Since I graduated from law school in 2012, I’ve made a point to travel across the country and put my law license and Juris Doctor to work. This June I moved home (Benton, Illinois) to work for the Federal Public Defender for the Southern District of Illinois.

Before moving home, I was in Tallahassee, Florida, working on capital habeas cases. Prior to Tallahassee, I had the amazing opportunity to move to Albuquerque, New Mexico, to clerk for Judge Harris L. Hartz of the United States Court of Appeals for the Tenth Circuit.

However, the two positions that I feel first shaped my legal career were my clerkships with Judge J. Phil Gilbert and Judge Staci M. Yandle in the Southern District of Illinois.

How has your practice evolved in the past few years? What’s in store for the future?

The opportunity to work for three judges, each with a different perspective on law, has shaped my practice. Through those experiences, I gained writing skills and insight into the courtroom that I wouldn’t have otherwise received.

I’m passionate about criminal defense and hope to continue to use skills gained during my clerkships to provide an excellent defense for the accused.

If you could offer one piece of advice to young lawyers, what would it be?

Always work on improving your skills and never underestimate yourself. Take risks and seek out unique opportunities to educate yourself about a new area of law or to write an article. Apply for the job you think you only have a small chance of obtaining.

In my third year of law school, I received close to 100 clerkship rejection letters. If I had let those letters discourage me, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

What about the future of the legal profession gives you the most hope?

I am most hopeful that our profession will continue to provide hope and relief to the most disadvantaged individuals in our society, and that we will find a solution to the access to justice crisis.

How has civility made a difference in your practice of law? 

Professionalism and civility are essential in our profession. It’s important in a democracy that individuals respect the law. To garner that respect, we must constantly adhere to the highest ethical standards and hold others accountable when they fail to live up to our standards.

What do you do for fun?

I love to travel and spend time with my nine-year-old daughter, fiancé, and my Siamese cat—Thurgood Meowshall.

Angela Rollins is an Attorney for the Office of the Federal Public Defender for the Southern District of Illinois. She holds a J.D. from Southern Illinois University School of Law.