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Angela Chang ’08 Takes on Life as a Public Defender

Angela Chang '08Defendants in Denver, Colorado are lucky to be in the hands of recent UC Law graduate, public defender Angela Chang. Chang, ’08, attended The Ohio State University, receiving a degree in International Business and Marketing. After college, though, she was still looking for her “career footing,” So, how did she find herself at UC L:aw? She realized she had passion for social justice. “Initially, my idea of lawyers wasn’t flattering,” she admitted. It was hard to imagine herself in that role. But Chang learned a lot in three years. Here’s how her journey began. 

Taking a year off from school after to college to find herself, Chang worked in a marketing position at the corporate offices for Mark Pi’s, a national chain of Chinese fast food restaurants. The summer before she entered law school, she decided to work in assisted living position for two older women along with conducting behavioral analysis work for a child. “At that point I was interested in education law or something that had to do with children,” she explained. Recognizing that UC offered many programs of interest to her, including the Urban Morgan Institute, the Domestic Violence Clinic, and education law courses, Chang moved to Cincinnati.

Immersing Herself in UC Law

It didn’t take long for her to become as involved at the law school as she had been during her college years. As a member of Law Women, the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association, the Immigration and Nationality Law Review, Advocates for Children, Human Rights Quarterly (HRQ), and ICLAP Chang spent her free time giving back to the surrounding community and creating programming aimed at social justice initiatives. Her appointment as a Student Legal Education Counsel advisor during her second and third years enabled Chang to pass on invaluable knowledge to the first year students she advised. Additionally, Chang was a fellow with the Glenn M. Weaver Institute of Law and Psychiatry and a participant  in the Domestic Violence Clinic during her last semester of law school. “The most beneficial thing I participated in during my law school career was the domestic violence clinic,” Chang explained. “The experience was very ‘hands on’ intensive and I was able to help people while I gained court experience.”

Chang also stressed the impact of her involvement with Human Rights Quarterly.

“Through participation in HRQ, you heard about inspirational events and activities that happened all over the world. When you’re in the midst of the daily grind of law school it helps to go to dinner and hear about things people are doing that inspire you,” she added. On top of her commitments at the law school, Chang took an internship with the Children’s Law Center in Covington, Kentucky during her second and third years, organizing the Ohio Juvenile Defender’s Summit. She received the 2008 Student of the Year award.

A Taste of PD Work

Following her first year of law school, Chang spent the summer working with the Legal Aid Society of Cleveland (OH) in the Domestic Violence unit. Her responsibilities included intake interviewing and petitioning for civil protection orders. Following her second year, she continued her public interest initiatives and took a position with the Legal Aid Society of New York in the Criminal Division in Queens. “It was eye-opening in terms of how the system might look to people being shuffled through it like a conveyor belt,” she explained. “That summer was a litmus test to see if I liked it,” she said.

As a result of her experience in New York, Chang began searching for positions with public defenders post graduation. She is now a county court attorney handling misdemeanors for the Colorado Public Defender’s Officer. To date, she has conducted eight trials. “You have a lot of cases and it feels like an uphill battle at times. It’s amazing to work with people who have done this for so long and still have such passion,” she said.  Most importantly, she says, she is  grateful for the camaraderie and support of her fellow defenders.