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Expecting the Unexpected as a Deputy District Attorney


Stephanie Ryder '09
Stephanie Ryder '09

As a deputy district attorney, I never know what the day is going to bring. I have a schedule, of course, and maybe I’m supposed to start a four-day sex assault trial. But maybe the defendant doesn’t show up, or a blizzard has shut down the roads leading to the court-house. In my job, you need to be able to think quickly on your feet and be flexible when things do not go according to plan. Standing at the courtroom podium as a state prosecutor is sometimes like a pop quiz—the judge expects you to know the answer to all of his/her questions, and expects you to respond articulately and eloquently to all of the defense arguments against you. You are constantly at odds with the defense and trying to convince the judge you are right and they are wrong. When you work as a deputy district attorney, you learn to expect the unexpected. I feel that my Hamilton education especially equipped me to handle these challenges of the criminal courtroom.

At Hamilton, I studied government and focused on classes specializing in writing and oral advocacy. I balanced the schedule of a student athlete and spent hours at the Writing Center and Oral Communication Center. My rigorous academic and athletic calendar taught me to efficiently manage my time and prioritize my projects, which came in handy when it became time to apply classroom theory to real-life cases. After Hamilton, I had the opportunity to work as a paralegal for a white-collar criminal defense firm in New York City. I worked alongside partners preparing for securities and tax fraud trials, met with clients being held at the jail, and learned to navigate the tedious rules of criminal procedure. As a law school student, I interned with the Denver District Attorney’s office and realized I wanted to use my advocacy skills to help the victims of crime in my community. 

Whether or not you’re interested in pursuing a career in law, I hope you’ll consider using your Hamilton education to help your community. As a prosecutor for the state of Colorado, I am proud to use my writing and public speaking skills to advocate for victims of crime. As Hamilton students, you are in a unique position to use your education to help the more vulnerable members of our society. Whether that means pursuing a career as a public servant or volunteering a few hours a month to mentor a high school student, our country needs educated, articulate leaders to stand up for those who cannot stand up for themselves. 

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