Incoming UArizona Law First-Year Students Gain Insight into Prosecution During Inaugural Prosecutor Academy

Aug. 24, 2023
First year students Ella Spoor, Fiona Stout and Sarah Avila with Deputy County Attorney Sasha Charls ('19) outside of Coconino County Court House.

University of Arizona Law first year students Ella Spoor, Fiona Stout and Sarah Avila with Deputy County Attorney Sasha Charls ('19) outside the Coconino County Court House.

A week before joining their classmates for law school orientation twenty incoming first-year students from University of Arizona Law gained hands-on experience and exposure in the field of prosecution as part of the inaugural Arizona Prosecutor Academy. 

Working in collaboration with the Arizona Prosecuting Attorneys’ Advisory Council (APAAC), the Arizona Prosecutor Academy matched law students with prosecutors from across Arizona. During the weeklong session, students gained an understanding of the field by shadowing attorneys, witnessing courtroom dynamics, drafting motions, and participating in mock trials. The experience offered them the unique opportunity to gain practical insights, forge connections and enhance their legal careers before day one of their legal education. 

“The Arizona Prosecutor Academy provides an incredible opportunity for law students to get an inside look at the criminal justice system and the important role of prosecutors. It was not until I became a prosecutor that I fully understood what it meant to have a job where my daily goal is to do the ‘right thing.’ The Academy shows students how the practice of law can be more than just a job – through our work we can positively contribute to making a community which is safe and in which all people are treated fairly,” said Executive Director of APAAC, Elizabeth Burton Ortiz

The Arizona Prosecutor Academy succeeded in bridging the gap between theoretical legal knowledge and practical application, exposing students to the intricacies of the legal process and the critical role that prosecutors play in the pursuit of justice.  

"I didn’t know what to expect when the call for applications for the Prosecutor Academy was announced. I simply thought this would be a good opportunity to gain some exposure into the legal field before law school began,” said participant Jennifer Shim, who was assigned to the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office (MCAO) in downtown Phoenix. “The experience was eye opening. We had a wonderful mentor and instructor with 30+ years of experience as a prosecutor, that thoroughly explained the inner workings of the prosecutorial world. Once we learned the foundation, we actually got to see prosecutors and judges in action. From meeting Judge Suzanne Cohen, the judge on the notorious Canal Killer case, to sitting in on a capital trial (death penalty) for first-degree murder, to meeting the Maricopa County Attorney, the whole experience was impressive and insightful. We had plenty of chances to pick the brains of current and graduated law students who were either interning or newly working at the county regarding their work or law school in general.” 

Jennifer Shim and Erica Moskal – Maricopa County Attorney’s Office

Jennifer Shim and Erica Moskal

Shim worked alongside fellow first-year student Erica Moskal at MCAO, saying: "As both nontraditional students and parents, we were able to connect and get to know each other really well, putting me more at ease with starting law school.” 

Moskal said she not only gained insight into the career path but was also glad to make a friend before law school, “we both enjoyed the academy so much that we are both applying for the summer internship program! I came in curious about prosecution; I left with it at the top of my list of career choices." 

Incoming 1L and participant Joey Higgins was assigned to Apache County Attorney’s Office in St. Johns, AZ. He described the week as an “invaluable experience,” with opportunities to review motions, conduct research and attend hearings in Apache County’s Superior Court and Justice Courts. “I was able to observe a bench trial and numerous evidentiary, bond revocation, change of plea, and sentencing hearings for felonies and misdemeanors. Thank you to University of Arizona Law, APAAC, and the Apache County Attorney’s Office for this opportunity.”  

Joey Higgins

Joey Higgins

First-year law student Ella Spoor was assigned to the Coconino County Attorney’s Office in Flagstaff and said her experience was informative, fun, and positive, and she left the week with a new appreciation and respect for prosecution as a career.  

Ella Spoor, Fiona Stout and Sarah Avila

Ella Spoor, Fiona Stout and Sarah Avila

"We had the opportunity to work with people who were passionate about what they were doing, and applied a level of compassion and fairness that I was not expecting from a prosecutor’s office,” said Spoor. “We got to observe court, talk to attorneys at all levels of prosecution and participate in a mock trial with a real defense attorney and detective. I would encourage anyone interested to apply and participate! It was genuinely one of the best experiences in my academic and professional career and I’m honored to have been a part of the inaugural year of the program.” 

“I got to meet people at various stages of their legal career who were willing to share their experiences and offered to stay in touch to answer any career or law school questions I had in the future,” said first year student Alexander Perger who spent his time at City of Tucson Prosecutor's Office. “The experience was really a deep dive into being a prosecutor and I would recommend this program to everyone, even if they don't plan on becoming a prosecutor.” 

Alex Perger and Jon Hajek ('17)

Alex Perger and Jon Hajek ('17)

Through this immersive experience, students not only acquired a comprehensive understanding of the prosecution field but also established meaningful connections with legal practitioners, setting the stage for future summer opportunities, and post-graduation prospects. 

Dean Marc Miller expressed his excitement for this groundbreaking initiative, "The Arizona Prosecutor Academy aligns perfectly with our mission to provide students with experiential learning opportunities that go beyond the classroom. This program not only offers our students a unique insight into the world of prosecution but also helps them build strong relationships with legal professionals that can guide and shape their careers." 

“Before, the idea of becoming a prosecutor wasn’t on my radar; now, it’s definitely a field I would like to consider as a future practicing attorney,” said Shim.  

Arizona Prosecutor Academy Participating Agencies:  

  • Arizona Attorney General’s Office 
  • Apache County Attorney’s Office 
  • Coconino County Attorney’s Office 
  • Maricopa County Attorney’s Office 
  • Mohave County Attorney’s Office 
  • Pima County Attorney’s Office 
  • Pinal County Attorney’s Office 
  • City of Phoenix Prosecutor’s Office 
  • Tucson City Prosecutor’s Office 

For further information about the Prosecutors Academy, please contact Shannon Walker at