fbpx Bright Future: Clerkship, Big Law Role Await Second-Career 3L Brigette Dechant Upon Graduation - STCL Houston

Bright Future: Clerkship, Big Law Role Await Second-Career 3L Brigette Dechant Upon Graduation

Home Law School News Bright Future: Clerkship, Big Law Role Await Second-Career 3L Brigette Dechant Upon Graduation

Brigette Dechant, a third-year South Texas law student and national-champion advocate who will graduate magna cum laude May 21, spent seven years building a career before realizing she needed law school to advance further.

After graduating from Stephen F. Austin High School and juggling two jobs while earning her bachelor’s degree from Texas State University, she worked at a lobbying firm for two years.

She then worked in the Capitol in Austin for five years, serving as chief of staff for a state representative who chaired the House Committee on Appropriations: Article II Health and Human Services and the House Committee on General Investigating and Ethics.

Dechant was developing a piece of health-law legislation with the help of a local law professor when she asked where she should attend if she wanted to specialize in litigation. The professor recommended South Texas College of Law Houston.

“She described the stellar reputation South Texas has for making practice-ready attorneys,” Dechant recalled. “The professor said when you enter a courtroom, you can tell it’s a South Texas advocate because of how well-spoken, prepared, and professional they are.”

As a second-career student, being able to fast-track her future with an excellent law education plus practical skills was important to Dechant, so she applied to South Texas.

A life-changing moment

After receiving her pre-admittance, Dechant took a campus tour with her then-fiancé. She remembers the first time she stepped into the Gerald Treece Courtroom.

“It was very quiet and kind of ominous,” she said. “There was just this presence. I can’t explain it, but it was the first time since my mom’s passing that I really felt her speak to me.” Dechant had recently and unexpectedly lost her mom, and she never got the chance to share the joyous news of her acceptance into law school.

At a turning point in her life, Dechant believed the emotions she felt in the courtroom were a sign. “I walked out of the building, right onto San Jacinto Street, and started to cry. I told my now-husband, ‘This is the right place. This is where I need to be.’ ”

A natural competitor

It didn’t take long for Dechant to start racking up accolades at South Texas. Over the course of this last academic year alone, she participated in eight competitions.

These included the Stetson Pretrial Competition, where she won Best Respondent Brief and was a semi-finalist;
the Appellate Lawyers Association Competition; Barristers National Moot Court Competition Regional, where she won Best Brief, Best Speaker, and won the overall competition; Barristers Nationals Competition, where she won National Best Brief and was a quarterfinalist; the American Bar Association Competition; and the South Carolina Mock Trial Competition, where she won Best Preliminary Speaker and won the overall competition.

Her final competition, The Texas Young Lawyer’s Association State Moot Court Competition, is this summer, and she has the chance to argue in front of the Texas Supreme Court.

Dechant was part of South Texas’ 137th National Advocacy Championship team, with another STCL Houston team winning the 138th just hours later.

To bring everything full circle, Dechant’s tournament wins both in mock trial and moot court took place in the Treece Courtroom — the place where she felt the presence of her mom guiding her toward STCL Houston.

Participating in both mock trial and moot court competitions, Dechant said she doesn’t have a favorite and sees them as complementary to one another. “In moot court, you’re more persuasive if you sound conversational,” she said. “With mock trial, one of the hardest but most important things is to sound friendly when you’re questioning somebody. They go hand-in-hand, in my opinion,” she said.

In addition to the Advocacy Program, Dechant enjoyed Professor Douglas McNabb’s Criminal Trial Advocacy class. She learned how to argue federal pre-trial motions, a skill which she hopes will help her get into court as a young associate. Each week she had to take new material, do research, present, and argue on behalf of a client.

“That class was rapid-fire,” she recalled. “It required quick thinking and research skills, and I know I will need those abilities in my law career.”

An opportunity of a lifetime

A high achiever, Dechant was one of a select group of students chosen to help South Texas alumnus Richard A. “Rick” Morris ’91 prepare to argue the case Houston Community College System v. Wilson before the U.S. Supreme Court in November 2021.

“Rick’s story resonated with me,” Dechant said. “He came from a modest background and worked really hard. STCL Houston gave him a great opportunity, and he seized it. We are a lot alike in that sense, and I hope to follow in his footsteps.”

She described how seeing Morris prepare the same way that STCL Houston students have been taught to prepare for their simulated cases — using the exact same skills and techniques — was really inspiring.

“It affirmed for me that we will use the skills we are learning throughout our careers,” she said. The case the students helped Morris build was persuasive enough to win a landslide 9-0 ruling from the Supreme Court. “The things we prepped and quizzed him on were very similar to the questions asked by the justices in the real case. It demonstrated the value of the South Texas Advocacy Program’s process.”

Experience leads to big opportunities

Although Dechant graduates with her J.D. degree soon, she isn’t finished hitting impressive academic milestones. At the spring honors and awards ceremony for South Texas, Dechant was presented the Dean’s Outstanding Advocate Award for 2021-22.

Also, one of her proudest accomplishments is still pending; she will soon have a comment published in the South Texas Law Review.

“I developed a new litigation strategy using the False Claims Act, and I have been working with the executive editorial board to get it ready,” she said. “If all goes as planned, I am slated to be published in January!”

After graduation, Dechant will clerk in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas with Magistrate Judge Sam Sheldon. In addition, she has accepted a position with the “biglaw” firm BakerHostetler, which will begin after her clerkship.

Looking back, Dechant is grateful South Texas afforded her the opportunity to pursue a legal education.

“Based on my college grades and all that was happening in my life at the time, I was not supposed to go to law school,” Dechant said. “When I applied, I knew I was ready. South Texas gave me a chance. And that chance changed my life.”

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