time with a wide circle of friends. On weekends, he and his wife take their St. Bernard, Dudley, on various adventures.

Adgate and his wife share a similar philosophy about community service. "Striving to be simultaneously passionate and empathetic to the needs of each other, patients and clients, means our lives are incredibly rich and fulfilling," he says.

Published: Mon, Sep 12, 2016

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