Duquesne Law Alumna Lisa Brunner, smiling

Young Alumni Profile

Lisa Brunner L'14

Hometown: Pittsburgh, Pa. I currently live in Las Vegas, Nev.

Education: University of Pittsburgh, Ph.B., History-2009; Chatham University, M.F.A., Creative Writing- Poetry-in progress (on hold while I adjust to my new job).

Favorite movie: Baz Luhrman's 2013 interpretation of my favorite book, The Great Gatsby. It perfectly captures the multiple dimensions of the characters.

What you are currently reading: I just finished The Cello Suites: J.S. Bach, Pablo Casals, and the Search for a Baroque Masterpiece by Eric Siblin. I am now reading Fox & I: An Uncommon Friendship by Catherine Raven and She Explores: Stories of Life-Changing Adventures on the Road and in the Wild by Gale Straub. I am always rereading Ariel by Sylvia Plath. I always have multiple books going at once!

Words you live by: We all have the same 24 hours in the day.

What people might be surprised to know about you: I have played the violin since I was 8 and have been teaching lessons since 2017. When I lived in Pittsburgh, I played with three community orchestras. I am also a published poet, with many poems about the experience of being a public defender. I also started hiking while living in Las Vegas, which is a completely new experience for me. But the red desert is so beautiful I can't help but want to be a part of it!

Employment: Assistant Federal Public Defender, Capital Habeas Unit-District of Nevada, Las Vegas.

Why is this your dream job? I came to law school with the specific mission of becoming a public defender. I wanted to advocate for those who could not advocate for themselves. The more I learned about the nuance of criminal law, specifically capital defense, the more I understood that Capital Habeas is a truly special arena: It allows the practitioner to be the courtroom advocate, explore a rich constitutional history, protect life, truly assist people in need, and be creative in both legal analysis and factual history. It's the best of everything, in my opinion. It also helps that all of my mentors who have long guided me in this area have been deeply passionate practitioners and caring teachers, so I am ecstatic and honored to join their ranks.

How did your Duquesne Law education prepare you for the practice of law, specifically this position? During my time at Duquesne, I had an incredible group of professors who encouraged me and were very generous with their time answering my many questions-hypotheticals that I came up with to different viewpoints of new developments in criminal law. I also was able to receive a tremendous amount of hands-on experience working with Professor (John) Rago as his research assistant and the Post-Conviction DNA Project (now a part of the Pennsylvania Innocence Project), and during my criminal law externship at the Allegheny County Office of Conflict Counsel, which turned into my first job. It also helped that Duquesne really does act on its commitment to public service-I was able to receive generous funding for summer internships in Kansas City, Mo., at the Death Penalty Litigation Clinic and in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Innocence Project. Having the true hands-on experience made a world of difference when I was ready to take on my own case.

How would you describe the value of a Duquesne University School of Law education in the world today? I would describe my legal education from Duquesne as truly invaluable. When determining which law school to attend, I made several lists, and Duquesne placed tops every single time specifically because it offered a focus on criminal law, both in course offerings and experiential opportunities, that other schools did not. Starting law school with the laser-targeted mission to become a public defender, I knew that I needed to be at a university with the maximum offerings in criminal law. I can truly say that the knowledge, experiential opportunities and connections that I made at Duquesne have opened many doors.