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A Law Career, From Court to Court: Brittany Cheney

Midori Yoshimura, March 20, 2013
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Brittany Cheney’s law career began on the Pacific Union College basketball court. “To do well in law, you have to be competitive,” says the ‘07 alumna. “It’s the same thing with basketball."

Brittany graduated at the top of her UC Davis School of Law Class of 2012, and was awarded the Law School Medal for academic achievement. After a successful internship with Downey Brand, the largest law firm in Sacramento, Calif., she was hired as an associate attorney in Downey’s family law practice.

While at PUC, Brittany was a member of PUC’s Lady Pioneers. The team’s games and practices taught her athletic skills…and persistence. Even when the team didn’t win a game, says Brittany, “we didn’t quit.” As a summa cum laude graduate of PUC, Brittany was also dedicated to her studies as an international communication major with an emphasis in Spanish and a business minor. Brittany also managed a complex fundraising campaign in the college’s Alumni and Advancement Office, raising $25,000—above the drive’s original goal.

After graduating, Brittany worked for two years in fundraising, advertising and other positions before deciding to attend University of California, Davis. The academic break gave her work experience that helped prevent burnout during law school. “Two years was long enough to want to go back to school. I was ready to give it three more years,” says Brittany.

Her basketball skills travelled with her to UC Davis, where playing the sport helped her remain balanced. The lessons she learned on the court still applied to her life as a law student. “Law school was really hard, and I didn’t always feel like I was doing well…but I’d been through tough things before, and felt I like wanted to keep going,” remembers Brittany.

During her first summer in law school she worked in the legal research department of Sacramento Superior Court. And before her third year, Brittany was also going to court. With the Family Protection and Legal Assistance Clinic, which gives legal aid to low-income domestic violence victims, Brittany represented actual clients in family law proceedings. She was one of only a few law students who spoke Spanish, thanks to time in Spain with Adventist Colleges Abroad, and put her bilingual skills to use. “The interesting miscommunications gave [clients and I] something to laugh about,” Brittany remembers.

Taking Sabbath off gave Brittany the rest she needed to succeed during the other six days of the week. Dedicated to her three-year law student career, she was surprised to find that she would graduate at the top of her class. In her commencement address to an audience of over 1,400, Brittany encouraged her peers not to “forget where you came from, or who helped you get to where you are in life, and don't forget to acknowledge their contributions." She added, "It will keep you humble and grateful for your life." 

Brittany credits her PUC English 101 classes from Dr. Marilyn Glaim for Brittany’s great start in college. Learning excellent writing skills prepared her to be a lawyer, before she began to seriously consider law as a career. “To be competitive in law, you have to be good writer. You have to be succinct, and get your point across quickly, or you lose your reader,” she points out.

Upper-division classes from journalism professor Lynne Thew were also “incredibly important,” adds Brittany. She practiced paying attention to details, because others would, too. “Be accurate in your grammar and spelling, the things people gloss over and don’t pay attention to. Work hard not to have mistakes in writing, so that you can be taken seriously,” says Brittany.

Now Brittany tells students interested in law, “You’re not just going to earn a degree; you’re going to enter a profession.” A law degree “gives you a boost into all sorts of jobs,” and is also a significant responsibility and investment of time and finances. Brittany suggests that students “get as much as experience as possible with research and writing; they’re the two most important things” for a law degree.

In a high rise-building overlooking Sacramento’s Capitol, Brittany is writing at a new professional level. She’s bringing her PUC Pioneer persistence to a different court — but putting the same Covered Wagon spirit to work as Downey Brand's newest associate attorney.