A lifelong Iowan and 3L at the University of Iowa College of Law, Nick Goodenow has a long track record of serving others. His commitment to service began when he was young, continued throughout college, and will carry on through his new job as a public defender for the state of Colorado next year.
Growing up, Goodenow always had a desire to help others. Through his experiences both in and out of the classroom, this desire reaffirmed his passion for public interest. As a public defender, Goodenow will have the opportunity to guide indigent clients in criminal proceedings by defending and protecting their rights, liberties, and dignity.
“He came to law school to serve others and has followed through on his promise to himself while also taking advantage of all the wonderful programs that Iowa Law has to offer including, but not limited to, Appellate Advocacy as a 2L and serving on the Appellate Advocacy board as a 3L,” says Jad Elchahal, a fellow 3L at Iowa Law. “Nick has told me that his experience both in and out of the classroom at Iowa Law has reaffirmed his desire to go into public interest and he has certainly used his resources at Iowa Law to prepare himself for his public interest career.”
The Appellate Advocacy program is designed to give second-year students a chance to prepare and argue an interrelated question of law and fact in an adversarial setting. Advocates, like Goodenow, who successfully complete AAI and any spring appellate advocacy program, are eligible to become student judges or part of the Moot Court Executive Board. Selection for these positions is made by the Moot Court Executive Board and are based on participation in Moot Court programs, personal interviews, and an editing sample.
"For as long as I’ve known Nick, he’s been a strong leader committed to serving others. At our undergraduate institution, Creighton University, Nick led Welcome Week, Creighton's month-long new student orientation, Summer Preview, Creighton's summer-term sneak peek for incoming students, and was involved in campus ministry,” says Elchahal.
Even before law school, Goodenow was intrigued by a career in public interest but wasn’t exactly sure what that would look like. His focus towards the field took charge during his time volunteering with a nonprofit doing home repair for low-income communities in Appalachia.
“Having the opportunity to work with, talk to, and get to know people hovering the poverty line helped me develop a better understanding of what a meaningful and fulfilling career would look like,” says Goodenow.
Goodenow’s inspiration to pursue a career in public defense also came from his professor Alison Guernsey, who teaches in and directs the law school’s Federal Criminal Defense Clinic.
“Professor Guernsey says has a passion for public defense that is evident to anyone who speaks with her about the subject,” says Goodenow. “I kept coming back to criminal law because it asks important, relevant questions about mass incarceration, liberty, dignity, poverty, humanity, etc. Criminal defense is, or should be, client-focused. Working with and getting to know clients is both challenging and rewarding. Plus, I've always enjoyed public speaking, so it seemed like a good idea to get involved with the trial and appellate advocacy programs. Public defense seemed like a perfect fit,” says Goodenow.
Needless to say, Goodenow isn’t the only one who sees public defense as his calling.
“Nick has the perfect personality for a public defender,” says Professor Guernsey. “He’s bright, kind, curious, and persistent. And when he engages you in conversation, you can feel that he is really listening and not just biding his time until he gets to respond. This skill – real, true listening – is the core of what it takes to be a good lawyer.”
Outside the classroom, Goodenow has sat on multiple criminal trials while working for a district court judge during the summer after his 1L year. The following summer, he had the opportunity to work with indigent clients himself.
“My biggest take away watching trials and working with clients is that defendants are just people. People with hopes, dreams, fears, and families who are going through an incredibly dehumanizing experience. To me, working as a public defender means providing a preferential option to vulnerable, indigent clients who are, for the most part, out of options. I have a hard time thinking that I could be doing anything else with my law degree,” says Goodenow.