Career Paths: Chris Chino ’21L As a public defender, Chris Chino enjoys fighting for his clients in the "theatre of trial."
Chris Chino ‘21L is originally from Norfolk, Virginia but has lived all over the United States. Following graduation from W&L Law, Chris began working for the Colorado State Public Defender’s Office and is currently representing indigent clients in low-to-high level felony matters. He manages a caseload ranging from 150-250 and has taken cases to jury trial roughly 14 times over the past year – securing not-guilty verdicts in a majority of those cases. When he is not working, he enjoys spending time in the mountains. Chris plans to continue to work in the field of public defense and recently accepted a job offer with the New Jersey Office of the Public Defender’s Camden office.
Did you know coming into law school that you wanted to work as a Public Defender?
Not necessarily. As a journalist, I wanted my work to have a positive effect on my community, and I came into law school with the same intent. I was able to explore various sectors of the legal field as a law student and found that public defense work meshed most with my interests and background.
What has this last year taught you in your current role?
I believe the most important thing I have learned is that the ability to converse with folks outside of the legal field in a natural way has so much value within the field. Clients and juries view the system in a much more emotional manner than most lawyers do – injecting that raw emotion into representation effectively and truly hearing people out can lead to great results and connections.
How did you find your current job?
I was pointed in the direction of the Colorado State Public Defender’s office by a W&L Law graduate, Kiyomi Bolick ’10L. She took the time to get me in contact with other public defenders and walked me through the interview process.
What sort of legal issues do you handle on a day to day basis?
I handle a spectrum of legal issues. I litigate a lot of different types of cases ranging from assault to securities fraud. My daily schedule shifts with upcoming trials and motions hearings so it is difficult to describe a typical day, but a portion of it is usually spent in the jail meeting with clients.
What do you like about your current job?
I knew rather soon in my law school experience that I would enjoy this job because I truly enjoy meeting and spending time with my clients. Alternatively, even though law school has you view the entire legal field from a birds-eye view, my work over the past year has allowed me to view the impact on a wider level as well. I have been thankful for the opportunity to play a part in the attempt to even out a system that negatively affects those who lack the funds required for vigorous representation.
I also enjoy going to trial–fighting for your client in the theatre of trial is an amazing experience. When that fight results in the judge reading a not-guilty verdict from the jury, it’s even better.
Which W&L classes and/or experiences do you think were most helpful in preparing you for this job?
I believe the externship program was an especially useful experience for the type of work I was preparing to do. The externship allowed me to work at the Defender Association of Philadelphia in a capacity very similar to a licensed attorney. That real-world experience left me confident in my abilities when I began to litigate and manage cases as a public defender. Additionally, the criminal procedure courses taught by Prof. King and Prof. MacDonnell were profoundly helpful and provided amazing resources.
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Outside of Work
Skiing & Fly Fishing
In the Spirit of Crazy Horse by Peter Matthiessen
Favorite Travel Location