Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Why KU Law? Affordability + quality of life

Amanda Angell, L'15

Amanda Angell, L'15 
"You have to look beyond getting into law school and think of what your life will look like after."

As an experienced professional, wife and mother of two young children, Amanda Angell had to weigh the pragmatic aspects of law school along with her career aspirations.

Angell taught music but felt drawn to a new career. She began researching law schools, studying for the LSAT after her kids went to bed.

“At the end it was a matter of my debt load and what our lives would look like after I graduated,” Angell said. She created two spreadsheets: one detailing tuition costs, rent and day care during school, and a second detailing median salary, student loan payment and mortgage payment after graduation.

“I got into some pretty high-ranked schools with high median salaries, but found I would actually bring home more money in Kansas,” Angell said, noting that her KU debt load will be a third of what it would have been elsewhere.

In the end, the decision came down to her family’s quality of life.

“We wanted to make sure my husband would teach in a good school district, that the kids would have access to quality public schools and we could afford good housing.”

At KU, Angell developed an interest in health care law, taking courses ranging from Health Law and Policy to Health Care Finance and Regulation to Insurance Law. Her experience helped her land a summer position with Forbes Law Group in Overland Park, where she worked with the firm’s seven attorneys, handling provider disputes with payers.

“It’s a small firm, so I was treated just like an associate,” Angell said. “I worked on significant projects that I wouldn’t have gotten the opportunity to work on if I had been at a large firm.”

Angell’s firm helped physicians and practices navigate changes brought by the Affordable Care Act and the transition to electronic medical records. “It’s an area of growth,” Angell says of the field. “Right now it’s very intense. There are a lot of compliance issues that arise as the law changes and more parts are implemented. It’s valuable for physicians and hospitals to have qualified counsel who specialize in health.”

Collaboration with senior attorneys was Angell’s favorite part of the job. “They’ve been really open with sharing how they interact with clients, how they work through issues, how they counsel entities when issues arise,” Angell said. “That’s my favorite part of the day, seeing how they navigate client issues.”

Beyond the hands-on experience, Angell is earning a Tribal Lawyer Certificate and is an active member of the Native American Law Students Association, competing in the National NALSA Moot Court Competition, which she calls the “best experience I’ve had in law school.”

“She really pushed me to be more confident about what I know,” Angell said of NALSA advisor and moot court coach Elizabeth Kronk Warner. “It was a really positive experience working with seven other NALSA members who were very supportive, weren’t afraid to offer constructive criticism and help each other get to the next level in our writing, oral arguments and advocacy.”

Angell is currently drafting an article exploring the federal regulation of tribal pharmacies and will be working with the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic during her final year of law school.

“I’m interested in the intersection between federal Indian law and health care law,” Angell said. “The Indian law community in Kansas is fantastic. People are warm and open about sharing their experience, what coursework was helpful, what experience was like as a tribal attorney. The more I learned, the more I saw value in learning about issues that arise with the law and tribes as sovereigns.”

Angell advises prospective students to visit Lawrence and see if KU is the right fit.

“I think the most valuable thing you can do is come visit,” she said. “KU is different. The environment is friendly. Professors are willing to go out of their way to help you.”

When it comes to choosing a law school, she recommends taking a long-term approach. “You have to look beyond getting into law school and think of what your life will look like after.”

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Why KU Law? Affordability + portability

Justin Hendrix, L'09

Justin Jendrix, L'09
"KU gave me the freedom to pursue the type of law I wanted to practice, and to practice it how and where I wanted."
Justin Hendrix studied nuclear and mechanical engineering as an undergraduate, but it was an internship in Washington, D.C., that ignited his interest in law and public policy.
“I had learned the science, but I wanted to understand law and the legislative process,” Hendrix said. “For me, law school was the best way to do that.”
Today, Hendrix explores both law and science in a career focused on intellectual property. The KU alumnus currently clerks for Judge Alvin A. Schall at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit, which handles patent law, international trade issues and Veterans Affairs cases, among other things.
“It’s a fun part of the job, combining the science and engineering with the law, whether it be software or high-tech inventions,” Hendrix said. “You have to learn the engineering and science aspect, too, and that’s fun for me.”
Although he grew up in Kansas, Hendrix always thought he might eventually want to practice on the East Coast. “In picking a law school, the decision for me was between going to KU or an East Coast school, considering the traditional wisdom that you go to school where you want to work,” Hendrix said. “When I read about KU and looked to see what other students had done, it was clear that KU grads were working everywhere. A lot find jobs in the Midwest, but a lot work on both coasts. I went to KU knowing all options would be open.”
Hendrix also sought a school with an affordable price tag so that he would be free to pursue the career path he wanted. “If I wanted to do public policy or government work but had $150,000 in debt, is it even possible?” Hendrix asked. “I didn’t want to be saddled down with that much debt. KU provided an alternative. KU had faculty with impressive credentials, a track record of alumni that were working all over the country and a price that couldn’t be beat. KU gave me the freedom to pursue the type of law I wanted to practice, and to practice it how and where I wanted.”
Following a summer internship with intellectual property law firm Finnegan, Henderson, Farabow, Garrett & Dunner LLP in Washington, D.C., Hendrix accepted a position with the firm after graduation. He practiced patent law there for four years before beginning his clerkship at the Federal Circuit. When his clerkship ends, Hendrix plans to return to patent law, this time practicing at Finnegan’s Palo Alto, California, office.
Whether he remains on the coast or eventually returns to the Midwest, Hendrix knows that his KU Law degree will continue to serve him well.
“There are a lot of KU Law graduates who work in the Midwest and stay there for good reason,” he said. “But there’s no reason you can’t work on either coast or anywhere in between.”

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Why KU Law? People, practical experience

Jordan Carter, L’15
3L savors practical opportunities in welcoming environment

"You want to be in a place that welcomes you and wants you to succeed."
As an undergraduate, Jordan Carter studied problems. The third-year law student majored in women and gender studies and psychology, becoming well-versed in social injustices. After graduation, she wanted to explore the other side of that coin.
“It taught me how to read and read and read and write a lot,” Carter said of her liberal arts background. “But we never really talked about solutions and how to make an impact. Law school has been a fun change. We focus a lot more on solutions and remedies to those problems.”
Carter admits that choosing a law school was a stressful process, but visiting her top choices helped her find the best fit. “I was looking for a place where I felt comfortable with the people – where I was inspired by them but could see myself being friends with them too,” she said.
Courses at most law schools are similar, so what sets them apart are the people and the opportunities for practical experience, Carter said. She found both at KU, plus a price tag that wouldn’t leave her a quarter of a million dollars in debt like other schools she considered.
“At other places, I could just feel the stress of law school and the underlying competition,” she said. “It seemed like their worlds revolved around grades and classes and rankings. To a certain extent you can’t avoid that, but in Lawrence people had more of a balance in their lives and that was something I wanted in my own law school experience.”
Hands-on learning opportunities also set KU apart. Carter participated in the Judicial  Clinic and the Project for Innocence and interned twice with the Kansas City law firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon.
“You’re thrown into real work,” Carter said of her internship experience. In just a few summer months she drafted memos, worked on demonstratives for personal injury trials and wrote state surveys for clients wanting to learn about regulations. “People told me before law school that it was nothing like practicing, but my experiences have carried over. The things I was writing in my Lawyering class are very similar to what they expect here. It’s been comforting and exciting to see that we are actually being prepared for working at a big firm.”
Carter encourages anyone struggling with their law school decision to come to Lawrence. “Visit, and you will immediately feel the community that exists,” she said. “You want to be in a place that welcomes you and wants you to succeed, not like you’re another tuition payment. I did not think I would be at a school where almost every professor knows my name and wants to know how I’m doing. If you’re going to invest three years and a lot of money, you want a place you like, where they like you.”

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Traffic Court puts 1L in fast lane to litigation experience

KU Law student Ian Patterson represents the University of Kansas in a Traffic Court case

I’ll tell you right now, your first year of law school is a lot of reading and writing. Although reading and writing will be a large part of any attorney’s job, other skills like client communication, oral argumentation, and basic courtroom etiquette are equally essential. One of the coolest things I’ve experienced here at KU Law is the opportunity to get involved in low-stakes litigation as a first-year student.

With that lead in, let’s talk about something near and dear to my heart: Traffic Court. The University of Kansas is large, with a correspondingly large number of parking lots. When people get parking tickets on campus, they have the opportunity to appeal to the KU Court of Parking Appeals, which is staffed by none other than the students of KU Law. The first-year students get to serve as attorneys, and the second- and third-year students serve as judges.

Your case

One of the coolest things about Traffic Court is that in September of your first year of law school, you can be representing clients. Although the appeals are for parking tickets, I assure you, the clients are very real. They have a story, agenda, and stake in the outcome of your performance. Being a lawyer requires a “bedside manner” of sorts, and there is no substitute for experience. Being able to represent clients right out of the shoot makes you feel like a lawyer, act like a lawyer, and improve as a lawyer.

Your research

Once you have a client and understand his or her case, the next step is to begin to research arguments to support your client’s position. Traffic Court is unique in that it has a narrow body of case law created and followed exclusively by the KU Court of Parking Appeals. It is the responsibility of the attorneys to look at prior Traffic Court cases and make comparisons and distinctions with the ultimate aim of forming a coherent argument in favor of your client. As a practicing attorney this is exactly the kind of thing you will be doing on a regular basis. Getting familiar with the process early is immensely beneficial to you and your clients.

Your argument

This is the fun part. Now that you’ve researched the relevant cases and formed an argument, its time to take it for a test drive. Traffic Court normally gives each side seven minutes for oral arguments with the defense attorney going first. My favorite part of oral argument is that it very rapidly turns into a discussion. The justices are interested in probing the limits of your argument, clarifying your facts, and testing the practical application of your legal theory. They do this by interrupting you with questions. As frustrating as this can be, it is once again an example of something you will have to do in practice.

Your experience

At the conclusion of your arguments, the justices critique the attorneys for both sides. They suggest alternative arguments, way to improve your presentation, and pointers on courtroom etiquette. I can tell you first hand that each time you go into Traffic Court you will do better than your previous performance, and you will be improved when you leave. Law is a practice because there is no substitute for experience. That fact that you can start gaining that experience in September of your first year is an unbeatable opportunity.

Furthermore, the structure of Traffic Court speaks to the collaborative community at KU Law my fellow bloggers have pointed out. Traffic Court is entirely student driven. You are getting feedback from your peers, and those peers want to see you succeed. They also want to see you improve and will let you know where that can happen.

I’ll leave you with this final thought: There are few things more satisfying than standing in the KU Law courtroom as a 1L and saying, “Your Honor, the University appears by Ian Patterson, prosecuting attorney, KU Court of Parking Appeals.”

Then again, I did write an entire blog about it, so maybe I’m biased.

Ian Patterson is a first-year law student and KU Law Student Ambassador from Minneapolis, Minn.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Will this be on the exam? Succeeding in law school with the Coffee Consumption Calculation

The Coffee Consumption Calculation

When starting law school, there is a common assumption you will finally be relieved of all the math and science you dreaded through undergrad and before. But little did you know, law school is just another three years of equations and balancing tests. In Torts, you deal with Judge Hand’s negligence formula. In Con Law, you use the Pike balancing test. Even in Lawyering you are supposed to balance all these factors in some sort of totality of circumstances way.

Ashley Akers

I’ve come to accept I will never escape these scientific formulas. Instead, I decided to enjoy the math and science of law school. This led me to my greatest law school accomplishment: the Coffee Consumption Calculation. Unlike these other law school formulas, this five-part test is absolutely crucial to functioning properly in law school. It has been tested for approximately two full semesters, and I assure you it is infallible.

Keep track of your points carefully:

Part One

What half of the semester are you in?

  • 2 point for first half
  • 3 points for second half

Part Two

What day of the week is it?

  • 5 points for Monday
  • 4 points for Tuesday
  • 3 points for Wednesday
  • 2 points for Thursday
  • 1 point for Friday

Part Three

How many hours did you sleep last night?

  • 0 points for 8+ hours
  • 1 point for 6-8 hours
  • 2 points for 4-6 hours
  • 3 points for 2-4 hours
  • 4 points for 0-2 hours

Part Four

How many classes do you have today?

  • 3 points for 1-3 classes
  • 4 points for 3-5 classes
  • Don't get out of bed for 5+ classes

Part Five

Additional factors

  • OCI day: Cut the points in half so you don't squirm all interview
  • If you’re "up" in class: Add 1 point
  • Have a lot to drink last night? Add 2 points
  • Sitting in one of the freezing rooms for class? Add 2 points


Add up all your points.

  • Every 4 points = 1 pot of coffee
  • An extra 2 points adds 1/2 pot
  • 1 extra point adds a shot of espresso

Example 1: 13 points = 3 pots plus 1 point leftover adds 1 shot of espresso.

Example 2: 14 points = 3 pots plus 2 points leftover adds 1/2 pot of coffee.

Disclaimer: Please keep in mind this calculation is a bare minimum. Nothing, including this calculation, is keeping you from drinking more coffee as needed.

Ashley Akers is a first-year law student and KU Law Student Ambassador from Casper, Wyoming.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Lawyer suits, eye patches and peg legs, oh my!

KU Law 2014 Jessup International Law Moot Court team

Back in February, KU's international moot court team traveled to Denver, Colorado to compete in the 55th annual Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. The Jessup Moot Court competition is the world’s largest moot court competition, with participants from 80 countries and more than 550 law schools. The competition is based on a fact pattern that draws on contemporary international legal issues and themes.

This year, the problem focused on the law of the sea, and included pirates, artificial islands, and shipwrecks (oh, my!). I, along with my four other team members and Professor John Head, our faculty advisor, packed our nicest suits, eye patches, and peg legs, and took off for Denver University’s Sturm College of Law to compete in regionals.

The competition was fierce, and our team faced many worthy opponents. Our performance was based on our memorial submission, which took most of winter break to complete (hey, I can’t make Jessup sound like it is all fun and no work) and our performances during oral arguments. While our team did not advance to the international rounds this year, we did not come home empty handed. One of our team members, Ashley Akers, was a Top 5 Oralist at the competition and plundered a shiny new plaque from the high seas to show off around Green Hall. We also had the chance to make friends with students from the region, who were able to share in some of the highs and lows of the competition. (Please do not insert Colorado “Rocky Mountain High” joke here). Although it was an unofficial honor, our competitors graciously bestowed upon us the honor of “Best Team to Have a Beer With.”

When we weren’t facing off against competitors or making friends, we were enjoying Denver. Between rounds, we fortified ourselves with Qdoba and Snarf’s sandwiches, which became my local favorite. We also worked in some sightseeing and saw the very first Chipotle. Our team nearly passed out from all the excitement.

All in all we had a lot of laughs and worked our tails off. I could not be more proud of the team. It would have been great to advance to internationals and compete in Washington, D.C., but it sure tempers the sting of defeat coming home with a new plaque and having met some wonderful and incredibly talented new friends. Now if only Southwest could give Jon his luggage back, we could all retire our peg legs, fog machines, and pirate jokes, and resume our lives back here in Green Hall. Until next year!

Kasey Considine is a second-year law student and KU Law Student Ambassador from Boston.

Monday, March 31, 2014

Maintaining a healthy balance in law school

Johnathan Koonce, KU Law student Before applying to law school, I talked to as many people as I could about their law school experiences. The recurring theme was this: “Law school is extremely hard” and “Don’t go to law school unless you are sure that’s what you want to do.” I thought to myself, “How hard could it really be?”

To my surprise, the warnings I received were true. Law school is, in fact, hard, and it does take up the majority of my time. So I had to find ways to stay healthy and sane in such a pressure cooker of an environment.

First, I have found that it is imperative to have at least one fun thing to look forward to each week. Although most of my time is spent studying, there are plenty of ways to decompress. I recommend carving out some time each week to do something fun.

My personal happy place is playing pick-up basketball with other law students once or twice a week. On the first day of 1L orientation, I quickly found that a number of my classmates enjoy playing basketball, too. There's even a Facebook group that helps law students find dates and times to organize a few games. I find that these weekly games are a great way for me to escape the traditional worries of school and just enjoy the moment.

If basketball isn’t of interest, there are many other ways to spend your time. KU Recreation Services has a fantastic gym, equipped with a climbing wall and racquetball courts.

Beyond physical activity, the law school itself, or groups within it, facilitate and host fun social events. In the past couple of weeks, three events have taken place that bring together law students, professors, guests and alumni to enjoy an evening out: the Diversity Banquet, the Hope Gala (formally known as Pub Night), and Barrister’s Ball. Most notable of the three for me is Barrister’s Ball, also known as Law Prom. This was my first year attending, and it was a blast. It is always fun to have a reason to dress up and enjoy a night of food, drinks, friends and dancing. Law Prom is one night that the law school student body looks forward to each year, and it almost always sells out.

I have also found that spending time with friends and family has been helpful in relieving stress. Taking time off on a Friday or Saturday to grab a bite to eat or watch a basketball game with friends helps take my mind off school just long enough to for me to recharge and prevent burnout. The key is finding a balance that works best.

Last, but not least, sleep is crucial to my success. If I want to fully function each day, I need an adequate amount of sleep each night. Getting the right amount of sleep and practicing healthy eating habits (or at least eating regularly) helps keep my mind and body strong enough to endure the ups and downs of law school.

Law school is hard work. What makes it bearable and more enjoyable is managing your time and taking advantage of fun activities outside the classroom. I encourage students to find the balance that works best for them.

Johnathan Koonce is a second-year law student and KU Law Student Ambassador from Colorado Springs, CO.