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Alumni Spotlight: The Honorable Brad Urrutia, ’96

Introduction through Admissions Office with fellow Texan puts Urrutia on path to success

Judge Brad Urrutia

From Washburn Law Alumni Newsletter - Spring 2019

As a first-generation college graduate, the Hon. Brad Urrutia, ’96, knew he wanted to study law to further his education in a field where he could put to work his interest in politics, history, and writing.

A conversation with an old Army buddy living in Missouri and an introduction to a Washburn University School of Law alumnus in Austin, Texas, connected him with Washburn.

Now, Urrutia is judge of the 450th District Court in Travis County, Texas, a judgeship he has held since 2016. Prior to that, he practiced criminal defense in Austin for nearly 20 years – many of them with Ramiro Lopez, ’92, the Washburn Law graduate he met through the Law Admissions Office.

“I joined the Army after high school,” Urrutia said. “I knew if I was going to continue school, I was going to need to find a way to pay for it. I come from pretty humble folks. In fact, I was the first person in my family to go to college, so it was a big deal.”

After earning his undergraduate degree, he thought he could attract more law school scholarships if he looked out of state. He talked to an Army friend who was studying dentistry in Kansas City, Missouri.

“I said, ‘I’m thinking of going to college out of state,’” Urrutia said. “He said, ‘If you want to apply to a good law school in the area, you should apply to Washburn. It’s got a good reputation, and a lot of good lawyers come from there.’”

He made his first contact with Washburn Law at a recruiting event in Houston where admissions representatives gave him a list of graduates in Austin to see if any of them had relatable backgrounds or experiences.

“Ramiro was one of those people on the list,” Urrutia said. “I was Hispanic, and he was Hispanic. It seemed like he would have a relatable experience – going to school in a state that is not predominately Hispanic.”

The two met for a game of golf and lunch. Lopez told him good things about Washburn, and Urrutia was convinced. After applying, he received a scholarship and enrolled. Lopez stayed in touch throughout Urrutia’s time at Washburn, sharing advice about classes and professors.

Urrutia always knew he wanted to come back to Texas. Upon graduation, he returned to Austin to open a private practice. Lopez also wanted to get into private practice.

“It was just a natural fit for us to open up our own office,” Urrutia said. “We started practicing together as two guys sharing office space. We had very similar work ethic, and we thought it would be a great partnership.”

The two practiced together until Urrutia was ready for something new and won election to the judgeship.

“I had tried more criminal cases than any lawyer in Travis County,” he said. “In that mix were about six capital murder cases, and I had represented a guy who killed a police officer and received the death penalty. By that time, I had tried well over 100 cases. I felt I had done everything I could do in the criminal justice system as a defense attorney, and I was ready for a new challenge.”

As a judge, he says the biggest difference is the varying levels of expertise, efficiency and quality of lawyers he sees.

“You really have to take care that every defendant who comes before you is represented well and that the state is doing what they’re doing ethically,” he said. “You have to call balls and strikes and not get involved. The biggest difference and the hardest part of it is being a neutral observer rather than a participate in the proceedings.”

Interacting with lawyers from several law schools, including the University of Texas “right down the road,” Urrutia has never been intimidated by his law school background.

“Day in and day out I’d put my legal education up against that legal education any day, and I did – when it mattered in a court of law.”

Jefferson bench

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