Some law school graduates seeking a career in litigation learn that it takes many years to find their way into a courtroom. This was not the case for Brandon Willms (JD ’15), who combined his extensive advocacy training at Fowler School of Law with a decision to accept a position as a Deputy District Attorney with the Office of the District Attorney, Colorado 12th Judicial District in rural Colorado.
Since joining the office just over a year ago, Willms has taken on responsibility for two counties, with responsibilities that include the running of day-to-day court dockets, arguing motions and probable cause hearings, and making charging decisions for DUIs, misdemeanors and other high-profile felony cases. Currently, he is co-chairing a homicide case with an assistant attorney general and serving as lead prosecutor for several sexual assault cases involving the alleged assault of an 8-year-old girl. He also serves as second chair with the elected district attorney in a murder case of a member of the Colorado Mountain Bike Hall of Fame.
“In this role, you have the power to dismiss or file charges in major cases and with that comes the opportunity to have a great effect on the community. To be honest, it’s exciting and frightening at the same time to take on cases like these,” Willms said. “But how quickly you take on felony cases in my office is dependent on your success and skill, so it’s nice to know that I’m being given more opportunities because I’ve proven myself. You learn quickly, especially when you’re in trial at least once or twice a month and in court 20-30 hours a week.”
Willms knew he would expand his job prospects by looking beyond the Southern California legal job market. Thanks to Chapman’s supplemental bar preparation program and connections to Chapman alumni in Colorado, Willms was able to find his position shortly after passing the Colorado Bar.
“The supplemental bar prep program was exceptionally helpful for me,” Willms said. “Criminal Law with Professor Rosenthal and Constitutional Law with Professor McConville were very important courses, and Professor Mainero’s evidence class has served me well in court on a daily basis.”