Kevin Olsen ’12 Looks to Make His Mark as Young Prosecutor
January 22, 2020
As a senior at Providence College, Kevin Olsen ’12 knew that law school was on the horizon, so he decided to intern at the Rhode Island Public Defender’s Office.
Within his first few assignments, he knew he wanted to be on the other side of the law.
“My first task at the Public Defender’s office was interviewing our clients for their side of the story,” Olsen said. “While often entertaining, it left me feeling conflicted. How could I defend someone who had just admitted to me they had done exactly what they were alleged to have done?”
He was soon accepted to Wake Forest’s School of Law and sent an application to the Forsyth County District Attorney’s Office for his first year internship. Olsen secured the internship and returned again during his second year, certainly hooked on the idea of becoming a prosecutor.
“I was able to play just a small role in the justice system [during those internships] and help advocate for the victims of crimes on behalf of the State of North Carolina,” he said. “I was lucky enough to be asked back to intern at the office again during my 2L summer, this time with a practice certificate that allowed me to try misdemeanor cases in front of a judge and run the docket.”
After passing the North Carolina Bar Exam in the summer of 2019, Olsen was immediately hired as an Assistant District Attorney (ADA) in the same office he interned at.
As an ADA, he is a member of the district court team, which prosecutes all misdemeanor crimes, including trespassing, domestic incidents, assaults, minor drug crimes, traffic offenses and everything in between.
Olsen has split much of his time between the traffic court and the all-encompassing misdemeanor court. He usually spends three days a week in court, while using the two other days preparing for future court dates and issuing subpoenas for cases.
While he has enjoyed his short time as an ADA, one thing sticks out most to him about the daily job.
“I think the most surprising aspect of the job for me is just the speed with which things happen,” Olsen said. “On any given day, I could have 200 to 300 cases on my docket, but I only have so much time to actually look at each one and figure out what to do with it.”
And while the time management aspect has kept him on his toes, Olsen has come to deeply appreciate the role of the prosecutor in the criminal justice system.
“It is rewarding to know that my job is to help protect the community and to administer justice,” he said. “Being a prosecutor is not just about securing convictions, but seeking justice. That might mean dismissing a case where you don’t have enough evidence or making a deal to help a low-level, first-time offender keep their record clean. Prosecutors have a lot of discretion in the way they handle their cases, which is a big responsibility.”
As he settles into his new professional role as a prosecutor, Olsen is proud to look back on the steps he took to get to this point, including his time at CBA.
“It is really hard to make it through four years at the Academy without really busting your tail. CBA taught me very early on how to work hard and focus, and I have been able to carry that with me ever since,” Olsen said. “It also gives you a confidence, where you know that you can accomplish whatever task you’re focusing on because you have worked so hard before.”
Olsen was heavily involved at CBA, including being a member of the National Honor Society and a part of the track team’s 4×800 outdoor national title in 2012. He credits CBA for instilling the mindset of gaining experience in a variety of activities while in school. Olsen took that idea to both Providence and Wake Forest, building both his knowledge and resume as he looked towards the next step in his life.
As someone who has sat in their seat, Olsen is always willing to lend some advice to current CBA students who may be interested in pursuing a law degree down the road.
“The best part about law is that there are so many areas of expertise, that there is no real ‘traditional’ path,” he said. “I was a sort of a walking cliche going into law school – a double-major in English and Political Science from a liberal arts college – but that is far from the only way to go about it. Don’t try to pick a major based on what you think ‘looks good’ on a law school application because every background and perspective is useful.”