Tuesday, October 28, 2014

PIRATES & PROFESSIONAL KARAOKE SINGERS: Students consider alternative careers, decide law school was best choice

Grecia Perez

From time to time, law school can be overwhelming. During moments of distress, I consider everything else I could be doing instead of attending law school. I decided to poll my peers and compile a list of the most insightful answers. Conclusion? Attending law school was clearly the best decision we all could have made:

  1. Locate the bat that spearheaded the Ebola outbreak and ask it: “Dude, what’s your problem?” 2L
  2. Finding, and eating, the perfect bagel. 2L
  3. Determine how long it would take for someone to go insane while walking around Ikea – 3 maybe 4 hours? 2L
  4. Continue my hunt for Florida’s hanging chad. His arms must be getting tired. 2L
  5. Watch time pass stationed in a fire watchtower in a remote wilderness of marginal land. 3L
  6. “There’s nothing I’d rather be doing besides law school” – said no one ever. 2L
  7. The gatekeeper in the far side of darkness. 2L
  8. I’d probably try and get my book on what really happened to Tupac Shakur published, then when that fails, end up back in law school. 2L
  9. Become an architect and redesign Green Hall’s bathrooms. 2L
  10. Watch “The Wire.” 2L
  11. I’d rather be the bat boy for the Kansas City Royals. 2L
  12. Attending Hogwarts and playing on the quidditch team. 2L
  13. Be the custodian at a mud-wrestling arena. 3L
  14. Traveling the world and learning new languages. 3L
  15. Building a “cat snap” empire. 3L
  16. Spend more time training and developing my gadgets to become a better Batman superhero for Gotham and, therefore, the rest of the world. 2L
  17. Finding the perfect cherry turnover recipe. 2L
  18. Golfing and reading everything I can to improve my fantasy football team. 3L
  19. Carrying around Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s booster seat. 3L
  20. Living my life in reality, and not through hypotheticals. 2L
  21. I would become a chef so my job description can be eating all the food in the world. 3L
  22. Fearlessly auditioning to someday land my dream job as a news anchor on “The Today Show.” 2L
  23. Living my dream of becoming a professional “selfie” taker. 2L
  24. Standing in line at the DMV. 3L
  25. Whatever it took to get a ticket to see the Royals in the World Series. 2L
  26. Pursue my dream of becoming a professional karaoke singer. 3L
  27. Shopping. 2L
  28. Enjoying a beer outside in Kansas City! It’s hard not being able to enjoy the great weather we typically have in the area late in the fall. 2L
  29. The sixth member of One Direction. I’m cheeky, everything is better with an American, and statistics suggest that at least one of them is gay and I desperately need a boyfriend. 3L
  30. Rafting in Colorado, living off the land, figuring it out. 2L
  31. I would rather be in any other profession that doesn’t require suits on a regular business day. Sweatpants preferred. 2L
  32. Lying on a beach somewhere, with a drink in hand and sand between my toes. 3L
  33. An international food critic, giving acerbic yet insightful reviews using my charming wit. Basically I want to be Anthony Bourdain. That guy seems to have it figured out. 2L
  34. A World Champion Donkey Kong player. 3L
  35. Trying to become a party in a case in a law school textbook. I mean, have you READ Stambovsky v. Ackley?! 2L
  36. Start my own commune and drive around the country in RVs. 2L
  37. I’d rather be living jobless on a beach somewhere with the money from a large inheritance. 1L
  38. On the island with the person living off of their inheritance. 1L
  39. Making old school hip-hop mix tapes. That, or taking up carpentry and flipping houses. I’m never bored. 2L
  40. Go to D.C. and try to teach Congress common sense, if I hadn’t chosen a profession where I could actually achieve my goals through hard work and perseverance. 2L
  41. Anything else. 2L
  42. Running around the country getting people to put charcoal in their soil. 2L
  43. Leading a super heroic crime-fighting nightlife while wondering what in the world a tort is. 3L
  44. Lying in a sea of corgis with my boyfriend, overlooking a mountain. 2L
  45. I’d rather be a ski bum at a Colorado ski resort and not have a care in the word. There was an explicative in there, but I reined it in. 3L
  46. A professional dog lady. 3L
  47. Move to Somalia and learn how to become a pirate. ARGH! 3L
  48. Jet-setting around the world as Beyonce’s highly paid assistant/eventual best friend. 3L
  49. A professional sports spectator. 2L
  50. Loading a surfboard up on my car after a great day at the beach. 2L
  51. Sleeping. 1L

And finally…

  1. I would rather be Amanda Bynes’ life coach. Girl’s got some problems and could use some direction: “No, sweetheart. Put that back on the ground. That looks sticky.” Easy money. 3L

Grecia Perez is a second-year law student from Boston and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Out of the closet and right at home at KU Law

Travis Freeman, KU Law Student Ambassador

There are many things that make me proud to be a Jayhawk, but in honor of National Coming Out Day on October 11, I wanted to talk about why I think diversity has, and will, play an important part in my law school experience.

When I decided to come to KU Law, one of the things I was really concerned about was the general attitude toward LGBTQ people at the school. I had moved away from Kansas over 13 years ago, and I didn't really remember it being a bastion of liberal ideology. After my departure, I found the strength to come out of the closet and wasn’t especially stoked about the idea of going back in. What I encountered at KU has been the complete opposite. I found a school that not only welcomed diversity, but celebrated it.

I didn’t run through Green Hall screaming, “I’m gaaaaaaaaaay!”, but I didn’t feel like I had to hide it either. I found the culture at KU Law to be incredibly accepting, and I immediately felt comfortable just being myself. During the 1L boot camp, Dean Melanie Wilson pointed out that we are all professionals now, and there is no place for sexism, racism or homophobia in a professional environment. Within my first couple months at school, I had joined the OUTLaws & Allies organization and been invited to a diversity meet-and-greet. At the meet-and-greet, many of the diversity organizations that operate within the law school came together and reaffirmed KU Law’s pledge to diversity. It felt really empowering to know that I had the support of my classmates, the staff and the faculty at the school.

As LGBTQ media visibility continues to rise and waves of court rulings supporting marriage equality sweep the nation, you might be wondering if sexuality is even a relevant issue anymore. To that I say, “You bet it is!” Being exposed to a diverse student body can help prepare you for real life. As lawyers we never know which client is going to walk through our door or which case is going to land on our desk. We need to be able to put aside our personal prejudices and serve the needs of our clients the best we can.

In the classroom, I think diversity brings with it diverse ideas that help facilitate the learning process. Imagine sitting in a class where all of your peers mindlessly nod in agreement to everything someone says. There is no critical thinking there, no academic dialogue. I don’t know about you, but that sounds super boring to me, and so I embrace it when a spirited debate arises from two differing viewpoints. When you have a classroom full of people with different sexualities, religions, ethnicities, political beliefs, etc., you are given access to a wide berth of knowledge and experience that will help you grow personally and professionally.

I think it’s pretty awesome to have a found a place where I feel comfortable being out and being myself. It doesn’t matter if you’re coming out as gay, or as Republican, or just as a huge fan of Nickelback. KU Law has created an environment that feels safe and inclusive for everyone. Because of this, on National Coming Out Day, I didn’t find myself running back into the closet of which I had struggled so hard to come out.

— Travis Freeman is a first-year law student from Olathe, Kansas, and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Why KU Law? Big dreams + rewarding career

Elizabeth Schartz, L'88

KU LAW TEACHES 'FARM GIRL' TO DREAM BIG

"I learned how to dream about a career at KU--everything from a small-town practice to working at the largest firms. I had all those possibilities by getting an education at KU."
A farm girl from rural Kansas, Elizabeth Schartz grew up knowing she would be a lawyer.
“There were five girls in our family, so we had an elaborate chore distribution,” Schartz said. “I thought the arrangement was patently unfair, and when I complained about it I was told to take it to the Supreme Court. I didn’t know what that meant, so I asked my dad.”
Schartz’s father explained that the Supreme Court was a “group of judges that all the other judges, Congress and the president had to listen to,” and that one had to study hard, get good grades and go to law school to get there.
“I had to have been 8 or 9 years old at the time, and I announced, ‘I’m gonna be a lawyer,’” Schartz said. “I didn’t know any lawyers; We didn’t have any lawyers in our family. Neither of my parents went to college. But no one laughed at me or said I couldn’t do it, so I did it.”
It was a big leap from rural Cimarron to the state’s largest university, but Phil and Pat Ridenour, a husband-wife team of KU Law graduates, convinced Schartz to make the move. The Ridenours, both from rural communities, excelled at KU and built a successful practice in Cimarron. “Had I not had that encouragement, I’m not positive I would have gone to KU,” Schartz said. “For a small-town girl, it seemed such a big university.”
Law school brought academic challenge and classmates from prestigious universities. Schartz graduated from a small liberal arts college in western Kansas. “Although I didn’t have the undergrad credentials, I appeared to be just as smart as they were,” Schartz said. “I decided that just meant I needed to work harder.”
Schartz built relationships with her professors, who encouraged her to apply for a clerkship. She spent a summer working at Foulston Siefkin in Wichita alongside talented attorneys, many of them KU graduates from small towns. “It was a revelation about the work they did and the level of sophistication,” Schartz said. “It opened a world of possibilities that didn’t exclude staying in Kansas but also didn’t exclude working in a big city.”
After graduation, Schartz accepted a position with Thompson & Knight in Dallas. “My thought was I would come to Dallas for a few years, learn what it was like to practice at a big firm, then come back to Kansas,” Schartz said. Twenty-five years later, she’s still in Dallas.
Schartz practices employment law, representing management and offering day-to-day advice. She is drawn to the dynamic nature of the field with its new statutes and ever-changing interpretations, and opportunity for advocacy through litigation. “The clients we deal with want to do the right thing, and we can help them do that,” Schartz said.
Schartz works alongside attorneys with diverse educational backgrounds, but she feels KU’s small class sizes and accessible faculty gave her an advantage. Clinical programs are also an asset. “It used to be the firms were looking for just the best and brightest – good writers, deep thinkers,” Schartz said. “Today, firms want lawyers to have as much practical experience as they can stepping out of law school.”
Perhaps the most important thing Schartz learned at KU was how to dream, and dream big.
“I learned how to dream about a career,” she said. “The great thing about that dream was that it included everything from a small-town practice to working at the largest firms out there. I had all those possibilities by getting an education at KU. None were closed to me. That’s as true today as it was when I stepped foot on campus in ’85.”

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

AFFORDABLE PRICE, DEGREE PORTABILITY ALLOW ALUMNUS TO PURSUE PASSIONS
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.