Ian Courts chose his own path when setting out to earn an undergraduate degree, but when it came time to enter law school, he stepped into his legacy as an Eagle.
“My dad went to Central for his undergraduate degree, and I wanted to do something different at first,” said Courts, who grew up in Reidsville, N.C., and earned a bachelor’s degree at the University of North Carolina-Greensboro in 2017.
But for law school, he was eager to apply to NCCU, where he could remain in-state and enter through the performance-based admissions program.
“It was rigorous and tough,” Courts said of his three years in law school.
After graduating in May, he will move to Philadelphia, where he will join the Office of the District Attorney. He says the value of the NCCU School of Law education was well worth the effort.
“The professors really pushed me in my law school career, but perhaps the greatest take-away was seeing black men and women teaching the law who were distinguished in their profession. That was impactful on me as a black man entering law.”
According to School of Law Interim Dean Elaine O’Neal, Courts represents the type of student the law school exists to serve.
“He embodies our mission,” O’Neal said. “He is very astute in discerning character, and that gift will hold him steady as a district attorney. He is a quick learner and has garnered the respect of our students, faculty and staff.”
Courts said he first considered becoming a lawyer after studying the Supreme Court as a fourth-grader, specifically the appointment of the first African American to the bench, Thurgood Marshall.
“It inspired me that Thurgood Marshall, as a member of the Supreme Court, could rule against actions by Congress or the president. I understood that the courts, at least in theory, were the protectors of civil rights.”
He even posed as the justice, who served from 1967 to 1991, during a school costume event, wearing a graduation robe borrowed from a guidance counselor and carrying a law dictionary presented to him by his father for the occasion.
“I still have that copy of Black’s Law Dictionary today,” he added.
Courts believes the fact that members of his family have been caught up in the criminal justice system also factored into his career choice.
“Having to work through that reaffirmed my decision to focus on constitutional law and criminal justice reform, most importantly.”
While, at NCCU School of Law, he was a member of the Moot Court Board, chair of the Trial Advocacy Board and president of the American Constitution Society Law Student Chapter.
He also performed internships at the U.S. Magistrate’s Office, the state Court of Appeals, the N.C. Supreme Court, and the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.
Earlier this year, he was selected by the American Constitution Society for the prestigious Next Generation Leader award.
Courts will begin working at the Philadelphia District Attorney's Office in the Appeals Division in September.