Hands-On Learning Q&A: Audrey Nelson, Project for Innocence

Applying classroom learning to real clients and their cases

Third-year law student Audrey Nelson knew she was passionate about public defense work before enrolling in the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence & Post-Conviction Remedies at the University of Kansas School of Law.

During two semesters working with the clinic in 2020-21, Nelson was able to gain hands-on experience and apply classroom learning to real clients and their cases.

“I gained a deeper understanding of the injustices ingrained in our criminal system and further solidified my choice to pursue a career in public defense,” Nelson said.

Nelson shared her experience with the Project for Innocence for a Q&A.

Audrey Nelson
Audrey Nelson

What type of work are you doing?

I worked on client intake and detainers, assisted clients with writing state habeas petitions, and handled several actual innocence claims relating to DNA testing.

What interested you in enrolling in this course?

I was interested in enrolling in the Project for Innocence because I am passionate about criminal defense work and want to be a public defender after I pass the bar.

Are there skills you’ve developed or improved working with the clinic?

Yes, I improved my skills in communicating with clients, reading through discovery efficiently, and spotting issues in a real-world context.

How do you think this experience will impact the rest of your time in law school or the start of your career?

All the Project for Innocence professors are amazing mentors that I can reach out to with questions any time, during law school and beyond.

What has been your favorite part of this experience?

My favorite part of working with the clinic was gaining the important responsibility of taking on clients because as a law student that is a big step in our legal education.

What would you say to law students considering enrolling in this clinic?

If you are considering enrolling in this clinic, my advice would be to go for it! It is a great experience regardless of the area of law you’re interested in because it gives students a chance to improve a variety of important lawyering skills.

— By Margaret Hair