Jordan Gywnn ’22 honed his courtroom style, delivery, and impact through diligence in the classroom and at local open mic nights as—no joke—a stand-up comic.
After his time at The College of Saint Rose, but before starting his J.D., Gywnn worked out jokes before a variety of audiences—from a captive, unwound crowd to a pair of uptight, corporate suits looking to hire him for an event. All of it prepared him for his future career much more than he ever expected.
“I think a lot of comedy actually relates to trial work. It might sound crazy, but a lot of what goes into working on material and speaking in front of people and trying to persuade them [is similar to speaking to a] jury or a judge on the facts of a case,” he said. “You really have to think about what you're going to say, the delivery, and how it's going to impact how people react.”
Perfecting a delivery, comedic or criminal, takes a lot of trial and error – no pun intended, of course. However, observing veteran comics and lawyers is also a big part of development. While Gywnn studied criminal justice and knew some basics as an undergrad, after supporting a friend through an experience in the courts, he boldly aired his grievances with his friend’s attorney. To his surprise, that attorney brought Gywnn along to court to get more perspective on the criminal justice system.
“He told me to meet him at his house at 6 a.m. He was shocked that I showed up,” Gywnn said remembering how funny it was.
“I recall watching the way that he worked the courtroom and the interactions that he had with his clients and the amount of gratitude people showed him after he worked a case. He had such an impact on their lives,” Gwynn said. “The way he was able to connect with anyone—from a child to a grandmother—made me say to myself, ‘I think that this is something I want to do.’”
Working in the Domestic Violence Prosecution Hybrid Clinic this spring, Gywnn has continued that development in the Saratoga County District Attorney's office.
“You get real world and in-the-classroom experience. It really brings the case law to life,” he said. “I felt I had an impact on these people's lives. I left the clinic experience thinking about these issues outside of actual experience. It put the coursework in reality.”
He also worked in the Queens District Attorney’s Office homicide unit. The timing there, just as in comedy, was everything. Gywnn saw cases from the initial call to gathering evidence to sentencing.
“I remember [a homicide victim’s daughter] coming up to my supervisor and I at a preliminary hearing. She was in tears. She asked what are the legal ramifications, wondering if there will there be justice for her father,” he said. “The prosecutor handled the legal equation, but also the emotional side. These are real people you're dealing with here. That really solidified my interest in being in the prosecution room.”
With that decision made, this summer, Gwynn will live out his dream as a New York City attorney. No foolin’ either since he will join the Manhattan District Attorney’s Office after graduation.
“They have a very unique set of cases they handle because the jurisdiction covers not only Harlem and Lower Manhattan, but also Times Square and the Financial District. You can see anything from a robbery or homicide case to national security to financial crimes. It will be a really good learning process, especially in the beginning of my career.”
While his cases will be serious, Gywnn thinks his time on stage and experiences at Albany Law will help him connect.
“Sometimes telling a person, "It's going to be ok,” doesn't work. Sometimes [you need] a joke. Humor is one of the best ways we all connect,” he said. “It's all about how you frame it. Hopefully, I never get booed as a lawyer though.”