2016 Class Acts

And Justice for All

Jenny Terrell advocates for those with lesser access to America’s legal system

Jenny Terrell

Law student Jenny Terrell has worked to make the justice system accessible to everyone, regardless of race or resources. Photo by Joe Angeles/WUSTL Photos

Before coming to the School of Law at Washington University in St. Louis, Jenny Terrell worked for four years in a variety of nonprofit settings — at one working with incarcerated women and at another with newly arrived refugees.

Her main desire in attending law school, said the Chicago native, was to increase her “toolkit” for doing public interest work.

“I found the legal system to be very inaccessible to people I worked with,” said Terrell, who earned her undergraduate degree from Duke University in 2009. “It felt very inaccessible to me, as an advocate, as well. I wanted to learn how to work within the legal system, to then ideally find ways to work against its presumption of needing lots of money or lots of education to effectively advocate within it, so that individuals I worked with would have more access to the system without being dependent on others as advocates.”

To that end, her two favorite courses during her time at the School of Law have been Immigration Law and Criminal Procedure.

“These two classes were a great mix of learning the nuts-and-bolts of parts of the law that I find most important and interesting, of discussing the practical effects on real people’s lives of a variety of laws, and of having more abstract discussions regarding what the system would ideally look like,” said Terrell, who will graduate with a juris doctorate.

“These classes were both so fantastic because of incredible professors—Stephen Legomsky (the John S. Lehmann University Professor) for Immigration Law and Katherine Goldwasser (professor of law) for Criminal Procedure,” Terrell said. “They both brought vast amounts of knowledge and energy to the classroom, and kept it an intellectually exciting space.”

During her time at the school, Terrell participated in the Civil Rights, Community Justice & Mediation Clinic with Karen Tokarz, the Charles Nagel Professor of Public Interest Law & Public Service and professor of African and African-American Studies in Arts & Sciences.

She also did an externship at the Migrant and Immigrant Community Action Project, served as student delegate for the university-wide Day of Dialogue on Race and Ethnicity and served on the law review, among other activities.

Following graduation, Terrell will work at the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit in Chicago, clerking in the staff attorney’s office.

“My interest in law has long focused on public interest issues, and ideally addressing injustice at the system level, rather than the individual level,” Terrell said. “I think my time at the Seventh Circuit will be a great way to start my public interest lawyering career. The cases I will be assigned should align with subject matter that I find particularly interesting and from which I will learn a lot.

“I’m excited to improve my research and writing skills, building a base for the rest of my legal career,” Terrell said. “I’m also excited to get to work with the judges on the Seventh Circuit and learn from some of the people whose opinions I have read.”


by Neil Schoenherr

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