Jaden Thornton ‘21 was ready to pack his bags and move away to a new environment for college, until an open house at Stevenson made all the difference for him.
On that day, during a presentation by the Legal Studies Department, a student who was a member of the Mock Trial team had performed an opening statement from the case they were working on at the time. “Always wanting to be a trial attorney in criminal law, after I saw this performance, I knew I had to be on that team.”
Now a legal studies major with a double minor in English and psychology, Jaden has won a myriad of honors and awards for leadership, community service, and his oratorical ability while at Stevenson. He’s an easily recognizable face on campus with all of the leadership roles he holds: 2020-21 President of the Legal Society; Student Government Association’s Executive Cabinet; Chief Justice of the University’s Judicial Board; and member of the Student Dean Advisory Board for the School of Humanities and Social Sciences. However, he’s most often lauded for his position as All-Regional Attorney on Stevenson’s award-winning Mock Trial Team.
For four years, Jaden has been practicing his craft in courtrooms across the country with his team—named “Top Regional Attorney” twice and won “Top Attorney” awards at Yale, Johns Hopkins, and Elizabethtown Invitationals. An integral part of the Mock Trial team, as well as the legal studies program, is learning how to present and think analytically. “We learn skills on how to present a position and argue that point against another person. This creates the ability to think quickly on your feet and convince a third party (or jury) that you are correct.”
During Jaden’s freshman year, he was able to get firsthand experience in the law field without having any prior experience. He worked in Baltimore at the Legal Aid Bureau, an organization that provides pro-bono legal help to people in Maryland who don’t have the means to pay costly attorney fees. “We would visit Baltimore district court proceedings to observe, and even went to the United States Federal Bankruptcy Court. To have these experiences as a second-semester student is almost unheard of at other institutions and this was a great opportunity that will follow me the rest of my life.”
For his required sophomore-year internship, Jaden worked with a small criminal defense firm in Baltimore City. He learned how to file motions and subpoenas with the court and how court proceedings work in actual practice. “This was an amazing experience and confirmed that the way I would help people is by becoming a defense attorney.” This experience even led Jaden to get a full-time paralegal position with another criminal defense firm in his junior year.
Now a senior, Jaden has a diverse knowledge and practice of legal concepts. “Some of the best classes are our trial advocacy classes where we go into the courtroom and practice how lawyers would argue an actual case during a court proceeding. All of these things combine to create a law school candidate that has a keen advantage over their competition. It is because the legal studies program at Stevenson prepares you with the tools you will actually need for your life [post-graduation].”
Reflecting on his choice to attend Stevenson, Jaden remarks, “Compared to other schools, Stevenson’s law program mirrors the curriculum you will see in law school and thus adequately prepares you for that ultimate goal. This legal -extensive course load starts immediately in freshman year and allows you to dive into what you are interested in at an early point in your college career.” This, coupled with the chance to join the Mock Trial team as a freshman, sealed the deal for Jaden in deciding which school was right for him.
Jaden aspires to go onto law school and move towards his dream of becoming a Criminal Defense Attorney. He’s already taken his LSAT and his law school applications are underway. “When I first started, I had a lot of raw talent and potential, but was nowhere near the ability level I am now. I learned to not wait for my goals, but to go grab them. This showed me that no matter if it is in Mock Trial or not, if you put in the work needed then you will find success. I will carry this mindset to law school and use it to help me become the best attorney I can be.”