Shawn Mathew George
Deputy District Attorney, Merced County
Year Graduated: 2011
Undergraduate: Sacramento State University
Major: Business Administration and Philosophy
Shawn Mathew George, '11, ran two businesses when he was getting bachelor's degrees in business administration and philosophy at Sacramento State.
He co-owned an IT company that set up and designed websites and a construction business that focused on home remodels.
The work he was doing lacked intellectual satisfaction. He wanted a profession that challenged him and would allow him to feel like he was making a difference.
"I needed something to engage my mind that was outside of numbers and cents," says George, a deputy district attorney for Merced County.
He chose law and entered Pacific McGeorge School of Law. He had interests in estate planning, civil litigation and criminal law. With the help of his professors and the career development office, he found he was drawn to trial advocacy. But every time he hesitated about going into criminal law, his professors would persuade him otherwise. They suggested he look for jobs in a district attorney or public defender's office, which would allow him to try cases right away and hone his skills.
While at McGeorge, he completed an externship with the Sacramento County District Attorney's Office, which made him realize he could do this kind of work and enjoy it. He also earned a certificate in trial advocacy. He applied only to district attorney's offices for jobs and was lucky to get one in Los Banos, his hometown.
"I like doing this kind of work," George says. "I feel like at the DA's office I have a chance to really make a difference and I also have a chance to make sure that innocent people don't get charged with crimes ... . I feel like I'm doing something good."
George tries a wide variety of misdemeanor cases, including DUIs, domestic violence and burglary. He got convictions on his first three trials. His first trial was a possession of stolen property case. Several people broke into a woman's house and stole, among several items, two rings that held significant value to her. The burglars gave them to the defendant, who tried selling them. He was convicted and George was able to return the rings. After the trial, the woman expressed her gratitude.
"She told me, 'I feel safer now because I feel like something was done about the crime that was committed against me and my family.' I felt an immense sense of humility and pride in being able to help this woman get this sense of justice."
After his first few months on the job, George says he's learned that the law is a lot more nuanced than he expected. Not everyone will accept what he thinks is a fair plea deal to avoid a trial, for example, even when the defendant has a record of multiple offenses. Human behavior, George says, doesn't always follow reason.
"There's a very human approach to practicing law, which I should have realized when I was in law school," he says. "There's no magic equation where I can put in the facts of a specific case into some formula that will tell me what to do."