How I Got My Job: Public Defense and Prosecution

Brittany Enniss, SJQ 2009, Salt Lake Legal Defender Association


What do you do? I work in the Misdemeanor division of the Salt Lake Legal Defender Association (LDA).

Where are you from and why did you go to law school? I was born in SLC and raised in Sandy, Utah. I decided to go to law school while I was interning/working as a probation case manager at Salt Lake County Criminal Justice services. I was able to work with the indigent and homeless population. I recognized cracks in the criminal justice/social service area and I wanted to be a part of the solution. I found that people’s access to the law is limited and the questions my clients had about the legal system interested me and the answers only brought more questions. I figured law school would help me find those answers.

 What kind of activities did you do in law school?  I tried to participate in as much as possible (without feeling too overwhelmed) while in law school. I was fortunate to have an incredible class and enjoyed working with other students. I wanted to participate in things that (1) interested me, and (2) would be significant to future employers. With that in mind I founded and presided over the Utah Criminal Justice Society, I participated in the Inns of Court (I highly recommend any activity where there are lawyers participating as well), I served on the Utah Supreme Court Standing Committee on Professionalism and Ethics, I did the Legal Methods Teaching assistant program and I was the symposium editor for the Utah Law Review.

How did you first make contact with your employer and how did you get this job?  I knew I wanted to work at the legal defenders office even before I went to law school. I made sure to attend seminars, lunches, mentoring programs, etc., where people from LDA would be participating.  I participated in the third year criminal clinic and worked as a clerk during my third year for the appellate division of LDA. I ended up working for a New York firm after my second year of law school and was offered a job at that firm. Although I knew my heart belonged to LDA, my school debt belonged to NY and I accepted the job in NY. I stayed in contact with LDA and when I could no longer stand working in NY at a big firm, I reached out to LDA. Because I had performed well during my third year at LDA, they knew my work ethic and hired me.

What does your typical day involve for you/your work?  I spend 4 days in court and generally have 2-4 trials a month. I meet with clients in a critical moment in their life and try to help problem solve. Being a public defender is not a position of power and so we often struggle to “win” – more than anything, I work hard to find the best solution, get the best offer, or present the best case. There is a lot of case management and motion writing, but generally it is meeting with clients and handling their cases in court.

What are the best (and worst, if you want) parts of your job?  Best: colleagues. Public defenders don’t do it for the money, fame, or notoriety…we do it because we find the job incredibly rewarding. We get to be creative, intellectually challenged and we get to be involved in people’s lives at a time when they need help. The camaraderie in this office is amazing. I am lucky to have a comparison of ‘colleagues at a Biglaw law firm’ v. ’colleagues at the LDA’. I will never take for granted how much an enjoyable working environment matters. And that is what I have at LDA. The other “best” is meeting and working with my clients. A day never repeats itself in this office.

What tips/advice do you have for job-seeking S.J. Quinney School of Law students and recent alums? Get in touch with attorneys that work where you want a job. Get the inside scoop…is it really somewhere you would want to work, and if so…that is the best way to get a job.  Work hard and network harder.


Trina Higgins, SJQ 1995, Asst. U.S. Attorney, Violent Crime Section Chief


What do you do? I am anAssistant United States Attorney, Violent Crime Section Chief, United States Attorney’s Office, District of Utah.  I prosecute some and supervise all federal violent crime cases in the State of Utah including murder, rape, aggravated assault, assault on federal officer, child abuse, sex crimes, international kidnapping, robbery, escape and child pornography.  I also supervise DOJ violent crime initiatives including Project Safe Childhood, Project Safe Neighborhood and the Anti-Gang Initiative.

Where are you from and why did you go to law school?  I am from West Bountiful, Utah.  I went to law school because I was not ready to get a real job and law school sounded better than other graduate programs.

What kind of activities did you do in law school?  I was SBA President, on the National Moot Court Team, and completed an externship with Salt Lake County District Attorney’s Office.

How did you first make contact with your employer and how did you get this job?  I decided to become a prosecutor because my externship with the D.A.’s Office was by far my favorite part of law school.  I enjoyed working at the D.A.’s Office but I wanted to work part time after my second child was born and the office rejected my proposal. The United States Attorney at the time, Paul Warner, offered me a part-time AUSA position.

What does your typical day involve for you/your work? Supervising attorneys, answering questions and giving advice, reviewing new cases with federal agents, charging and plea decisions, court appearances, research and writing.

What are the best parts of your job?  The best part of my job is being part of obtaining justice for victims of violent crime.

What tips/advice do you have for job-seeking S.J. Quinney School of Law students and recent alum?  Find an area of law that really interests you and do whatever you can to work in that area even if it means volunteering or clerking until a position becomes available.