Attorney Spotlight: Jamisen Etzel


Why did you become a lawyer?

Starting in middle school, several experiences sparked me to study constitutional rights and socioeconomic justice. I also always loved reading history, and started following politics during the presidential election in 2000. Still, even though these interests might naturally suggest a career in law or government, I wasn’t sure what I wanted to do when I graduated high school. But during my freshman year in college, I started to see that most of the things I might like to do for work would be more feasible with a law degree. So I started looking into that path, and decided to go for it. I think it was a great choice for me.

Most memorable court room experience?

I can’t pick just one, so I have three, all quite different.

First, we took a case to a jury trial in 2018, and the middle of it was interrupted by a major blizzard, so we had to wait around in snow-covered Philadelphia for a day and half before court reopened. The whole experience was a bit surreal, especially the moment that the jury foreperson read the verdict, which felt pretty dramatic even though we were very confident in our case. Fortunately, the jury awarded our clients everything we sought, so it’s a good memory.

Second, I would say all of my appellate oral arguments have been very memorable. I’ve only done five at this point, so each one is still fresh in my mind. I really enjoy getting to know every detail of a case and the applicable law, and then trying to convince a panel of judges to go our way. It’s not easy, but it is exhilarating and can be fun if you approach it the right way.

Third, I actually served on a jury for a criminal case a couple years ago. I didn’t think I’d get picked given the fact that I’m a lawyer, but I made it through. It was not a major case, but it also wasn’t an easy case, so the deliberations took about a full day, and were a bit contentious at points. Even though I’d been a lawyer for a few years at that point, I learned a lot about our justice system from that experience, and I’ll never forget it.

What are 3 things you couldn’t survive without?

  1. Friends, family, and my wife. I’ve been very fortunate on all those fronts, and am lucky to be married to someone whose own friends and family are also people I enjoy spending time with. Being surrounded by great people who you love to talk to and celebrate life with is very sustaining.
  2. Music. It’s always been important to me for a lot of reasons. It keeps the good parts of my brain active and gives my mood a boost whenever I need it.
  3. Keeping up on the news. This might seem trivial to some people, who can tune it all out and be perfectly happy, but I’m not wired like that. I need to know what’s going on in the world, or I’ll start to feel like I’m trapped in a cave.

Favorite Musician or Band?

My favorite band is The Lawrence Arms, a punk trio from Chicago. More widely-known honorable mentions would be The Cure, Radiohead, and Bruce Hornsby. A weird mix.

Favorite Activity to do in Pittsburgh on the weekend?

Going out to a restaurant or a show with my wife and/or friends.

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