Alumni News

January 13, 2020 at 5:22 pm

Career Week | Law Student Jesser Pursues Passion for Criminal Defense


Alexa Jesser, portrait

Alexa Jesser

Editor’s Note: The Happy Beginnings series features recent College of Arts & Sciences graduates who are getting started in careers, graduate school and service.

Ohio University alum Alexa Jesser ’18 is using her passion for advocacy and law by pursuing a career as a criminal defense attorney. She is currently in her second year of law school at the University of Cincinnati College of Law.

While she was an undergraduate student at OHIO, Jesser majored in Psychology and Political Science and obtained a Certificate in Law, Justice, & Culture.

During her time at Ohio University, Jesser was very involved in the Ohio University Mock Trial Team and Phi Alpha Delta Pre-Law Fraternity. She has carried the lessons she learned from these organizations with her in law school. It was during her undergraduate career that she learned of her passion for defense work.

“I’m very passionate about indigent defense (meaning criminal defense of those who can’t afford to pay an attorney themselves – or being a public defender). I’ve known I wanted to be a criminal lawyer for years, but it wasn’t until undergrad that I knew I wanted to do defense work, and it wasn’t until law school that I realized I wanted to do indigent defense work,” Jesser said.

“It was my background in the social sciences that really played a big role in my passion for indigent defense. I’ve always been really interested in Psychology. As a Psychology major, I learned just how much science plays into the criminal justice system (especially with wrongful convictions). I also realized how many factors are outside of our control and what kind of things lead people to commit crimes. The LJC certificate broadened my knowledge of all of this because it allowed me to take a wide-range of classes from different areas related to the criminal justice system.”

Working for the Ohio Innocence Project

She chose University of Cincinnati’s College of Law because it granted her the opportunity to expand on her undergraduate interests.

“I chose to attend UC’s law school because I really wanted to work with the Ohio Innocence Project. I’m currently a Fellow with the Ohio Innocence Project, and I also worked at a private criminal defense firm this past semester. This upcoming summer I will be interning at the San Diego County Public Defender” Jesser explained.

She feels that Ohio University prepared her for law school and the opportunities that have accompanied her legal education.

“Ohio University gave me so many resources and connections for law school. Larry Hayman, CLJC’s pre-law adviser, did so much for me in terms of helping me figure out the law school application process, studying for the LSAT, writing my recommendations, and more. Many of the classes I took at OU were also very beneficial.”

Jesser specifically credits her experience as the president of Ohio University’s Mock Trial team for developing her skills in public speaking, legal analysis, and witness questioning.

“Nothing will prepare you better to be a lawyer than actually getting up and making objections, directing witnesses, and giving opening and closing arguments. The kind of analysis you have to do when reading a case for mock trial is also really helpful, especially for the kind of work I do at the Ohio Innocence Project. At work I’m constantly reading over trial transcripts and looking back at evidence from trial. There’s a lot of investigative work that goes into it, and it’s similar to the way I would read over our case from mock trial and try to analyze every statement and every piece of evidence to bring it to trial for competition.”

Jesser still fondly reflects on her time at Ohio University and is grateful for the way her liberal arts degree prepared her for the career ahead.

“My liberal arts degree gave me knowledge of a broad area of subjects. All of this knowledge has informed my worldview and has shaped the career path I’m currently pursuing,” she said.

Since graduating, Jesser has had several opportunities to return to Ohio University to mentor pre-law students. For example, she served as a panelist at the Summer Law & Trial Institute, serve as a guest judge for Mock Trial, and presented on legal education at Pre-Law Days in 2019.

She reminds Ohio University students to not take their experience in Athens for granted.

“I would want to tell everyone to enjoy your time at OU while you still have it. OU really is a little bubble from reality. It isn’t until you get into the ‘real world’ that you realize how lucky you were to spend 4 (or more) years in such a wonderful place.”

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