Attorney at Law Magazine Middle Tennessee Publisher Amy Dreiling sat down with Ardath Griffin in the Belmont University College of Law Attorney Spotlight to discuss her experiences in law school and her career since graduation.
AALM: Why did you choose Belmont Law?
Griffin: When I first began my law school search, the one tip I received the most was to pick a school in the jurisdiction in which I intended to practice. Being that I am from Ohio, my law school search centered around Columbus, Cleveland and Cincinnati. But when I received promotional materials from Belmont featuring a University of Cincinnati grad and my sister-in-law being accepted into Belmont’s occupational therapy program, I decided to give Belmont a second look. One conversation with Dean Matthews and, at the time, Dean Kinsler had me sold. Belmont designed a curriculum that would not only provide me with essential legal knowledge, but the practical skills necessary to look like a seasoned vet. That was everything I wanted in a law school, and looking back on my education at Belmont College of Law, that’s exactly what I received.
AALM: You are a prosecutor for the district attorney. How did you come to choose this career path? Have you always known this was what you wanted to do after law school or did you discover that while in law school?
Griffin: When I first decided to apply to law school, I knew that I wanted to use my legal education to help people who found themselves within the criminal justice system. With that in mind, I naturally thought I should pursue a career as a criminal defense attorney. However, after a few months interning with the Davidson County District Attorney’s Office, I realized that being a prosecutor would give me the opportunity to touch so many lives. I would be able to help victims of crime seek justice, institute rehabilitation for offenders, and ensure innocent parties went free.
AALM: What course or courses did you take at Belmont Law that best prepared you for your career?
Griffin: Trial advocacy and advanced trial advocacy coupled with criminal law and procedure and evidence have been especially beneficial. Through criminal law and procedure and evidence, I learned the law, the rules and the procedure of the courtroom. And through trial advocacy and advanced trial advocacy, I was able to learn to use that knowledge on my feet. Upon completion of advanced trial advocacy, I had already successfully defended my first client in a criminal jury trial. While that client may have been fictitious, the presiding judge is currently sitting on the criminal court bench in Davidson County and the jury were real strangers who listened to the evidence presented and came to a verdict after deliberation. I use the knowledge and experience I gained from those courses everyday in the courtroom.
AALM: What is the most challenging and most rewarding part of your job?
Griffin: Working with victims can be the most challenging and rewarding aspect of my position. When I first joined the DA’s office full time, I was assigned to the domestic violence division. Just recently I was moved up to division four in criminal court, so the majority of the crimes that I have prosecuted are crimes involving victims. Crimes such as assault, strangulation and, most recently, rape. These are very traumatic experiences and it’s my job to ask the victims to not only relive that trauma, but to do so while I ask very invasive questions. That can be very challenging. But helping victims find their voice to courageously confront their abusers and see the look of vindication on their faces when all is said and done is by far one the most rewarding feelings in the world.
AALM: What other professional organizations or volunteer organizations are you involved in currently?
Griffin: I really enjoy engaging in various community outreach opportunities through our office. Speaking to church congregations about how to recognize domestic violence and what resources are available to assist victims, speaking to students in middle school, high school and undergraduate school about my position and the influence it has on the community, and meeting with community members to discuss their concerns are all different channels I have used to help make the DA’s office more accessible to the community.