When he graduates from the Brandeis School of Law in May, Bryan Mercke will head to California, where he’s accepted a clerkship with the country’s largest public defender agency, the Los Angeles County Public Defender.
“I am both excited and nervous,” Mercke says. “I think that law school has prepared me for going through the gauntlet out there.”
Public service has always been a career goal for Mercke, who will spend the summer studying for the California bar exam before he begins his position in August.
Mercke sees this job as a way to use the opportunities and privilege he’s been given for a bigger purpose.
“Part of the reason I went to law school is seeing the inequities of my community and society in general,” he says. “It’s more than just a paycheck. It’s a way to live my life and do some good in the world.”
As a law student, Mercke has been involved in several public service roles: He’s worked at Louisville’s Legal Aid Society and for the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy. There, he was involved in post-conviction work and sometimes visited clients in jail. He has also clerked for Chief Judge Audra Eckerle of Jefferson Circuit Court. In that role, he was able to observe the justice system from the perspective of the bench.
These positions helped Mercke fulfill his public service requirement — all Brandeis Law students must complete 30 hours of public service work in order to graduate, although many end up completing many more hours than are required.
“The public service requirement at the University of Louisville helped me see the role of public service right from the beginning of law school,” Mercke says.
Mercke credits Professor JoAnne Sweeny and Professor Cedric Merlin Powell as influential forces during his law school career. Both professors are enthusiastic, rigorous scholars who have been great sources of motivation, he says.
Another source of motivation for Mercke is his desire to fight inequalities on even a small level, even if structural change is far off.
“I want to leave the world a better place than I found it,” he says. “I want to give back what I can while I can.”