KU Law banner carrier graduates with a J.D. and a Ph.D.

KU Law banner carrier Michael Hayes graduated with both a J.D. and a Ph.D. Photo by Earl Richardson Photography.

Michael Hayes graduated from the University of Kansas with not one, but two, doctoral degrees this past weekend.

He earned a Juris Doctorate (J.D.) from the University of Kansas School of Law and a Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.) from KU’s Department of Philosophy.

At the University Commencement ceremony on May 19, Hayes was the banner carrier for KU Law. Hayes was selected by the law faculty for this honor because of his exemplification of student excellence.

“It’s a great honor to carry the banner at graduation. I was excited to have that opportunity,” Hayes said. “After seven years in graduate school, I was ready to walk down that hill.”

At KU Law, Hayes served as the Executive Note & Comment Editor for the Kansas Law Review and as president of the St. Thomas More Society. Outside of the classroom, he was a summer law clerk at Shook, Hardy & Bacon LLP in both 2017 and 2018, and has served as a legal intern at the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Kansas City, Kansas since last August.

Hayes is originally from Pittsburg, Kansas. He earned an undergraduate degree in philosophy from the University of Dallas in 2012.

Hayes fell in love with reading, writing and analyzing arguments during his college years, which jump-started his decision to pursue a Ph.D. in philosophy. Four years into KU’s Philosophy Ph.D. program, he added law to his studies.

“I knew that the job prospects were hard to come by in academic philosophy, and that in all likelihood I would ultimately need to seek non-academic employment,” Hayes said. “I wanted to find a job where I could continue to do what I love — reading, writing, and analyzing arguments — and law seemed like the most obvious option.”

Recently, Hayes successfully defended his dissertation, “Thomistic Approaches to Welfare Theory.”

“I argue that the thought of Thomas Aquinas can provide a richer understanding of what’s good for us than many of the other theories that are popular today,” Hayes explained. “I thought that our conversation about human well-being would be enriched by a better understanding of what philosophers like Thomas Aquinas say on the matter.”

By studying both law and philosophy, Hayes has earned a well-rounded education.

“By studying law, I’ve gained a certain amount of practical knowledge,” Hayes said. “By studying philosophy, I’ve gained a certain amount of theoretical knowledge.”

Michael and Erin Hayes are pictured with their three daughters.

Hayes said the biggest challenge about pursuing a J.D. and Ph.D. concurrently was maintaining balance. Luckily, he had a great support system at home supporting his academic endeavors.

“Between taking law classes, working at legal internships, teaching philosophy classes and writing a dissertation, things can get pretty busy,” Hayes said. “My family has been a huge help in that respect — when you’ve got a loving wife and three adorable kiddos to come home to, it’s hard to stay focused on school all day. And that’s a good thing,” Hayes said.

Hayes hopes to use the experience and knowledge he’s gained from studying both law and philosophy to launch his career.

“I’ve been able to use the skills and knowledge that I’ve gained by studying philosophy throughout law school, and I hope to continue to use it in my legal career,” Hayes said.

After graduation, Michael will be doing a one-year judicial clerkship for Judge Steven Grasz on the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals in Omaha. Once his clerkship is complete, he plans on practicing civil litigation for a firm in Kansas City, Missouri.

— By Ashley Hocking

The best parts of law school, according to a departing 3L

I struggled mightily with what to write for this blog. How do I encapsulate three years of blood, sweat, caffeine and tears in 700(ish) words? I decided that the only way to this would be a personal favorite blog method of mine: power rankings. So without further ado, welcome to the KU Law Class of 2019 Years-In-Review Power Rankings (working title). The rankings will be in reverse order because I firmly believe in the principle of saving the best for last.

5. Bluebook Relays: The Bluebook Relays were a phenomenal time. The idea is brilliant: how can we take a bunch of uber-competitive, fresh-faced 1Ls and bring out the best in them? Answer: make them put on costumes and then put them in a pressure cooker until one group scrapes by with decent enough Bluebook citations to be declared the winner. Our class was incredibly creative (shout out Ken Bone) and ultimately a winner was declared, but at the end of the Relays, we had officially become classmates. We all won that day.

4. TGITs (R.I.P.): For many of us, walking into Green Hall for those first couple of weeks was a terrifying experience. Knowing very few people and having to make connections on the fly while also learning how to be law students was a tricky experience. Luckily for our class, we were given a respite from the stress and anxiety each Thursday evening at a local watering hole. Those TGITs are where many of us really met our fellow classmates as well as upperclassmen for the first time and gave us an opportunity to blow off some steam with our friends and colleagues who understood the stress that we all were facing on a daily basis. Those TGITs are wonderful memories for many of us and hopefully in the future other classes will have the opportunity to revive the long-standing KU Law tradition. Rest easy TGITs, you will always be remembered fondly.

3. Finishing 1L Year: Oh, what a magnificent feeling. After months of stress, anxiety and feeling like there was no end in sight, the light at the end of the 1L tunnel appeared and after that last final was complete and turned in for better or worse, we had done it. One year in the books. Though only a third of the way to graduation, it felt as if we had finished a marathon. I will only speak for myself, but there was no keeping the jubilation at bay that day. For the first time in a while, it felt like this whole law school thing was achievable. Two years later that feeling of relief, joy and a fair bit of caffeine withdrawal, still stands out.

2. Last Hurrahs for Professors: I feel that our class was incredibly fortunate in the timing of our entry into law school as we were able to participate in a few long-term professors’ final classes at KU Law. While all of our professors have been incredible teachers, colleagues, counselors and even friends, I want to give special recognition to three professors that gave their final acts of enthusiasm, energy and expertise to us and graced us with their teaching. Professors William Westerbeke, Webb Hecker and Phillip DeLaTorre, you were excellent ambassadors for the law school, unbelievable professors of the law and true giants of your craft. We were blessed to have learned from you and all three of you deserve every ounce of joy and happiness you have enjoyed or will enjoy after you move on from KU Law. Thank you for your service and dedication, all of KU Law throughout the years is grateful for the time you chose to spend with us in Lawrence.

1. Graduation (prospectively): I’m cheating on this one because it hasn’t happened yet, but obviously graduation is what this has all been about. Though in the darkest times it may have seemed like this rollercoaster ride would never end, we are mere days from exiting Green Hall for good and going forth as graduates. It has been fun, it has been occasionally not fun and it has been a whirlwind of emotions for all of us. But we did it, we are about to cross the finish line, and though this feels like the end of a long story, it is just the end of a chapter. We will all go forward and continue to write our individual stories, but for three years, we shared in the same tale. I want to thank all of the Class of 2019 for the memories and experiences. I wish every one of you nothing but the best in the future.

—  Aaron Holmes is a 3L from Hutchinson and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

Mike Kautsch to retire after 40 years at KU

Longtime media law professor Mike Kautsch is retiring after the spring semester. Kautsch is pictured in front of a mural made from a historic photograph of the Emporia Gazette newsroom. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

After four decades at KU, media law professor Mike Kautsch is retiring after the spring semester. Kautsch who has focused on First Amendment protection for newspapers and other media, is a former journalist and former dean of the journalism school.  

“I truly have enjoyed the University of Kansas,” Kautsch said. “It’s been a fabulous institution.”

After Kautsch retires from teaching, he plans to remain active in the sphere of the First Amendment and laws that require government officials to open their records and meetings to the public. With the help of four former KU Law students, Kautsch formed the Kansas Institute for Government Transparency, Inc.

Mike Kautsch served as the dean of the University of Kansas’ William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications from 1987 – 1997. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

KIGT aims to educate the public about transparency laws; privacy rules and regulations that affect the public’s access to information; and citizens’ First Amendment rights to express themselves freely.

Kautsch taught at the University of Kansas’ William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications for 18 years and at the University of Kansas School of Law for 22 years. During his time at the journalism school, he served as dean for a decade.

Kautsch left his post as journalism dean in 1997 to develop a program on Media, Law and Policy at KU Law. In 2011, the name of the program was changed to Media, Law and Technology to adapt to the growing influence of technology in the reporting and gathering of news.

“Technological change is something that needs attention in a curriculum like ours here at the KU School of Law,” Kautsch said. “It so drastically influences human behavior. We have to try to make sure the law keeps up with that.”

The Media, Law and Technology program includes courses on media law, First Amendment advocacy, privacy and intellectual property. Kautsch’s favorite course to teach is Media and the First Amendment.

“I’ve really enjoyed working with students to identify and understand the implications of various First Amendment precedents,” Kautsch said.

Mike Kautsch received the H.O.P.E. (Honor for the Outstanding Progressive Educator) Award in 1985. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

Kautsch has received a number of awards, including the Honor for the Outstanding Progressive Educator Award in 1985 and the Outstanding Service Award from the Kansas Bar Association in 1997 for his contributions to media-bar relations.

In 2017, he was inducted into the Kansas Newspaper Hall of Fame.

Kautsch has helped plan and present the annual Media and the Law Seminar in Kansas City, Missouri for many years. He also incorporated the seminar into the curriculum for the Media, Law and Technology program to ensure that KU Law students were involved in the seminar.

Mike Kautsch, and his wife Elaine, received a James Woods Green Medallion award from the KU Endowment Association in 2008. The medallion is named in honor of KU Law’s first dean. Photo from KU Endowment and KU Law, courtesy of Mike Kautsch.

“I was happy to be able to involve students as delegates from the law school to attend the seminar,” Kautsch said. “For them, it was a great opportunity to network and meet practicing media lawyers from all over the country.”

In addition to teaching, Kautsch has testified before Kansas legislative committees on media-related bills, chaired the Media Bar Committee of the Kansas Bar Association and served on the legislative affairs committee of the Media Law Resource Center in New York.

Kautsch is also a longtime media law consultant to the Kansas Press Association. In 2010, he was one of the leaders of the effort in Kansas to establish a new shield law for journalists. The shield law spells out circumstances in which reporters may quash subpoenas demanding the identities of their confidential sources.

Professor Mike Kautsch is pictured with students at KU Law’s annual Barber Emerson Bluebook Relays in 2016.

“It took probably 10 years, but eventually the Kansas Legislature did enact a reporter shield law,” Kautsch said. “It’s on the books to this day. It was pretty rewarding to have that.”

Kautsch holds degrees in journalism and law from the University of Iowa. Before coming to KU, he worked as a newspaper journalist for about 10 years, mostly in the South.

As a Nebraska native, he was initially drawn to KU because it reminded him of his Midwestern roots.

“When I first visited Kansas, I had this strong sense that I was home,” Kautsch said. “It felt natural to be here. The sense of community here at KU has really solidified my feeling that this was home for me.”

— By Ashley Hocking

Webb Hecker to retire after 47 years of teaching

Photo courtesy of Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

Business law professor Webb Hecker has helped shape the minds of thousands of Jayhawk lawyers. After 47 years of teaching at the University of Kansas School of Law, he is retiring at the end of the summer.

The night before he taught his first class, Hecker considered booking a plane ticket to somewhere far away in order to avoid having to speak in front of a room full of law students. Despite his initial fear of public speaking, Hecker has thrived in the classroom and is one of the law school’s most well-respected teachers.

Hecker began teaching at KU Law on August 16, 1972. He is the last member of the faculty who taught at Old Green Hall, which was the home of the law school until 1977. Old Green Hall is now known as Lippincott Hall.

Webb Hecker leads the Walk to Old Green Hall, an annual pilgrimage to the law school’s former home, and shares stories with students along the way. Photo by KU Marketing Communications / Andy White.

“A lot of things have changed since 1972, but the one thing that has been constant is that the KU Law students are consistently a really good, nice and genuine group of people,” Hecker said. “It’s been a true pleasure to try to go in and help them get started down the right road toward their professions.”

Hecker has had the second longest teaching career at KU Law in the school’s 141-year history. Martin Dickinson, who retired in 2015, taught at KU Law for 48 years.

“I’ve loved every minute of it. I really have,” Hecker said. “I love Lawrence, and I love my colleagues. I can’t believe there’s a more collegial faculty at any law school in the country.”

He holds law degrees from Wayne State University and Harvard University. Prior to joining the KU Law faculty, he practiced business law for a few years at the Detroit firm of Miller, Canfield, Paddock & Stone.

He went into teaching because he sought after the opportunity to think and write about law on a daily basis.

“Probably unlike most law students, I really enjoyed law school,” Hecker said. “I really enjoy reading cases and thinking about law. To me, the practice of law wasn’t as intellectually fulfilling as law school was.”

KU Law Professors Webb Hecker and Elinor Schroeder converse in the front office of Green Hall. Schroeder retired in May 2017 after teaching at KU Law for 40 years. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

After spending a weekend interviewing for law teaching jobs through the Association of American Law Schools Faculty Recruitment Conference — which Webb jokingly referred to as the “meat market” — he was drawn to the University of Kansas.

“Kansas found me. I came here for a weekend and I fell in love with the faculty, the university and the town,” he said. “I told my wife, ‘Boy, I hope I get an offer. I’m going to cancel the other interviews. This is where I want to be.’”

He was offered a position at KU Law a few days later, and the rest is history.  

Webb Hecker’s office has been located in 414D Green Hall since 1977. Photo courtesy of Kenneth Spencer Research Library, University of Kansas Libraries.

Throughout his career, he has taught a variety of different law courses, including business associations, contract drafting, deals, due diligence in business transactions, and mergers and acquisitions.

Hecker’s favorite course to teach is Business Associations II, which he has taught every year for the past 47 years. He describes it akin to a several hundred piece jigsaw puzzle.

“You spend the whole semester taking the separate little pieces, looking at them, examining them and figuring out how they fit in the whole puzzle,” Hecker said. “It was satisfying to me when I did it for the first time. And now, it is continually satisfying to me to be able to try to help the students see that same thing.”

In 2017, Hecker received the Chancellors Club Career Teaching Award from KU Endowment’s Chancellors Club, recognizing a career in teaching and putting students first. Hecker’s many other teaching awards include the Immel Award for Teaching Excellence in 1996, the W.T. Kemper Fellowship for Teaching Excellence in 2000 and the Frederick J. Moreau Advising Award in 2008. He was the Robert A. Schroeder Teaching Fellow from 1990 to 1993 and was named the Centennial Teaching Professor in 2015.

In addition to teaching, Hecker co-directed the Polsinelli Transactional Law Center. Hecker is an active member of the business law sections of the American and Kansas bar associations. He has also served as both administrator and coach for KU Law’s transactional law competition teams since 2013.

In 2017, Webb Hecker received the Chancellors Club Career Teaching Award from KU Endowment’s Chancellors Club, recognizing a career in teaching and putting students first. Photo by KU Marketing Communications.

Although he’s received offers to work at other law schools throughout the past half a century, Hecker’s loyalty to KU Law never faltered.

“If you’ve found something that you like so much and you’re convinced there isn’t anything better out there, it’s easy to stay,” he said.

Upon his retirement, Hecker is looking forward to spending more time with his wife, Anna, and their sons Matt and Jake, L’06. He also plans to continue windsurfing, which has been a passion of his since the ‘80s.

By Ashley Hocking

Law firm supports students, funds scholarship

Photo by Nicki Griffith Photography.

Wagstaff & Cartmell LLP in Kansas City, Missouri is committed to giving back to the University of Kansas School of Law.

The law firm established the Wagstaff & Cartmell Law Scholarship with a $50,000 gift to KU Law. The fund will provide unrestricted support to the law school.

Tom Cartmell, L’94, is the firm’s chairman and co-founder. Cartmell and several of the firm’s partners who contributed to the gift are alumni of the law school.

“We are proud of the close connection the vast majority of our lawyers have to the University of Kansas School of Law,” Cartmell said. “We are fortunate to consistently hire law clerks and recent graduates as additions to our firm.”

Wagstaff & Cartmell law firm also provided $100,000 in unrestricted support to law school scholarships during the five-year fundraising campaign, “Far Above: The Campaign for Kansas.”

Make a gift.

By Ashley Hocking

Embracing the uncertainty

Within the first hours of law school, all 1Ls are taught to embrace the uncertainty in the law. Little did I know, uncertainty would become a constant in my life. It started as merely a part of what I do, and it has become a part of who I am. 

My first experience with uncertainty came in my last year of undergrad through KU’s accelerated LEAD program. Specifically, it was in the “Intro to Law” class, where I, a biology major and thoroughly scientific person, struggled with the uncertainty of the law. I came from a black-and-white place where everything had a single, right answer. But here, everything is up for interpretation. Here, every answer starts with “arguably,” “probably,” and of course the crowd favorite; “it depends.” The number of right answers is practically endless. It is limited only by the imagination and case citations. It took me a few months of actual law school to become comfortable with answering these types of questions. Then, towards the end of my 1L year, I think I almost preferred them. I learned to handle the uncertainty, but — to be fair — I had no choice but to learn. Law school yanked me from my comfort zone and forced me to adapt.

My second experience with uncertainty came when it was time for me to pick my own schedule for the 2L fall. Even though I had picked my own schedule all through undergrad, this time felt different. This time, enrollment required more thought and carried more weight. From the lengthy course catalog, I was choosing which skills I wanted to develop, which areas I wanted to specialize in and which professors I wanted to build relationships with. In addition to classes, I had to choose which side opportunities to pursue. Should I do research? Should I work? What about clubs and positions around the school? There was so much I wanted to do. The number of options was endless. It is limited only by my fear of overextending myself. Surprisingly, I found my answer when I embraced the uncertainty in my future. Call it a leap of faith, but I ultimately committed to focusing on one path — litigation — and ran with it. Today, that is probably the best decision I have ever made. Again, law school yanked me out of my comfort zone and forced me to adapt.

My third experience with uncertainty is something I am currently going through. However, uncertainty is no longer a source of stress. It is a source of hope and endless possibility. Being almost two-thirds of the way through law school, I can’t help but thinking about what all I could do in the future. I could move anywhere I want. I could practice in any number of fields. I could even start my own firm. The possibilities are endless. They are limited only by my imagination and courage.

One thing is for certain, although I initially dreaded dealing with uncertainty, law school made me love it. I no longer fear uncertainty. I embrace it. After all, uncertainty is arguably another form of freedom. It all depends on your interpretation.

— Omar Husain is a 2L from Lenexa and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

Don’t box yourself in!

When I began law school, I knew exactly what I wanted to do with a law degree. Criminal prosecution and defense has always been a near and dear subject to me. I had no doubt that working in Kansas City as a Prosecutor or Criminal Defense attorney would be the move after graduation. That being said, I did not intern with a criminal defense firm the summer after my 1L year. Nor did I intern with a prosecutor’s office. Instead, I decided to branch out and intern at Bell Law KC, a civil litigation law firm that deals in consumer protection cases.

I knew nothing about consumer protection, but I made this decision because I felt it was important to expose myself to other areas of law. In all honesty, I had no clue whether that was actually true or not, but it seemed legit! After all, a law degree is wildly flexible. It made sense to at least keep my options open. Only with the benefit of hindsight do I know that it really was the best decision I could have made for myself. On top of learning that I enjoy consumer protection law, choosing not to confine myself to one particular area of law has enhanced my ability to understand and solve problems. And through my internship, I learned a ton of skills that I have been able to incorporate into my life as a student and even in other areas of law.

In law school, we’re taught a lot of abstract concepts that sometimes prove difficult to visualize in real practice. For example, we learned what a “complaint” is, and how it works in Civil Procedure (a class all 1Ls take). But what does a complaint actually look like in practice, and how do you even begin to draft one? Those were questions I did not have the answers too. Funny enough, I sat in on an interview with a prospective client and then drafted a complaint on my first day at my summer internship at Bell Law. That first day, I quickly realized how important it was to actually see these concepts at work in real-life litigation. There are some things that only EXPERIENCE can teach you and I’m so thankful for the opportunity I had to grow and learn over that summer.

Now I feel more prepared to take on issues in a new area of law, even if I’m not familiar with the subject. If I don’t know it, I know for a fact that I WILL learn it. That’s why it’s so important not to box yourself in. You don’t really know what you’re capable of until you actually get out there and do it. I definitely didn’t know what I was capable of. Now I’m no longer afraid of stepping outside my comfort zone, and I treat every day as a chance to go out of my way to learn something new that I didn’t know the day before.

For the people that know they want to be a lawyer, but don’t really know what they want to do, this is especially important. I encourage you to be OPEN to the opportunities that are available to you. Although I came in to law school with a couple years of work experience and a set plan, I noticed that many of my peers (especially the ones coming straight out of undergrad) didn’t enjoy that same benefit.

To the students that may be in that same boat: Don’t feed into any pressure that you need to have your long-term plans figured out in your first few weeks (or even your first semester) of law school. Find a subject that you’re interested in or passionate about and see where it takes you! If it turns out that you can’t see yourself making a career out of it, that’s still okay! The skills you learn through an internship can’t be taken from you; and I’ve learned that more likely than not, those skills are transmutable into other areas of law.

Between KU Law’s expansive alumni network, and the dedicated staff working in the Career Services Office, opportunities are certainly available everywhere. However, those DOORS didn’t open for me until I stepped outside of my comfort zone and opened them for myself. Now, with the benefit of my internship behind me, I know that I have options that expand beyond criminal law. Additionally, I know that I have the means to make those options happen if I choose.

This summer, I will be taking the next step forward in my professional career by working for the Johnson County Prosecutor’s Office. This will be my first time working for a prosecutor’s office. I wish I could tell you I’m not nervous, but if I did, I would be lying. That being said, the reason for my nerves is not feeling like I won’t be successful there. I already know I can learn the tools necessary to thrive in this new capacity. I know this because I’ve already done it in a summer internship, covering an area of law that I was entirely ignorant about until the day I actually sat down my first day and did it.

If you weren’t reading between the lines, there’s a message in this blog that you may have missed. So to bring it all home, I’ll leave you with this: The opportunities to grow and learn will become available to you, but it’s on you to take advantage of them. Even more importantly, there’s no rush to figure out exactly what you want to do right at the outset, so find something you could see yourself settling in to and just go for it! Even if your first option doesn’t work out, it doesn’t mean the skills you learn in that capacity won’t be useful later on. There are a wide variety of ways to make yourself desirable to potential employers, so always keep in mind that EXPERIENCE WILL OPEN DOORS.

— Dillon Williams is a 2L from Waynesville, Missouri and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

Stop studying … it might help you get a job

Woah, did I read that right?

Yes, you did. But, don’t get the wrong idea. I am not saying that re-watching Parks and Recreation for the fifth time is going to land you a job. However, in certain situations, closing your books for the night and getting away from your study carrel will be extremely beneficial in your search for gainful employment. It might seem counterintuitive, but my experience this year has proven it to be true.

My favorite weekend of law school so far took place right before midterms last semester. I was lucky enough to be one of the twenty 1Ls signed up for “24 Hours of Wichita,” an event created by the Career Services Office to showcase Wichita as a potential post-graduation destination. Partners and associates from several different law firms took care of us while we were there. They put us up in a hotel, paid for great meals and even took us out on the town. The whole weekend was an absolute blast, in no small part because of the great relationships I was able to create with the attorneys that spent time with us.

I left Wichita jokingly telling the hiring partner at Foulston Siefkin to remember those 24 hours fondly when he found my resume on his desk in January. Much to my surprise, he did exactly that. During my interview with him, we spent a lot of time laughing about the events of that weekend. Long story short, I will be working at that firm this upcoming summer.

That weekend very well could have been a stressful weekend if I chained myself to my carrel and studied hours on end. Instead, I took full advantage of the opportunity to form lasting relationships with some incredible attorneys. This is not to say that studying is unimportant. In fact, quite the opposite is true. However, building relationships and growing your professional persona is also incredibly important. As is often said, “it’s not what you know, it’s who you know.” Though that is not entirely accurate (employers will care what you know!), there is certainly a kernel of truth to it.

Fortunately, KU Law provides nearly endless opportunities to expand “who you know.” If Wichita isn’t your particular cup of tea, there are opportunities to meet with firms from towns all around Kansas, as well as Kansas City and beyond. The Career Services Office hosts the Government Agencies Fair, the Small and Mid-size Firms Fair, and Legal Career Options Day just to name a few. But while these opportunities are there, they will only have an impact if you close your books, turn off your study light and go talk to someone.

— Jake Schmidt is a 1L from Atchison and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

Clearing your head

Finding balance in law school is all about allowing yourself simple pleasures. I love my daily coffee at the Burge Union, my Friday night movie marathons, and the potluck dinners my friends and I host. The nicest thing I do for myself, though, is walking to and from school. Unless the weather is bad (or I oversleep my alarm), I make every effort I can to walk instead driving or taking the bus.

It helps me stretch my legs.

Honestly, I’m not a gym rat — anyone who knows me would say I’m no athlete. But walking for almost an hour every day, up and down KU’s hills with a 60-pound backpack on isn’t bad exercise. Walking gives me a good chance to maintain my KU calves without having to spare too much time going to the gym.

Walking clears my head and makes me happier.

When I walk to class, I don’t think about law school, homework or my to-do list. I don’t have to stress about traffic or worry about whether or not I need to change my oil. Instead, I get a chance to think about anything and everything I want to, to clear my head from the pressures of the day. I know this is a personal preference: Some of my friends love driving and would never give up their daily Starbucks drive-through run. But I like walking, so I go out of my way to make sure it happens regularly. The trick is to know what you like and allow yourself the time to do it.

When I have a clear head, I think and reason better when I am thinking about law school.

Sometimes getting your head out of your law books is exactly what you need to solve problems and reason out theories better. A few weeks ago, I had a big assignment due in class. I’d worked late into the night and still wasn’t happy with some of the arguments I made in my paper. The day the paper was due, I walked to class and thought about the good weather and the newly-green grass. I didn’t agonize over my paper, but I was working through it in the back of my head the whole way. Getting up, smelling fresh air and moving around all helped me think more clearly than hunching over my laptop had. By the time I got to class, I had developed a much more interesting argument for my paper and I felt much better turning it in.

I’ve learned a lot this year about torts, contracts and civil procedure. As law students wind up for finals, I say: Work hard! Do good work! But allow yourself simple daily pleasures, too. You’ll be happier, and you will have the space and time to reason more clearly and study more effectively. As for me, I’ll be walking whenever there’s no snow on the ground.

— Ellen Bertels is a 1L from Wichita and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

Elizabeth Kronk Warner announced as dean of University of Utah law school

Elizabeth Kronk Warner

Elizabeth Kronk Warner, KU Law’s associate dean for academic affairs and a law professor, will be the next dean of the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah. Warner starts her new role on July 1. She will be the first woman to lead the Utah law school in its 106-year history.

“I am tremendously honored to serve in this role, and hope that I am able to live up to the storied legacy of past deans,” Warner said.

Warner joined the KU Law faculty in 2012 and became associate dean for academic affairs in 2015. She teaches courses including Federal Indian Law, Native American Natural Resources, Property and Tribal Law. Her service schedule is busy, with plenty of commitments outside the classroom. In addition to her role as associate dean for academic affairs, she directs the school’s Tribal Law & Government Center; serves as faculty advisor for the Native American Law Students Association and the Federal Bar Association; and leads the Faculty and Staff Committee on Diversity & Inclusion.

Through her years of teaching and staying active at the law school, Warner’s biggest point of pride has been her students.

“My greatest joy has been watching everything that former students have accomplished. It is incredibly rewarding to see a student go from struggling to understand the Rule Against Perpetuities to becoming a respected lawyer,” she said.

“I am also very proud of my colleagues and all of the impressive things they accomplish on a daily basis – it is an honor to be part of this faculty.  I have fond memories of students succeeding in moot court competitions, and the progress we have made on our diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts,” Warner said.

Warner leaves big shoes to fill as a scholar, teacher and administrator, said Stephen Mazza, dean of the law school.

“Elizabeth’s leadership skills were evident early on, which explains why she has been such a successful associate dean at KU Law,” Mazza said. “Highlighting her skill set and allowing her to develop those leadership skills carried a risk that she would be snapped up by another school.”

But that’s OK by Mazza.

“I’m proud that KU Law supports emerging leaders and has a track record of doing so,” he said. 

Warner’s departure to become dean at a flagship state university fits a trend at KU Law. In the past 10 years, two other associate deans have moved on to head public law schools.

Melanie Wilson, who also served as associate dean for academic affairs, took the helm of the University of Tennessee College of Law in 2015. Stacy Leeds, a former associate dean for academic affairs and director of the Tribal Law & Government Center, was dean of the University of Arkansas School of Law from 2011 to 2018. She’s now the school’s vice chancellor for economic development.

That KU Law leaders continue to earn deanships is no fluke, Warner said, crediting professional development opportunities in the law school and the broader University community.

“Dean Mazza is a tremendous mentor, who invests in his associate deans and provides them opportunities to develop the skills necessary to flourish as a dean. We are tremendously fortunate to have him at the helm of KU Law,” Warner said. “I am also thankful to the University for providing opportunities, such as the senior administration fellowship program, for faculty to develop administrative skills.”

In 2014, Warner received the Immel Award for Excellence in Teaching, and in 2016 she received the Dean Frederick J. Moreau teaching and mentoring award from the graduating class. Her scholarship, which focuses primarily on the intersection of Indian Law and Environmental Law, has been published in several prominent journals.

Prior to her arrival at KU, Warner served on the law faculties at Texas Tech University and the University of Montana. She received her J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School and a B.S. from Cornell University. Warner is a citizen of the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians. She serves as an appellate judge for the Sault Ste. Marie Tribe of Chippewa Indians Court of Appeals in Michigan and as a district judge for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Kansas.

Warner said she’s thankful for her “KU Law family” and the community it provides.

“I have loved my time at KU. While I am excited for this new opportunity, I will greatly miss everyone who has touched my life in such a profound way,” she said. “I am very proud of KU Law and look forward to seeing all it will accomplish in the future. Rock Chalk!”

— By Margaret Hair