DA reps speak to BC class about law

Kyle Cortez, Managing Editor

Deputy district attorney David Wolff came and spoke to Patricia Smith’s Introduction to Criminal Justice class, along with Angela Henderson, a paralegal for the workers’ compensation unit at the DA’s office, and Kacie Spenst, a deputy district attorney for the DA’s office about what it takes to become a lawyer and how they got to where they’re at now.

Wolff started off by saying that he has prosecuted everything from misdemeanors to first-degree murder and that he was elected to be the next Kern County Superior Court judge starting in January. His assignment is going to be the CDCR prison court in Delano, and they’ll be handling crimes committed by inmates.

Wolff has been a criminal prosecutor for over 20 years, he teaches an anti-drug course for kids, and he also teaches at the Bakersfield police and sheriff’s academies.

Wolff went to West Virginia University because he was living in West Virginia with his father and he didn’t have the grades coming out of high school to go anywhere else.

He then went to UC Irvine to take an organic chemistry class while working a full-time job and ended up getting a D in the class. That’s when Wolff decided that med school wasn’t for him. He then worked as a vocational rehabilitation counselor for a year while trying to figure out what he wanted to do.

Wolff never wanted to be a lawyer because he thought the law was too rigid and he thought lawyers were jerks. He then applied to a couple law schools and he got into Pepperdine University and University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law.

“I went to Sacramento because I already knew that if I went to Malibu and went to Pepperdine, I would flunk out my first year because I would’ve been at the beach the whole time,” said Wolff.

Wolff went on to urge the students to be smart and wise because everyone who talks to them is biased.

“Does that mean I’m biased? Yes, absolutely. Even if I don’t mean to be, I’m biased. Why? Well I went to school back on the East Coast, that’s different from the West Coast. I’m a white, middle-aged, old, fat, bald guy. That changes my perception on the world. What you may not know about me is I did march in Washington, D.C., for the Equal Rights Amendment, which we lost. I was attacked by the KKK with a switchblade knife in Italy, of all places, for standing up for African Americans’ rights. You wouldn’t necessarily know that by just looking at me. Which means when you first saw me, an old, fat, middle-aged, white guy who’s a prosecutor, you might of thought that all I care about is white middle-aged folks and that I don’t care about everybody, which in fact I do. Which is one of the many reasons why I love my job,” said Wolff.

To get into law school, Wolff said that you have to have good grades and also have a good LSAT score.

He said that they’re going to take your GPA and LSAT (Law School Admission Test) score and they’ll give you a number from one to 5,000. If they can interview 300 people, number one will be the best score and they’ll rank them all the way to 300.

He also said to make sure you prep for the LSAT because you will fail if you don’t study for it.

Wolff said that you have to love to read to be a lawyer because he had never read as much as he did when he was in law school.

Spenst added that law school was the hardest three years of her life.

“I lost friends, I didn’t see my family, and I never celebrated my birthday any of those three years because I was studying. And I was somebody who my entire life was pretty lucky because I had gotten good grades my entire life, so I’m thinking that I got this. It’s not, it’s hard. It’s really, really hard and I’m not telling you that to discourage you because three hard fought years paid off. What I always tell people is you need to get an internship, you kind of need to think what kind of law you want to do, but before you spend an enormous amount of money that you might never be able to pay off, before you spend three years of your life losing friends, not having holidays and studying all the time, make sure it’s something you really want to do,” said Spenst.

Wolff stressed the importance of being honest in order to get a law enforcement job.

“The number one thing that you can do to guarantee you will not get a job is you lie. Don’t lie on the application. You will never get that job. They know, they will find out. Give us some credit. We know your background, tell us,” said Wolff. “They’re going to talk to your friends, they’re going to talk to your neighbor, and they’re going to check your Facebook. They’re going to do a search because they want to hire good people. If you’ve done something stupid, tell them because if you lie about it, they’re going to find out and then you have a credibility issue.”

Wolff also went on to say that having a law degree allows you to do anything in the world of law.

“If I decided that I didn’t want to do criminal law anymore and I decided that I’m going to go fight for the dolphins, tomorrow I can go start doing environmental law. My law degree allows me to do anything,” said Wolff. “Say I decide to change, I have to know that area of law. So I have to get the books out and teach myself, but you are never limited. If you decided you were going to do criminal law and you got a degree in criminal justice, you went to law school and you took all the criminal law classes and passed the Bar and decide ‘I don’t like this, I want to do family law, I want to do divorce, I want to stand up for kids,’ go do it.”