This month’s Featured Alumni piece is a special two-part interview with the Greene County Prosecutor’s Office in Springfield, Missouri. Of their 42 attorneys, 23 are Mizzou Law graduates including two recent additions Heather Booth and Cat Cojocaru. Here, they tell us about their time at MU Law and provide advice for prospective, current and graduated students.
Why did you choose Mizzou Law?
Amanda N. Johnson (’14) Persons Unit
I knew that I wanted to practice in Missouri, and I had been told that Mizzou is the best law school to go to if you want a career in Missouri. I also received a scholarship that made the decision a little easier. When I was accepted into Mizzou, I actually received a phone call from admissions to give me the news and to congratulate me and answer any questions I had. I didn’t get that from other law schools, and it was that first impression that made me realize Mizzou Law cares more about its students.
Mel Myears (’12) Persons Unit
Mizzou has always felt like an extended home to me. Everyone in my immediate family (my parents and my three siblings), and several members of my extended family went to Mizzou. The transition from Mizzou undergrad to Mizzou Law felt smooth, comfortable and was an easy decision to make given how much I already loved the university and valued the education I received.
Jenna Homeyer (’17) Property Fraud Unit
I chose Mizzou Law for three reasons, their reputation within Missouri, the law school community, and the affordability. I knew I wanted to stay in Missouri after law school so I looked at schools with the best bar passage rates for the Missouri Bar and the best employment rates. Second, I wanted to go to a law school that encouraged students to find a community within their law school, not a cut-throat atmosphere. When I visited Mizzou I saw how everyone from students to faculty got along and worked in a positive atmosphere. Third, I knew I wanted to be a prosecutor so I didn’t want to go to a school that would leave me with a ton of debt I could never pay off. Mizzou was very affordable, which allowed me to take my dream job right out of law school.
Megan Vincent (’18) General Crimes Unit
Mizzou had a quality legal education for the best tuition. Also, I came from Truman State University, so I liked that Mizzou Law was the small-school feel with the big-campus benefits.
What was your favorite part of your Mizzou Law experience?
Dane A. Rennier (’13) Persons Unit
The people. I’ve made lifelong friends from my time at law school. And it isn’t just the students. There are professors who have profoundly impacted my understanding and appreciation of the law.
Mel Myears (’12) Persons Unit
I love Columbia and all it has to offer. I loved having my younger sister and friends from undergrad on campus at the same time because they offered me encouragement, comfort and familiarity during the challenging law school curriculum. It was nice to be able to attack the academic challenge with new friends and colleagues that I enjoyed and respected. I loved the accessibility of delicious downtown Columbia restaurants, our fantastic Mizzou Rec Center, and being able to attend football and basketball games.
Alex Sheppard (‘16) General Crimes Unit
I was very involved in the Federalist Society and was president my 3L year. I loved being able to engage in legal and policy-driven debates and discussions with classmates, professors, and outside speakers in a really productive and insightful way. The organization was such an integral part of my Mizzou Law experience and provided an amazing network both in and out of the law school.
Morgan Kirkpatrick (’18) General Crimes Unit
South Africa Study Abroad or participation in the Innocence Clinic. Both experiences gave me a new perspective that has made me a better attorney. Seeing how the government functions in South Africa made me more aware of certain aspects of how our government functions. Meeting with the clients in the Innocence Clinic made me aware of the weight and responsibility of prosecution.
What advice do you have for someone considering Mizzou Law? For current students and recent graduates?
Dane A. Rennier (’13) Persons Unit
I don’t think you are going to find a better slate of professors. While you’re there, use them. If you don’t understand something, ask. If you need help looking for a job, go talk to someone. The professors there have always been exceedingly helpful and friendly about everything and I think that is an experience that sets Mizzou Law apart.
Stephanie Wan (’06) First Assistant Prosecuting Attorney, General Crimes Unit
For anyone considering Mizzou, I would tell them that is important to go to law school where you want to practice law – this is the best way to develop connections and get opportunities. Also, think about what kind of law you want to practice when you graduate. Finally, if you know what direction you are considering, that will help you consider the cost/benefit of different law schools. For current students, I would absolutely say to take advantage of the clinics and other classes/programs that provide practical, real-world experience. I find the people who completed a clinic (especially the prosecution clinic) or competed in trial advocacy competitions are often the ones who have the smoothest transition into our office. They already have a lot of the basic skills that I am looking for in a new litigator – they can talk to judges, they understand how important preparation is, they aren’t afraid to ask questions, etc.
Alex Sheppard (’16) General Crimes Unit
Mizzou was such an incredible fit for me. I wanted a law school environment that was close knit and not the traditional competitive vibe you see in The Paper Chase. Everyone is so friendly and Columbia is a really fun town with plenty of things to do when you do eventually have free time. For current students I would say, hang in there. It gets worse (the Bar Exam) before it gets better, but it does get SO much better. For recent grads I would say, don’t be afraid to carve your own path. I took a really non-traditional detour after law school and it was the best thing I have ever done. If not for those two years not practicing law, I don’t think I would appreciate working as a prosecuting attorney nearly as much.
Elizabeth Fax (’15) Persons Unit
Do not feel pressured to know specifically what you want to do with your life in law school. You might work several jobs to get a better idea of what you want to do or you might stumble into the perfect job right out of law school. Participate in the things that actually interest you, not just the things that are “expected” of you. Often times you will find that those things will give you skills that will be very helpful to you in the practice of law. For example, I competed in a client counseling competition on a whim. I was interested in it but was not sure that it would be worth my time. The competition taught me so much and it turned out to be incredibly helpful to my job as a prosecutor. The skills I learned doing that competition are skills I use on a daily basis when I meet with victims.
Check back on Friday, January 24 for the second part!