Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Achieving balance, pursuing passions in law school

KU Law Student Ambassador Kriston Guillot
When l entered KU Law, I got involved because I wanted an opportunity to showcase my talents and values. I immediately obtained information on all the clubs and activities offered on campus and joined a few that interested me. Did this increase my workload? Sure, but the knowledge I’ve gained and camaraderie among my peers has been rewarding.

Law school is not just a GPA, it’s an experience. Grades are crucial to what future employers look for, but they are not the only thing they look for. If this was the case, there would be no need for interviews. Getting involved in clubs and activities conveys to an employer that you are a team player, that you are able to be cohesive in a unit and successful at the same time. Clubs and activities give you the opportunity to apply your knowledge outside of the classroom. The skill of knowledge application is a critical piece of learning and what future employers are really looking for. Even more important, clubs and activities provide a needed break from scholastic strain. During orientation, so many speakers spoke of the need to find the proper balance for success. I interpret that as a warning against all work and no play. Activities teach the value of work-life balance.

Law school is a competitive beast. It takes a lot of hard work and discipline, but it can also be the greatest experience of your life. Let the clubs and activities become your creative outlet. When I get bogged down in a mountain of memo research and discovery projects, I relieve the stress by pursuing my passions. I pursue my passion for community service by helping coordinate the Black Law Students Association's food drive, or my passion for litigation by helping defend parking violations in traffic court. Whatever your passion is, pursue it. Be the real you. Be the best you. Let your best qualities show through more than a four-hour final. Find a club that you are passionate about, and get to work.

— Kriston Guillot is a first-year law student from Shawnee, Kansas, and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

EMBRACING THE UNCOMFORTABLE: Student combines language and the law in Beijing

As a dual-degree student working on a J.D. and an M.A. in East Asian Languages and Cultures, I am inevitably asked where I hope these two degrees will lead me. It’s a fair question and the best answer I have is, hopefully anywhere.

I spent this past summer in Beijing doing an intensive Chinese language program. To what extent does a summer studying Chinese in Beijing bear on my legal studies? More than you might think. In an increasingly globalized world, language skills are becoming especially important, and as multicultural interactions increase, so too does the value of language skills. This summer I improved my Chinese language skills, but many memories and lessons I brought back are invaluable souvenirs. Learning is a continual process. I have been advised time and again that the practice of law requires practice. It is a valuable kernel of truth applicable to any study one undertakes. Regardless of how many hours, months or years I have spent studying, there will always be new developments. Statutes and case law change and evolve, and so do the ways in which people, particularly young people, communicate and use language to express themselves. Complacency is not just standing still; it is taking a step backwards. Each day is an opportunity to build upon yesterday’s progress.

I learned the importance of encountering the uncomfortable. There were plenty of moments where I felt uncomfortable and out of place in China. The real work has not been forgetting those uncomfortable moments. The real work has been learning to embrace those moments as experiences that, if nothing else, have built character and molded me into a person that is able to find comfort in the uncomfortable. From the stories experienced lawyers have kindly passed on, it sounds as though being a lawyer often involves helping clients through some of the most uncomfortable moments in life. Knowing how to guide yourself through those moments can go a long way in counseling others to do the same.

I learned to never underestimate the healing power of a good meal. The intensive language program I enrolled in put the tense in intense. I spent five hours a day in classes, had a quiz every single day, a test every single week, and a weekly oral presentation in Chinese. There were many days when it felt impossible to keep up that pace. Those were the days I treated myself to a good meal. A good meal can provide a moment of respite and gratitude when you need a reminder about what’s important in life. In my case the reminder was that each day’s hard work was not a means to an end, but an end in itself. Hopefully this is the lesson I’ll keep in mind as I continue to tackle my studies and my next challenge, embarking on my career. There will undoubtedly be challenges, including many that are impossible to predict. My experiences in law school and around the world might not always provide the answers, but they have provided me the tools to find those answers on my own.

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

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


"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

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.”