Sam Langholz’s passion for public service and law is a force that drives him out of bed in the morning.
The 2008 University of Iowa College of Law alum truly enjoys getting up each day striving to improve the efficiency and quality of Iowa’s indigent defense system.
“My position is a unique mix of law and public policy, which has been a good match for my interest in public service and love of the law,” he said. “I appreciate the position is challenging and multifaceted, and that I have the opportunity to continue to engage in appellate practice.”
This hometown Hawkeye from Clear Lake, Iowa, coordinates Iowa’s indigent defense system, managing a $55 million budget and the State Public Defender system of 220 employees and administering the indigent defense fund that provides payment to other court-appointed attorneys.
He handles some appellate litigation arising out of indigent defense fee claim disputes, but most of his practice is out-of-court, including drafting and negotiating contracts, conducting internal investigations, advising on and handling personnel matters, drafting administrative rules and proposed legislation, and advising on issues of attorney ethics.
Langholz received his bachelors degree from Washington and Lee University in Lexington, Virginia where he majored in politics. Following graduation, Langholz attended the University of Iowa College of Law from 2005-2008, and graduated in May 2008.
Immediately after law school, Langholz clerked for Judge Steven M. Colloton on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit. He then worked for the Davis Brown Law Firm in Des Moines, focusing on civil litigation and appeals.
Langholz said he has no doubt that his UI College of Law education has had a profound effect on helping him get where he is today.
“Through the efforts of professors and student leaders on moot court and law review, I learned to be a strong writer, which is one of a lawyer’s most important skills,” he said. “I also learned an incredible amount about the law and about life from discussions with professors, classmates, and alumni throughout the three years of law school and since then.”
The UI opened doors for him to intern in the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Cedar Rapids during his first summer and in the Muscatine County Attorney’s Office his second summer.
Law school experiences built many memories for Langholz, including taking advantage of the open door policies of many professors to learn more about the law, seek professional guidance, and develop friendships.
“Some of my fondest memories are of spending the night at the law school doing authority checks with the other writers and editors of the Iowa Law Review,” he said. “Delicious food, great company, and lots of books — what more could one ask for?”
Choosing a favorite UI class was difficult for Langholz, but he ended up landing on the Civil Procedure class he took his first year with Professor Bauer.
There are so many directions that you can take a law degree, and great flexibility in the classes you take, activities you’re involved in, and summer experiences, but all this flexibility can be a curse if you haven’t been thinking strategically, Langholz said in light of advising prospective and current law students.
For example, you are not likely going to be a particularly competitive applicant for a position as an entry-level public defender if you never took any elective criminal courses, never interned in a public defender or prosecutor office, and never took advantage of the legal clinic or trial advocacy programs, he said.
However Langholz thoroughly encourages obtaining a law degree.
“For better or worse, law continues to be at the nexus of so much in society — business, government, and our personal lives,” he said. “A law degree can give you the tools necessary to work through the legal system, and to help others to do the same, to more successfully accomplish the business, personal, or political objectives that are desired.”
Aside from work, Langholz enjoys spending his spare time with his wife Kristin and two young boys, and taking in musical theater.