Pro Se Interviews Keynote Speaker Barry Scheck

by Jaime Welsh & Liz O’Donnell

photo via Cardozo

What do you think are your biggest accomplishments?

 Being lucky enough to help somebody who was wrongfully convicted for a crime and get out of prison and with the assistance of many other people standing up and organizations that are dedicated to that work.

What prompted you to found the Innocent Project?

A colleague, Peter Neufeld, and I had a client in 1988 who we were trying to prove innocent, and I realized we might be able to prove it with DNA testing.  We ended up proving it in another way, but in the course of litigating we realized its potential.

What was the biggest learning experience you had as a young attorney?

I began practicing law as public defender in the South Bronx.  Investigating and trying cases in the front lines was a truly informative experience. Being a public defender and serving as last champions of poor and those who lack resources to defend themselves is something that every lawyer ought to undertake at one point in the professional career.

What advice do you have to offer this year’s graduating class?

Identify a cause that you believe in, that gives you energy, and follow your passion.

What will be the message of your commencement address?

Using law as an instrument for social change.  Using law as an instrument to achieve justice.

What is your biggest regret in your career?

The innocent people that are still in prison whom we have been unable to get out of jail.

Where do you see the future of the legal profession going?

Online, like everything is going.  Like so many things the delivery of legal services is becoming more and more web-based, and that presents both opportunities and challenges.

What advice would you give to students graduating who don’t have a job?

Volunteer to do work that you think is just, and the rest will follow if you do it well.