Jennifer Schaniel ’06 (JD ’09, LL.M. ’10) saw herself with two options when she graduated from Chapman University Dale E. Fowler School of Law: patiently await her bar results as a law clerk, or get a leg up on the competition by participating in Fowler School of Law’s LL.M. in Trial Advocacy program.
The LL.M. program proved to be the perfect fit for Schaniel, who hoped to join the District Attorney’s Office after passing the bar. Fowler School of Law is one of the only LL.M. programs in the nation to offer a 15-week residency in a criminal law agency or law firm, allowing students to make court appearances, beginning with pretrial hearings and, ultimately, on to jury trials. Through the program, Schaniel handled nearly 50 preliminary hearings and conducted jury trials from beginning to verdict.
“Getting the practical courtroom experience, I believe, is really what helped me secure a deputy DA position, especially during a difficult hiring period,” she said. “It trains you to think on your feet and helps you learn to think quickly in high-pressure situations.”
As a law student, Schaniel thought she would pursue a career as a corporate attorney. She spent her summers clerking in bankruptcy court and a business litigation firm before realizing that the criminal courtroom was her dream. She then took on a clerkship with the DA’s gang unit.
“On the first day of my clerkship, I was handed an attempted murder case to review,” she said. “I knew this was what I wanted to do and I was going to do whatever it took to pursue this goal.”
By her final year of law school, she had begun taking courses to prepare her for her transition into the LL.M. advocacy program. She not only appreciated the hands-on curriculum but also the caliber of faculty, which was something that kept her coming back to Chapman University through all of her higher education.
“Having professors who were practicing while teaching gives such a different perspective than a normal, full-time professor,” she said. “It is great exposure to the type of subject matter you will handle in your career.”