March 30, 2020 at 8:23 am

Happy Beginnings | OHIO Experiences Shaped Eaton’s Legal Journey to Working with Vulnerable Clients

Nicholas Eaton, portrait

Nicholas Eaton

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


Ohio University alumnus Nicholas Eaton ’18 has utilized his undergraduate degree in Communication Studies and the Certificate in Law, Justice & Culture in his pursuit of a legal career focused on representing particularly vulnerable clients.

Eaton graduated from Ohio University in 2018. He was a member of the Center for Law, Justice & Culture’s Certificate Class that year.

Eaton is the fifth person in his immediate family to attend Ohio University, but almost immediately realized that OHIO was more than just family tradition.

“It didn’t take much for me to fall in love with Athens. I visited my sister while I was in high school, and I was all in ever since,” he says.

During his time at Ohio University, Eaton dedicated his time to Students Defending Students, Phi Alpha Delta, Pre-Law Fraternity, and the Center for Student Legal Services. Eaton served as the assistant director of recruitment and training, and later as the director of Students Defending Students (SDS). Eaton also was the treasurer of Phi Alpha Delta and was an active participant in every chapter meeting. Eaton feels these experiential learning opportunities were crucial to his preparation for law school.

“Working with clients through SDS helped me realize my love for this type of work. Phi Alpha Delta, on the other hand, introduced me to all kinds of attorneys and fields of law to explore. It also introduced me to a great group of friends that helped me through the application process. It is very important to have people understand how difficult it can be, and to have people to talk to about it.”

Nick is now finishing his second year of law school at the University of Cincinnati College of Law. His decision to go to Cincinnati was heavily influenced by the potential to be a part of the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP), a nonprofit organization that works to exonerate wrongfully incarcerated individuals. He spent last summer and this year as an OIP Fellow and specifically credits his experience in SDS for guiding him down this path.

“There were two main reasons that I wanted to work for OIP. First, through my time working at SDS, I developed a love for working with people and helping them traverse difficult situations. I saw SDS as the minor leagues, and OIP as the pros. I wanted to experience what it was like to be a criminal attorney as soon as possible. I knew that OIP would provide me with an opportunity to interact with clients in a way that I could not anywhere else in my first summer.

“Second, I had been told by many people that OIP provided unparalleled legal experience in the first summer of law school. OIP Fellows go beyond research and take an important role in the representation,” he said.

“My partner and I have about 20 cases (the number fluctuates). We read transcripts, speak to former attorneys, track down witnesses, draft motions, communicate with clients, among other things. While I have not exonerated any clients, I am hopeful that my work will lead to an exoneration down the road.”

Eaton explains, “My favorite part of working with OIP is interacting with clients. My partner and I have two hours a week on the phone [with their clients]. During this time, our clients call in to get updates on their case or to give us information we need. I look forward to this time, as it reminds me why the hard work is worth it. I wanted to become a lawyer so I could work closely with individuals I represent. I feel very lucky to have these experiences so early in my legal career.”

Through his positions in SDS and Phi Alpha Delta, to his time in the classrooms of Bentley Hall, Eaton is confident that Ohio University prepared him for law school and the life of an attorney.

“The classes I took at OU solidified my interest in law. I came to OU thinking that I may want to be a lawyer. However, I didn’t really know what the life of a lawyer entailed. Classes like Criminology, Courtroom Rhetoric, and Persuasion (any CLJC class) confirmed that this is a field I’m suited for.”

Eaton prepared for law school through careful planning and countless late nights of studying. Eaton recognizes the importance of choosing the school that is best for a person individually, and being realistic when preparing for the LSAT.

“Study hard, find the right school, and have fun. First, while I don’t believe it should be, the LSAT is extremely important for getting into law school and receiving scholarships. Every point is crucial. Figure out a study plan that works for you and stick to it. I started studying six months out. (I had a study plan ready about a year out). I felt that six months was about perfect. Second, find a school in a city you love. While getting a job outside of the city your school is in it completely possible, the path of least resistance is staying put. Also, you’re going to be there for three years. Pick a school in a place you can see yourself working long term and enjoying spending the next three years.”

Eaton returns to Ohio University often to mentor undergraduate students that are considering a career in law. In Fall 2019, for example, he participated in the Center for Law, Justice & Culture‘s Pre-Law Day program. Additionally, he participated in the Summer Law & Trial Institute in July 2019 where he presented on his exoneration work.

“You will never get your time in undergrad back. Enjoy the free time you have. Play intramural sports, go on a hike, hang out with your friends. Do what you love to do, as you won’t have as much time on your hands down the road. I find time for myself in law school, but there simply isn’t as much time in the day. OU gave me the fondest memories of my life. Soak them in.”

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