USD's culture of collegiality
At 35, D. Scott Martinez, ’06 (JD), was appointed as the youngest large-city city attorney in the country. Martinez sat down with USD’s Advocate Magazine to talk about how USD law school prepared him to become the city attorney for the nation’s 23rd largest city.
- Q: Where did you grow up?
A: In the foothills west of Denver in Lakewood, Colorado.
- Q: What was your undergraduate degree?
A: BA in International Affairs from the University of Colorado at Boulder.
- Q: Why did you choose to attend USD School of Law?
A: I researched law schools across the country, and I was determined to go to USD after reviewing all the materials, visiting the campus, and sitting in and participating in a real law school class during my visit. I chose USD because of the law school’s high academic standards, accessible faculty, and student colleagues who were serious but didn’t take themselves too seriously.
- Q: What was the biggest surprise of law school?
A: I knew law school would be tough, and USD was. What surprised me was that the rigor of law school was manageable for people who were ready to work hard and possessed intellectual curiosity. I loved law school. I had hoped I would when I walked in the door, and USD didn’t disappoint. That was a good surprise.
- Q: Who was your favorite professor?
A: Professor Donald Dripps, who taught my criminal procedure and evidence classes. He challenged me and his other students to think beyond the cases, to think critically about the entire system of justice. Those bright individuals who balanced the classroom work with experiencing the rest of what San Diego had to offer became my life-long friends. USD law attracts personalities you want to be around, not just people you have to sit next to in class.
- Q: What strikes you as something uniquely USD?
A: USD School of Law attracts a certain kind of well-balanced student. They have done well and are amazingly bright, but want to explore a fuller legal education experience. Being in San Diego affords you the opportunity to see life beyond law school. Those bright individuals who balanced the classroom with the rest of San Diego became my life-long friends. The people I keep in touch with today are people I want to be around; I want to spend time with them. You don’t get that unless you take time to explore outside the classroom together.
- Q: How did USD prepare you for your current career success?
A: USD really promotes the accessibility of its professors. I took that and ran with it. The professors are right there, on campus, ready to talk about class or career options. They are invested in you as a student and as a future legal professional. To that end, my professors at USD encouraged me to ask a lot of questions. I learned to be unafraid to ask questions, unafraid to ask people who know more than me. Asking questions creates a positive cultural interaction that leads to understanding and success. In my current role, being unafraid to ask questions is the biggest single factor to that success. Law school taught me how to be curious in the right way and that I should pay attention everyday.
- Q: What has been the biggest surprise of your career so far?
A: Civil procedure and criminal procedure are much more important than I had thought. Those two classes provide the foundation of law, even if you’re a transactional attorney. I probably would have taken better notes if I could go back in time.
- Q: What should prospective student consider before selecting a law school?
A: You want a school with not just a good reputation, but a great one. You want a faculty invested in your academic and post academic success. You want an environment that promotes intellectual curiosity and promotes a culture of collegiality. USD is a unique place where you can find all of that.