- Studying Law at Yale
- Our Faculty
Centers & Workshops
- Centers & Workshops
- Paul Tsai China Center
- Collaboration for Research Integrity and Transparency (CRIT)
- Cultural Cognition Project
- Global Health Justice Partnership
- Gruber Program for Global Justice and Women’s Rights
- Human Rights Workshop: Current Issues & Events
- Information Society Project
- John M. Olin Center for Law, Economics and Public Policy
- The Justice Collaboratory
- Abdallah S. Kamel Center for the Study of Islamic Law and Civilization
- Law, Economics & Organization Workshop
- Law, Ethics & Animals Program
- Law School Access Program
- Legal History Forum
- Legal Theory Workshop
- The Arthur Liman Center for Public Interest Law
- Middle East Legal Studies Seminar
- The Oscar M. Ruebhausen Fund
- Orville H. Schell, Jr. Center for International Human Rights
- Robina Foundation Human Rights Fellowship Initiative
- The Solomon Center for Health Law and Policy
- Yale Center for Law and Philosophy
- Yale Center for Environmental Law and Policy
- Yale Law School Center for Global Legal Challenges
- Yale Law School Center for the Study of Corporate Law
- Yale Law School Center for Private Law
- Yale Law School Latin American Legal Studies
- Quinnipiac-Yale Dispute Resolution Workshop
- Bert Wasserman Workshop in Law and Finance
- Workshop on Chinese Legal Reform
- Student Life
- Admissions & Financial Aid
- YLS Today
Renagh O’Leary ’14
Attorney, Bronx Defenders
YLR: Could you describe the nature of your work at the Bronx Defenders?
Renagh O’Leary: As a public defender, I represent people charged with misdemeanors and felonies in state court. I represent my clients at every stage of their cases, from arraignment through trial, a plea, or dismissal. Though doing a trial or suppression hearing is certainly one of the most exciting parts of my job, negotiating a great plea bargain or litigating a motion to dismiss can be just as important.
I’m in court every day, but litigation is only one part of my role as a defense lawyer. Being arrested and charged with a crime wreaks havoc on someone’s life. Because of their criminal cases, my clients are often at risk of losing their housing, their children, their job, or their immigration status. The Bronx Defenders has pioneered a holistic model for public defense work through which we help clients address the full range of challenges created by a criminal case. In addition to representing clients on their criminal cases, I work closely with other attorneys, social workers, and advocates to address the collateral issues my clients confront.
YLR: What makes you so passionate about the work that you are doing?
O’Leary: Public defenders stand with our clients on the front lines of the fight against a broken criminal justice system. I witness the cruelty, racism, and fundamental unfairness of the criminal justice system every day. Too often, my clients are punished for being poor, for being people of color, or for being mentally ill. At the same time, I am inspired by my clients’ resilience and bravery in confronting a deeply unjust system.
YLR: How did your experience working in the Criminal Justice Clinic prepare you for your current career?
O’Leary: As a clinical student in the Criminal Justice Clinic (CJC), I represented people charged with misdemeanors in New Haven’s lower state court. My clinic partner and I represented two clients at a time on their pending cases. We advocated for our clients’ release at arraignments, conducted investigations, negotiated with judges and prosecutors, and counseled our clients, all under Professor Doherty’s careful guidance. The most important thing I learned in CJC was to be a reflective and self-critical advocate. The path of a client’s case can be shaped by a million small decisions, and it’s important to think through every one of them.