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Alumni Spotlight: Thuan Tran ’21L Thuan Tran is an Assistant Commonwealth Attorney for Fairfax County.

IMG_3346-800x533 Alumni Spotlight: Thuan Tran '21LThuan Tran ’21L

Thuan Tran ‘21L was born in Saigon, Vietnam, and grew up in Falls Church, VA. He graduated from the University of Virginia in 2015, where he double majored in American Government and Cognitive Science with a concentration in Neuroscience. Before attending law school at W&L Law, Thuan interned for the Georgetown Law Public Defense Clinic – Juvenile Justice Clinic, and then later worked as a Paralegal Specialist for the U.S. Department of Justice in the Antitrust Division. In law school, Thuan interned for the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Columbia, and the Federal Trade Commission in its Technology Enforcement Division. Thuan currently works as an Assistant Commonwealth Attorney for Fairfax County. Outside of work, Thuan enjoys flower arrangement, Latin social dancing, and bodybuilding.

Discuss your career path and how it led you to working at the Fairfax Commonwealth Attorney’s Office?

From the moment I chose law as a career path, I knew I wanted to be a trial lawyer. I had done mock trial in college, which was a ton of fun, and doing mock trial in law school solidified my desire to be in the courtroom. I spent some time in the private sector at a firm, which did give me some courtroom time, including a couple of trials where I made arguments as a second-chair. However, that experience was more so the exception than the rule for a young associate. When the Fairfax Commonwealth Attorney’s Office reached out to me on LinkedIn, I was a bit hesitant at first because I wasn’t sure if I wanted to “re-tool” into criminal law from civil litigation. But eventually I decided to interview, and it was the perfect decision.

What sort of legal issues do you handle on a day-to-day basis?

Since my job is comprised entirely of criminal cases, I deal with the common legal issues tied with criminal law. With each case, I have to assess the evidence to see whether it is sufficient to meet the Commonwealth’s burden of proof at trial. In the process, I frequently encounter evidentiary issues, such as probable cause. At the end of the day, however, the most important part is making sure it is a just and fair outcome. My role is not to deal out punishment, but to administer justice, so I try my best to consider the totality of the circumstances to reach a fair result.

What do you like about your current job?

I am in the courtroom every day and I love that aspect. I have only been in the role for about a month and a half, but I am handling criminal dockets largely on my own, communicating directly with defense attorneys, officers, and witnesses, and I also have a couple of trials underneath my belt. As someone who has always wanted to be in the courtroom, it is the perfect place to hone my trial advocacy skills.

In addition, what I appreciate most about my current job is a non-legal aspect, which is that I ultimately have the power to act in a way that I believe is right. Being able to practice law while remaining true to myself, my values, and my morals, has been the biggest boon to my mental health and fulfillment in my career.

What are some practices you have in your daily life as an attorney to maintain wellness?

For physical wellness, I try my best to maintain a healthy sleep schedule (i.e. sleeping 8-9 hours and going to bed and waking up at the same time). I also go to the gym at least 2-3x a week and walk my dogs outside when the weather allows. For mental and spiritual wellness, I make it a priority to devote a certain amount of time to my hobbies and spending time with my friends and family.

Which W&L classes and/or experiences do you think were most helpful in preparing you for this job? 

Trial Advocacy was a useful class for getting the basics down for trial-level oral advocacy. This was bolstered by my time doing the mock trial and moot court competitions. Those competitions allowed me to get my feet wet in becoming comfortable in a courtroom and speaking/arguing in front of a judge. I am in front of judges every day at my job and it was a big advantage for me to be totally at ease when addressing the court and making my arguments, as well as be comfortable with the nuances of being in a courtroom.

What advice do you have for prospective law students?

A comfort zone is a beautiful place, but nothing ever grows there.

While it can be pleasant when we have a plan and things unfold in the ways that we want it, it is arguably more important to be flexible and adaptable when things don’t go according to plan. The best time for growth and learning opportunities happens in situations when we are inevitably forced into a scenario that seems scary and uncomfortable because we don’t know how it will turn out. The best things in my life came when I wasn’t expecting them or even looking for them. Because of that, I learned to be open to life’s events as they unfold and just roll with the punches.

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