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Alumni Spotlight

Craig Sims

Craig Sims:  Answering his Call to Law
Q & A with Alumni Relations Director Grace Greenwich

Craig Sims is currently a senior deputy prosecuting attorney with the King County Prosecutor's Office, where he has been employed for approximately 10 years. He has prosecuted hundreds of cases, including several homicide and other high profile cases. He will soon transition his career to civil practice working for the plaintiff firm of Fury & Bailey. Craig is the current president of the Loren Miller Bar Association, which is an organization primarily dedicated to the professional development of African-American attorneys and judges.

Craig is among our most active members of the law school community. He continues to be a mentor and strong supporter of students and the organizations on campus, including serving on the advisory committee to the Black Student Law Student Association's Alumni Reception Program. He is also an adjunct professor at Seattle University School of Law, teaching Comprehensive Pre-trial Advocacy. 

Since I joined the law school as director of alumni relations in August, Craig has been among the core group of alumni that I can count on for advice and support on programming. So, I thought I would ask Craig to join me for an afternoon chat about his memorable moments at the law school, his practice and what inspires him. Craig's deep voice, infectious smile and laughter were an added bonus to the conversation.

Craig, what are your most memorable moments at the law school?
Craig Sims: Running for president of the Student Bar Association (SBA) and winning was one of the most memorable moments at the law school. No one thought that I'd be able to win the election. Even my friends did not think they'd (the student body) elect an African-American president because it had never been done before.  It was a great feeling to win. It was also an honor to be able to represent the entire student body. 

Do you see similarities to what you experienced, albeit on a smaller scale to the Obama campaign?  He smiled, “absolutely.”

CS:  The next most memorable moment occurred in the second semester of my first year.  I told a classmate, Louise Wyatt, that I had run out of money and would probably have to leave the law school. That weekend, I had gone to Portland and when I returned, there were bags with groceries and laundry detergent in the middle of the floor of my studio apartment. As I looked on my kitchen counter, I saw an envelope which contained a large amount of cash. It might as well have been a million dollars, because that is what it felt like it. The front of the envelope read, “Craig we love you and you can lean on us anytime you need us. Love, ‘the crew.’” I still have that envelope. I wouldn't have graduated without that gift because it allowed me to pay the rent and eat for months. To this day, I still don't know everyone who contributed. 

During my BLSA graduation, Judge Richard Jones was the keynote speaker. He reminded us that we didn't get here alone…There were many people that helped us along the way and we need to remember to say thank you. At that same program, I received the Student of the Year Award. I told everyone the story (and pulled the envelope out of my pocket) and said thank you to those unknown friends who helped me. There wasn't a dry eye in the place.

Is that why you are so actively engaged as a mentor to students?
CS:  Definitely! That is why I am so dedicated to students and helping them now as an alum of the school.

Why the law?  Why become an attorney?
CS: It was a profession that was always well respected. I remember being in the sixth grade and watching Perry Mason. I just knew I wanted to be a lawyer after watching that show. As I grew older, I saw how well respected attorneys were. I felt as though I could somehow make a difference with the law.

What was your most challenging class?
CS:  “Tax,” he says with laughter. I had no financial background and the class began at 7 p.m. It was not the most exciting class. 

What was the class you enjoyed the most?
CS: Constitutional Law with Professor Wing. He was a great professor. 

What was so great about him?
CS:  It was the way he presented. He was exciting and he had an enthusiasm for issues.  He brought a fresh energy to the class which allowed us to engage in fantastic debates.

You teach.
CS:  Yes, I teach. I love teaching. I teach a section of comprehensive pre-trial advocacy. That class addresses pre-trial strategies, depositions, interview skills and other pre-trial legal issues.

Would you say your teaching style is like Professor Wing's?
He's a bit more serious as he answers, “at times.” 

Craig SimsAre you the serious type?
CS:  Yes, I'm serious at times. But, I do my best to provide a comfortable atmosphere. I want to make sure students understand the subject matter. I try to keep the information interesting and convey the content in a way that creates interaction with the students – so I know they understand the materials. 

Craig, I have to ask you about some of your most challenging times as a prosecutor, handling homicide cases.
CS:  Well, there is no training to deal with what you'll experience the first time you arrive at a homicide scene. When I first started, I responded to three homicides in five days and slept very little during that time. My first homicide scene investigation was the death of two children. When I first walked in the home, everything seemed so surreal.  Both children had been bludgeoned in the head. What class can you take to prepare you for that? The next few days, each time I closed my eyes, I repeatedly saw that scene in my head. You never get used to it, but you eventually learn to cope. Often times, smells will trigger a memory back to the crime scene. Like the smell of baked cookies, if someone was baking prior to the homicide.

What is the hardest aspect of working homicide?
CS:  The hardest aspect of the job would have to be watching the suffering of those left behind, knowing there is nothing that you can do for them yourself. And then you start to suffer a little bit yourself. You can't help but become a part of the family of those dealing with something so intimate. 

When I train younger deputy prosecutors, I tell them our job is about more than just obtaining convictions, it's about helping to heal souls, whether they are victims to crimes or the family members who are suffering the loss of a loved one.

I remember quite a few years ago, Father Sullivan said something like the practice of law is as much of a calling as is the ministry and medicine. He said that many years ago, and it has stuck with me. I believe that what we do is a ministry, healing the human spirit.

What is in the future for Craig Sims?
CS:  I will be doing similar work but in the civil arena, focusing on wrongful death and serious bodily injury cases. It still involves healing people and helping them find closure.

What will be your legacy?  What do you want people to say about you?
CS:  When all is said and done, I want people to say that Craig Sims was a genuine person.

Craig is a proud alumnus of the Academic Resource Center program. His life motto is: “I am preparing my children for the world while preparing the world for my children.”

As always, I look forward to seeing Craig on campus, mentoring our students and educating outstanding lawyers to be leaders for a just and humane world.

 

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