Tracie Johnson

Hometown: Philadelphia, PA

Undergraduate School: Ursinus College; Philosophy

Job: Equal Justice Works Fellow at Community Legal Service

Temple Law Community

I was on the National Trial Team my 2L year and it was such a wonderful growing experience. I have always been good at public speaking, but trial team helped me take my advocacy skills to another level. Crafting opening and closing statements or direct and cross-examinations were not mere performative acts to be recited. They were strategic steps and were carefully calculated for the team to win the round, and ultimately the competition. I had to be able to adjust on the fly and stay armed and ready to apply the federal rules of evidence. Most of all, the experience I gained being on my feet, preparing to be a legal advocate, served me well that following summer at Community Legal Service (CLS) where I represented young people in expungement and disability hearings as a Certified Legal Intern.

Experiential Opportunities

In the fall of my 2L year I participated in the Social Justice Lawyering Clinic. I worked with a non-profit organization called PhilaPosh on the workplace abuses that temporary workers face. I ultimately helped write a legal and policy report on how the use of temp agencies allows employers to avoid accountability in the workplace and skirt employment laws such as minimum wage, overtime, workers’ compensation, and unemployment compensation. I also represented an individual client in a wage theft matter where I wrote and filed a complaint. I extended my representation into an Advanced Clinic experience where I ultimately negotiated a settlement agreement with opposing counsel, helping my client finally retrieve the money she was owed. This experience was amazing because in my individual client representation I was able to stay with my client throughout the life of her case and see her through to a victorious ending.

In the spring of my 2L year, I participated in the Justice Lab Clinic where I worked with the Defenders Association of Philadelphia to understand and address the issue of probation holds in the Philadelphia criminal justice system, which occurs when a probationer is held in custody, without bail, for allegedly violating the terms of their probation pending a violation hearing. I ultimately wrote a legal and policy report analyzing the system and recommending changes. I enjoyed this experience because I was able to interview, judges, representatives from the Adult Probation and Parole Department, and public defenders alike to get to the core of the issue. This experience taught me the importance of understanding every perspective and how great solutions can be discovered when everyone with a vested stake works together.

This past semester, I participated in the Defenders Clinic. I represented clients at preliminary hearings and misdemeanor trials. To prepare, I observed hearings in court beforehand and met with my clinic supervisor to develop case theories and strategies. I contacted clients beforehand to introduce myself, explain the nature of the upcoming hearing, what they can expect and how I will proceed with their case at that given stage. The very last day of my clinic, I argued a motion to suppress and it was granted. Overall, this experience drove home the importance of preparedness and professionalism.

Faculty Influence

During my first year, I took Introduction to Intellectual Property as an elective with Professor Harris. He made a course, that would have otherwise bored me, really appeal to me. When I went to the 2018 Friel-Scanlan Lecture, he presented on The Digitial Millenium Copyright Act, and I still remembered and understood the basics of what he taught in his class. Outside of his role as professor, he has been a great counselor.  He has been a great mentor and a strong rock of support. Whenever I had doubts about whether I belonged in law school, he gave me much needed encouragement. He is committed to helping students of color graduate law school and I am a shining example of his success in that regard.

Professors Colleen Shanahan and Jennifer Lee made my 2L year my favorite. They pushed me, encouraged me, answered all of my questions, and helped me use my clinic experience in a way that would be most conducive to my future plans. After getting a job, someone remarked to me that in all of their years on a competitive hiring committee, they had never before heard two people speak so highly, thoughtfully, and excitedly about a candidate. They were taken aback by how strongly Colleen and Jenn had advocated for me. They fully supported me throughout the process of me applying for the fellowship I now have and I cannot thank them enough.

Sara Jacobsen was my trial team coach and has since become a great mentor. She pushed me and helped me see how easy a case can become when you dive all the way into the material. My 3L year she helped me become a Teacher’s Assistant for ITAP to work with Representative Joanna McClinton. She personally made this connection after I told her about my fellowship project and interests in defender work. I truly appreciate her willingness to help whenever I call on her.