Feature Stories UMass Law: Jonathan Matsler, JD '24: Ready to Pursue Justice

Feature Stories UMass Law: Jonathan Matsler, JD '24: Ready to Pursue Justice
Jonathan Matsler, JD '24: Ready to Pursue Justice

Practical experiences at UMass Law prepared military veteran for his new role in criminal prosecution

Jonathan Matsler, JD '24 came to UMass Law knowing he wanted to be a career prosecutor. His hands-on experiences in law school—in the Gang Unit at the Worcester County District Attorney's Office and as a student attorney for Bristol County District Attorney's Office—prepared him to achieve that goal.  

A veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard who now serves in the U.S. Air National Guard, Matsler helped veteran law students access their eligible benefits as president of the Veterans Law Association. He also was a teaching assistant for Legal Skills and Torts, an experience he found extremely rewarding. 

Matsler, who will marry his UMass Law classmate J.J. Sharpe this fall, has accepted a position as an assistant district attorney with the Bristol County DA's Office. 

UMass Law experience 

What made you decide to become a lawyer? 

"I decided to become a lawyer to prosecute criminals. My father is a civil attorney so growing up, I was always exposed to the legal profession. For the longest time, I wanted to be a police officer. I wanted to be the person to stand up to fight against evil in this world.  

"As an undergrad criminal justice major at Marist College, I had professors who were current or retired police officers, prosecutors, or judges. They encouraged me to attend law school and planted the seed towards my future career in criminal prosecution. They taught me that, for all the good work that law enforcement does in the field, it does not mean anything unless a good prosecutor can prove the defendant's actions in court."  

Why did you choose UMass Law? 

"First, I love the area. Many summers, my family and I vacationed on the Cape or down in Newport. Now that I live in Dartmouth, I am a half hour away from both. 

"Second, I chose UMass Law because of its public interest focus. I was awarded the Public Interest Law Fellowship, which offers many outreach opportunities in the field. 

"Lastly, I chose UMass Law because it is a practical law school. I appreciate that UMass Law focuses on teaching the legal elements we need to know to pass the bar exam and become successful attorneys." 

What do you like most about UMass Law? 

"What I appreciate the most are the opportunities the school provides. Entering law school with a focus on criminal prosecution, I was able to take many practical courses and internships in that field." 

Practical experiences 

"Over the summer after my 1L year, I worked as an intern assigned to the Gang Unit at the Worcester County District Attorney's Office. It was an incredibly valuable experience to research the law and write briefs for the Superior Court on complex legal and factual issues.  
"From the end of my 2L-3L years, I was an intern in District Court with the Bristol County District Attorney's Office as part of the Criminal Prosecution Clinic. I worked under the provisions of SJC (Supreme Judicial Court) Rule 3:0 where a law student who has completed their second year of classes can appear at bar on behalf of the Commonwealth and represent its interests in open court.  

"One of the most interesting and rewarding experiences in all of law school was when I won a motion to revoke a defendant's bail. The defendant—who had broken into her elderly neighbor's home and battered him—was locked up for the next three months pending trial." 

Faculty led to career opportunity

"My experiences with faculty have all been positive. They all genuinely care about student success and will go out of their way to assist students in their goals and endeavors.  

"One example occurred during the summer after my 2L year. I was seeking an internship with the Bristol DA's Office. Professor [Kevin] Connelly reached out to the district attorney and recommended me for an internship. That summer internship led to a post-graduation position as an assistant district attorney in Bristol County." 

What did you do in the Veteran’s Law Association? 

"Our main objective was to serve as mentors for veterans needing assistance especially when learning the VA process. One of the benefits of the GI Bill is a monthly housing allowance. As a 1L, I was not receiving that stipend, as I did not know that I needed to send the VA my discharge paperwork from active duty. I was able to get that fixed, but one of my goals for the organization is to provide guidance to other veterans who may be in similar situations."  

 Prepared law students as a TA

"Working as a TA for Legal Skills and Torts has been one of the most rewarding jobs I have held in law school. I was able to work closely with students to help them develop the skills they need to be successful attorneys." 

U.S. Army National Guard on an aquadam
Former PFC Jonathan Mastler of the U.S. Army National Guard stands on an aquadam in Lake Ontario. A massive tube filled with water, the aquadam was placed between the lake and shoreline property to prevent further flooding after the lake rose several feet. Mastler is now a Senior Airman with the Air National Guard.

Military service 

Thank you for your service. Please tell us about your time in the military. 

"I wanted to make a difference in this world. I want to help people in need who are not able to help themselves.  

"I enlisted in the U.S. Army National Guard in May 2018 followed by Basic Combat Training and then Advanced Individual Training. My first mission was in May 2019, when I assisted flood victims in upstate New York. 

"Between March 2020 and September 2021, I was called up to Federal Active Duty during the pandemic, manning health department call centers and providing security at a hospital in New York. I also spent a month at a vaccination center and ran a medical supplies unit.  

"In 2022, after four years in the Army, I switched over to the Air National Guard. Last summer, I spent four months on Staten Island working with migrants. I now serve in a polar unit and will be landing in the Arctic Circle in August, providing logistical support to National Science Foundation research teams." 

Current reflections and future plans 

Memorable experiences 

"My most memorable experiences would have to be in court. The excitement of standing up and making arguments in open court, the thrill of hearing a judge grant your motion, the look of gratitude and relief on a victim’s face, and the sense of pride in recognizing that justice has been served are all experiences that cannot be topped."   

Advice for future law students 

"If you are a full-time student, law school should be treated as your full-time job. The people who have the greatest likelihood of success in law school are those who take the time and put in the effort required to excel. You need to read, study, and outline every day. 

"Pay attention to details and question everything. Litigations over millions of dollars have been won or lost because of the placement of a comma. Ultimately, remember that you can do this."   

 Do you feel UMass Law has prepared you for your future career? 

"Definitely. I came here knowing that I wanted to be a prosecutor, and UMass Law has set me up perfectly to achieve that goal."