Interview Conducted By: Melanie C. Richard
This year, the Paul M. Hebert Law Center at LSU has welcomed many new faculty members. One of them is Madalyn K. Wasilczuk. We took some time to get to know her and learn about the great things she’s doing this year at LSU.
- So, what were you doing before you came to LSU Law?
I arrived at LSU Law from Cornell Law School, where I was the inaugural Clinical Teaching Fellow at the Center on the Death Penalty Worldwide. As a fellow, I taught in the International Human Rights Clinic and Capital Punishment Clinic and supervised students working on human rights advocacy projects and death penalty cases in the U.S. and sub-Saharan Africa. I also trained capital defense attorneys from sub-Saharan Africa for the Makwanyane Institute, the Center’s intensive, simulation-based capital defense training.
Before transitioning to academia, I practiced as a public defender at The Defender Association of Philadelphia, representing indigent clients at all stages of felony and misdemeanor trials and juvenile delinquency proceedings. My job at the Defenders was my first after graduation from NYU Law, where I was a student advocate in the Global Justice Clinic and a student attorney in the Federal Defender Clinic. During law school, I also interned at International Justice Mission in Nairobi, Kenya, Open Society Justice Initiative, and the Metropolitan Public Defender of Nashville & Davidson County.
- What brought you to LSU?
I came to LSU to direct the Juvenile Defense Clinic. For me, the Clinic is an exciting opportunity to make a difference for kids in East Baton Rouge Parish.
- Can you tell us about you role here?
Along with my colleagues Professor Jack Harrison and Professor Lakita Leonard, I teach students to represent young people who are charged with delinquent acts in East Baton Rouge Parish zealously and effectively. We train students through hands-on simulations and discussions. Students also have the opportunity to represent clients directly in Juvenile Court. That means that students are responsible for interviewing their clients, investigating their cases, and preparing the case for trial. My role is to help students devise creative and persuasive ways to investigate and present their cases. I also serve as a safety net for student attorneys so that clients get the very best representation possible—while the clinic is a class, a client’s case can be life-changing and our number one priority must always be fighting hard to get him/her/them the best results possible.
- What excites you the most about LSU Law?
The small size of East Baton Rouge Parish’s Juvenile Public Defender’s Office means that the clinic can make a big difference in the quality of representation young people receive in the parish. I’m also very excited by all the excellent work my clinical colleagues do—you, yes you, reading this—should take a clinic! Clinics were the best experience of my law school career, and they’re where I learned most of the skills with which I embarked on my career as a defender. I can’t recommend the experience highly enough.
- What is the best piece of advice you can give to current law students?
Take a clinic! I know I’m repeating myself, but I do think it’s the most challenging, rewarding and educational experience of law school (not to diminish what all my fine colleagues do in the classroom, of course). Also, your dedication to your clients and your ability to work with all different types of people are underemphasized in law school, but will be all-important in practice. Hone your work ethic and people skills now.
If you don’t mind, share with us a little about your life outside of the Law Center.
- What is your favorite thing about living in Louisiana?
It’s a little soon to say, I think, but I’m looking forward to Louisiana’s warm winters.
- What do you like to do in your free time?
I enjoy trying out new vegetarian recipes, traveling, practicing and teaching yoga, and cuddling with my cats.