From nearly the beginning of his higher education journey, Tyler Schembri, 3L, knew that criminal prosecution was where he wanted to be. He graduated from the University of New Mexico with a degree in Criminology and, after graduation, was commissioned into the U.S. Army on active duty, where he was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. As part of his transition out of the Army, he was able to intern for the Riley County Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, Kansas, and it was there where his passion for criminal law began to grow.
The Criminal Prosecution Field Placement is one of KU Law’s oldest hands-on learning opportunities and is also one of the few placement programs in the nation that specializes in criminal prosecution. Students in the Criminal Prosecution Field Placement gain significant courtroom experience working side by side with prosecutors in federal, state and local offices in virtually all phases of the criminal justice process.
Schembri shared his experience working with the Nashville District Attorney’s Office in Tennessee during the summer before his 3L year.
Can you describe where you worked and what kind of work you did while in the program?
I spent this past summer interning for the Nashville District Attorney’s Office in Tennessee. I spent every single day in court practicing with my Rule 7 permit under the supervision of a licensed attorney. I was primarily responsible for handling felony preliminary hearings, where I routinely conducted direct examinations of police officers and victims, cross-examinations of defense witnesses and closing arguments in front of a judge. I also had the opportunity to participate in numerous plea negotiations with defense attorneys. The work was fast paced, with more than 15-20 cases on our docket every day.
Were there any specific skills that you developed or improved through this program?
Absolutely. This program helped improve the necessary advocacy skills to be a successful attorney. Preparing for court every day strengthened my confidence to speak in front of others, my knowledge of the law and my ability to create strong relationships with defense attorneys, victims and police officers. One of the best parts about this program was learning from all the experienced prosecutors who showed me the ropes and were always willing to give me advice.
How do you think this experience will impact the rest of your time in law school?
This program provided me with invaluable experience by giving insight into the inner workings of a courtroom which you cannot learn from the typical law school environment. There is no substitute for real-world experience. I can now draw on my time in the courtroom to help better myself for classes such as mock trial. I also use this experience to give advice to 1Ls and 2Ls who are considering enrolling in the field placement programs.
What has been your favorite part of working in your field placement?
My favorite part of working in the field placement program was being given the opportunity to make the Nashville community a safer place, helps the victims of criminal offenses, all while gaining real courtroom experience in an area of the law I am truly passionate about. My time with the criminal prosecution field placement has been one of my best memories so far during my time at KU Law.
What would you say to law students considering enrolling in the field placement?
I would recommend enrolling in the field placement if you are interested in becoming a litigator, improving on your advocacy skills, and helping protect your community.
-By Emma Herrman