Earlier this month, justices of the Louisiana Supreme Court took their places one at a time as the proceedings began, just like they have done over the past 200 years, but this court appearance was a little different. For the first time in its history, the Court heard arguments over Zoom. And while many seasoned litigators go their entire careers without a single argument before their state’s highest court, first up that day was Shanice Smith-Banks who had just graduated from law school, and who will be starting her career at Proskauer’s New Orleans office in the fall.
Shanice credits the criminal defense clinic at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law with teaching her more than any other class. Not only did she read cases but she analyzed legal issues while working directly with and advocating for clients. She wrote briefs, mastered all kinds of procedures and rules, and appeared in court on a number of different matters. Not only did she gain valuable hands-on experience, but she was able to learn about the criminal justice system up close, observing that defendants in criminal court were disproportionately black and how public defenders were forced to juggle overwhelming caseloads. But even as she was struck by deep flaws in the system, she left the clinic experience with hope.