Alayna Holmstrom

Alayna Holmstrom

Law Clerk to the Honorable Karen E. Schreier, U.S. District Court, District of South Dakota
Sioux Falls, SD
Criminal Justice and Political Science, 2015, Juris Doctor, 2018

"Focus on your time at USD as not only a time to build a resume, but to learn to love people better and to seek compassion in your day to day work. When you get involved in classes and campus activities that you are passionate about, you will learn to love people better."

Q&A with Alayna:

Describe your current educational or professional pursuits.

I received my B.S. in criminal justice and political science from the USD Honors Program in 2015. Following graduation, I studied law at the University of Minnesota. I transferred back to USD and completed my final two years of law school at USD School of Law. After graduating in 2018, I passed the South Dakota bar exam and began my two-year clerkship for the Honorable Karen E. Schreier, United States District Court Judge in Sioux Falls. Following my clerkship, I have accepted a position at Davenport, Evans, Hurwitz & Smith, LLP in Sioux Falls as a litigation associate.

The knowledge and skills I gained while attending USD both as an undergraduate student and law student have without question led to my current position and future professional pursuits. I am so humbled to be a lawyer and have the opportunity to serve South Dakota and our community each day.

How did your USD experience influence your career path?

There is no question my experiences at USD influenced my career path. Not only did campus organizations and activities shape who I am, but opportunities both in and out of the classroom prepared me to be the advocate and public servant I strive to be. Graduating in the CJUS/POLS department provided me the opportunity to take internships in D.C. through the Farber Fund to better my interpersonal and leadership skills outside the classroom. Courses with Dr. Roche ignited my passion for criminal law. Being in the Honors Program allowed me to write my undergraduate thesis on recidivism and incarceration rates in South Dakota, which strengthened my desire to practice law in South Dakota and refined my research and writing – skills that are vital to law and advocacy.

These undergraduate internships, service projects and student organizations helped improve my leadership, collaboration and critical thinking skills that then led to opportunities in law school. Building on my undergraduate experiences, I was able to further sharpen my ability to analyze complex legal issues and produce concise and persuasive written work in new endeavors at USD Law like law review and trial team. These experiences at USD influenced my path and are experiences I hope to continue to build upon as I advocate for others in the future.

Tell us about your proudest achievement.

As a first-generation graduate student, I was very proud to graduate from law school summa cum laude and pass the South Dakota bar exam. Without question, all that I am and hope to be I owe to my mother and father. They instilled in me hard work and determination, and I was honored to have graduated with this degree because of who they have shaped me to be and how hard they have worked to better my future. It is especially meaningful to have graduated with a law degree knowing that women use to not be accepted to law school or allowed to practice in the legal profession. I often remind myself of the quote, “I stand on the sacrifices of a million women before me thinking, ‘what can I do to make this mountain taller so the women after me can see farther.’” I am extremely proud and honored to be a female in the South Dakota legal community and to have the great privilege to work for South Dakota’s female federal district court judge.

Finally, I was as proud that my graduating law school class had the highest South Dakota bar passage rate for USD in recent years, and that statistic does not also count my colleagues who took and passed other state bar exams! It was humbling to see all the hard work of my peers pay off. This success is in great part because of who my classmates are and their ability to collaborate and help each other attain our goals.

What was your USD experience like? Were you involved in any campus organizations or activities?

I am truly humbled by the experiences USD provided me both during my time as an undergraduate student and law student. USD is so fantastic because it is a Division I school with big-time opportunities, but a small enough school that you can be involved in so many different organizations.

As an undergraduate student, I enjoyed being involved in academic organizations such as Political Science League, Mortar Board and Order of Omega, while at the same time having the opportunity to serve others in Big Pal Little Pal and Dance Marathon. I also had the pleasure of serving as a Student Government Association senator, Student Ambassador, MUC front desk worker (three cheers for popcorn Fridays) and was a member of the Greek Life community and Alpha Phi.

On the graduate student side, USD Law also affords its students so many opportunities to be involved. I had the opportunity to be the co-president of USD’s trial team and compete at four national tournaments (New York, Florida, Virginia and D.C.), serve as the graduate assistant for Associate Dean of Academic Affairs Tiffany Graham and serve as a staff writer for Volume 63 of South Dakota Law Review, where I eventually got to publish my student note.

These organizations and opportunities are remarkable because of my fellow classmates and colleagues who have shaped the USD community into a place which fosters immense growth.

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