Student Spotlight: Liz Thompson pursues justice for clients that ‘feel like they are voiceless’

3L Liz Thompson is pictured at Jackson Square in New Orleans, Louisiana. Photo courtesy of Liz Thompson.

Liz Thompson is passionate about public defense. Thompson, a third-year law student from Salina, spent her summer in New Orleans as a law clerk at Orleans Public Defenders (OPD).

OPD is an organization that provides legal assistance and representation for individuals that are unable to afford an attorney. According to the OPD website, the organization represents nearly 20,000 people each year.

“I see a lot of problems with our criminal justice system that unfairly impact individuals. These problems with our criminal justice system are particularly prevalent in New Orleans,” Thompson said. “I saw this internship as the best way to receive exceptional training on how to represent and be a voice for individuals who are most impacted.”

As a law clerk, Thompson went to court with supervising attorneys; visited clients in jail; conducted legal research; wrote memos, motions and writs; and watched footage from body cams.

“It is a great feeling knowing that I am working so hard to give people a voice in a system that makes them feel like they are voiceless,” Thompson said.

Thompson said the work was tough, but she was able to find reward in the opportunity to help others.

“Knowing that problems exist is one thing, but seeing these problems firsthand and seeing how so many people are impacted is another. It’s hard to see,” Thompson said.

Through her position at OPD, Thompson is motivated to keep fighting for justice.

“I’m working with attorneys who are passionate about public defense and other law students from across the country who are passionate about public interest work,” Thompson said. “It has been great to be with people fighting the same good fight.”

During her 2L year of law school, Thompson interned at the Disability Rights Center of Kansas in Topeka. An attorney Thompson worked with at the Disability Rights Center recommended that Thompson apply for the law clerk position at OPD.

Thompson is a second-generation Jayhawk. Her dad, the Hon. Patrick Thompson, graduated from KU Law in 1980.

“My dad is a KU Law grad. I really look up to all of his accomplishments throughout his career and being able to follow in his footsteps here at KU Law has been an amazing experience for me,” she said. 

Thompson is a member of Women in Law, a student organization at KU Law that promotes leadership and active involvement through community service and social engagement. Before coming to KU, Thompson earned an undergraduate degree in business administration at the University of Nebraska in Lincoln, Nebraska.

After finishing law school, Thompson plans to become a public defender. She’s also interested in doing criminal justice reform work at some point in her legal career.

— By Ashley Golledge

This post is the ninth in a series highlighting the diverse internships and jobs KU Law students and recent graduates are engaged in over the summer of 2019 and early in their careers. Check out earlier posts from this series about David BiegelSamantha Natera, Mohammad HameedEllen BertelsDelaney HiegertJackson ElyClaudia Chavarria and Aidan Graybill.

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