Even though Meza traveled across the country for law school, she was able to keep her dream alive and ultimately get the job she wanted.
“I thought West Virginia would be a fun adventure. My undergraduate institution was small, so I was excited to be a part of a ‘big school’ culture,” Meza explained. “The College of Law also offered a substantial scholarship that made my legal education much more affordable.”
WVU Law summer fellowships helped Meza return to the West Coast twice to work as a clerk with the Southern Oregon Public Defenders in Medford. The SOPD advocates for clients in the criminal justice system, regardless of their ability to pay.
Just in time for fall final exams, SOPD called Meza with a job offer — and she accepted.
“It feels so good to have an enormous weight off my shoulders and I’m eager to get started,” said Meza. “They’re all wonderful attorneys who truly work hard advocating for clients every day. The leadership is great there, the work environment is great, my boss Doug Engle is an excellent mentor with so much experience, and I’m just so excited to get started.”
Meza’s summer fellowships for SOPD were awarded by the Public Interest Advocates , a WVU Law student organization that raises money to help pay for law students to work in public interest law.
“PIA graciously awarded me a supplemental fellowship for my summer work in Oregon. As a first generation law student, having access to this funding through the College of Law really helped reduce my financial worries and focus on following my passion for criminal law,” she said.
Meza attended Southern Oregon University, near Medford, and knew she wanted to return to the area for her law career. After settling in at WVU Law, she wasted no time looking for summer job opportunities in the region.
“I did some personal networking my 1L year and got the email address of the lead attorney at SOPD. I emailed him my resume, and he called me soon after and offered me a summer position,” said Meza. “I was thrilled but had absolutely no idea what to expect. I had zero experience in a legal office and had never seen a trial before that, but it was such a rich and informative summer that I wanted to go back.”
When Meza returned to WVU Law from Oregon for her second year of law school, a trial advocacy course helped build her confidence in the courtroom. According to Meza, at the end of the course, every aspect of the trial process came more naturally to her.
The concepts covered in the trial ad class came in handy when Meza returned to the SOPD last summer. She appeared in court almost every day and applied her new training in her legal work and while preparing for trials.
“SOPD let me handle a lot of arraignments just to get comfortable speaking in court,” said Meza. “I took on a few misdemeanor clients, and in those cases I ran the show myself under the supervision of an attorney. I watched a few trials ranging from DUI to harassment charges, I got to sit in on mental health court and drug court, and I worked on a few motions to suppress evidence. I really had a well-rounded experience getting to work on or witness almost every kind of case you could imagine, and the experience solidified my desire to work in criminal law. Eventually, after I’ve gained enough experience, I’d like to become a district court judge, and maybe run for public office one day.”
Angie Meza earned bachelor’s degrees in criminology and criminal justice from Southern Oregon University in 2015. She is a first-generation college student.
Meza graduated from high school in three years and college in three years. She will earn her JD from WVU Law in May 2019 at the age of 23.