Photo of Will Witherspoon

Will Witherspoon

Class of 2012

Engineer The Boeing Co.

Arguing before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals is a rarity for practicing lawyers.

So when Will Witherspoon found out he would have the opportunity to do so while still a student in the Seattle University School of Law Part-Time Program, he knew it was an extraordinary opportunity.

“It was absolutely the defining moment of law school,” said Witherspoon. He is the first Seattle University School of Law student to appear before the appellate court as part of a law school course.

His argument in Hoisington v. Williams in October, challenged policies at the Special Commitment Center on McNeil Island that require residents to be strip searched and shackled during transport to off-island medical appointments. He appeared under the supervision of Korematsu Center Clinical Teaching Fellow Anjana Malhotra and Korematsu Center Executive Director Bob Chang.

The judges and professors were impressed, with Judge Milan Smith congratulating Witherspoon on his advocacy and comparing him to the attorneys he hears.

“He did a fantastic job,” Chang said. “Will's great performance is also a credit to the superb legal education he received at our law school and to the tremendous help he received from so many of our colleagues and members of the practicing bar.”

Witherspoon is especially grateful for the support from faculty and practicing attorneys who helped him prepare.

“Through their questioning, testing, and brainstorming of the arguments, I’ve learned what it takes to fully prepare,” he said.

Witherspoon completed law school in the Part-Time Program, while continuing his work as an engineer at The Boeing Co., which required travel to the Middle East.

“It’s demanding,” he admits, but he is excited for a career change that came about unexpectedly.

While working for Boeing in Japan, he took a certificate course in torts at the Tokyo campus of Temple University School of Law.

“There was something about it that clicked with me,” he said.

So he started looking at law schools and was drawn to Seattle University School of Law’s social justice focus. “I just kind of fell in love with it,” he said.

The prompted he and his wife to move back to the United States so he could attend law school. It was the right decision. Witherspoon excelled. In addition to his clinic work, he was an extern for Federal District Court Judge Thomas Zilly and was named the Dean’s Medalist at December 2012 graduation.

After his work on the Hoisington case, he is more committed to doing public interest law.

“There were so people involved in this case, all fighting the fight, doing good,” he said. “It was really inspiring and gave me something to strive for.”