Michelle Bassi ’10
Georgia native is Umpqua Valley Public Defender
Michelle Bassi ’10 works as a public defender at Umpqua Valley Public Defender in Roseburg, Ore. “I love the work and there are many things I like best about my job: it is never dull,” said Bassi. Prior to her work as a public defender, she increased her legal experiences by clerking at Lane County Circuit Court, first for the Honorable Douglas Mitchell and then with the Honorable Josephine Mooney.
Her interest in law school began when she volunteered at an asylum and immigration nonprofit organization, prompting her to build the skill sets necessary to work in such environments.
“I thought a law degree would help me understand asylum and immigration work and would provide me with a skill set to work in a nonprofit,” she remarked. “I applied to law schools focusing on alternative careers I would obtain with a J.D.”
Bassi, a Savannah, Ga., native, learned about Oregon Law while meeting Associate Dean Larry Seno at a law school forum event in Boston and talking with a UO alum. Oregon Law’s concurrent degrees, connection to a PAC 12 university and small class sizes attracted her to the school. While studying for her J.D., she participated in the Oregon Review of International Law, eventually serving as the managing editor. She also worked as a Graduating Teaching Fellow (GTF) and as a student advisor in the International Studies Department.
According to Bassi, her classes in Criminal Procedures and Evidence have been invaluable to her work as a public defender — giving her knowledge she uses on a daily basis. Law school taught her how to work smarter, faster and to manage her stress, all skills needed in the demanding role of a public defender.
Her advice for current Oregon Law students: enroll in Evidence and complete the Judicial Externship if you want to be a trial lawyer. She also suggests taking courses on topics that are covered in the bar exam including evidence, criminal procedure, property, criminal law and torts.
“Most importantly, take some classes for fun and make sure you take care of yourself,” she adds. “It is easy to be overwhelmed during law school and it is critical you don’t lose sight of what’s really important to you while in school.”