Posted on October 19, 2016
First impressions from an accelerated degree student
I am about halfway into my first semester of law school and I can say, without hesitation, that I’ve gotten myself into the most fulfilling, outrageous, exhausting, formative, wonderful journey of my life. It’s not like what I expected, though.
I am a member of the first cohort of KU’s Legal Education Accelerated Degree six-year BA+JD program. The LEAD program pre-admits students from high school, so I’ve been set on going to KU Law since I was 18 years old.
In anticipation of my ultimate foray into this law thing, the last three years I had been building up many expectations of how I thought it would be. The first months of law school have been a bull in my china shop of expectations. In order to shed some light for undergrad LEADers or those considering law school, I’d like to share some of these expectations and compare them to reality as a neophyte in the field of law.
“Law school is for people who are boring and ugly and serious.” — Elle’s dad from “Legally Blonde”
The people here are serious, no doubt. Most of my colleagues have years of work experience, amazing life stories, or other graduate degrees – and they mean business when they come to law school. Being surrounded by this caliber of people is both inspiring and humbling, and might be my favorite part of the whole thing. However, the people are anything but boring or ugly. We gather for a ton of social events such as weekly bar crawls, tailgates, Halloween parties, casino nights, happy hours with professors, and even a Law Prom. There are many opportunities to forge friendships, and the common experience of being law students strengthens these friendships to the point where I know they’ll last a lifetime.
Being a lawyer is about verbally outmaneuvering your enemies in the courtroom.
No, it is nothing like “Suits” or “Law & Order” — sorry. Being a lawyer is about diligently researching a topic by spending many hours reading previously decided cases with similar issues and looking for precedent. Moreover, the vast majority of cases will never go to trial, so the big thrill for lawyers is writing a good document, not dropping evidence bombs in front of a jury. Reading comprehension and written analysis are definitely the key skills, not being able to use “verisimilitude” conversationally. So don’t worry if public speaking isn’t your thing.
Law school probably won’t be that much harder than undergrad.
Wrong. But the work is infinitely more interesting and usable, so it is actually enjoyable. Also, although the work load is substantially higher on a daily basis, it is a blessing in disguise. One of my biggest takeaways so far is a new appreciation for the value of my time. You can definitely see this same appreciation among professors and other students as well. People in this field learn how to work hard and efficiently so they can carve out time for the things they enjoy most in life.
I never could have foreseen just what law school would be like, but so far I am anything but disappointed.
— Nate Crosser is a first-year law student and KU Law Student Ambassador from Lenexa, Kansas. He is a member of the inaugural LEAD Program class. The deadline to apply for the accelerated degree program is Dec. 1.
Posted on October 10, 2016
Roger Viola’s KU Law degree has opened many doors in his life, both professionally and personally. He and his wife recently responded by creating a scholarship.
Consider it a note of sincere thanks.
“I have had the opportunity to work in several interesting and rewarding legal fields, and none of this would have been possible without my KU Law degree,” said Viola, L’74. “I had the good fortune of having some of the best law professors in the country. The scholarship is one way to say thank you to such a great group of faculty for all they’ve done for me.”
The Violas established the Roger and Karen Viola Law Scholarship with an initial $15,000 gift and a three-year pledge to increase the fund to $30,000. The need-based award is reserved for a recipient who graduated from a Kansas high school.
“While our scholarship is currently modest in size, we hope to increase it during our lifetime and through our estate,” Viola said. “Karen and I look forward to meeting many of these students and following their progress.”
Now retired, Roger Viola worked in a variety of legal settings during his career, including private law firms, corporations, state agencies and nonprofit organizations. Most recently, he led the Topeka Community Foundation as president from 2007-2016. His daughter, Cori, graduated from KU Law in 2016.
PHOTO | Roger Viola, L’74 (right) and his wife, Karen (left), celebrate the 2016 KU Law graduation of their daughter Cori. Karen is holding granddaughter Rose Loftus (Cori’s niece), who joined the festivities.
Posted on September 22, 2016
Student finds opportunity, community and special history in Dodge City
I recently spent two days in Dodge City, Kansas, attending the 2016 Southwest Kansas Bar Association Annual Meeting. (That’s me, second from left in the photo.) The trip was arranged and sponsored by the KU Law Career Services Offices, and five KU Law students participated. For me, there was one main question: Do I want to practice law in southwest Kansas? After completing the trip and reflecting on that query, my answer is yes.
In advance of the trip, I developed a three-part elements test to answer my main question. The elements were:
- Whether there was opportunity for me to prosper practicing law in southwest Kansas;
- Whether the community was a good fit for me; and
- Whether there was something special or legendary about the place.
Per the nature of a conjunctive test, and my affirmative answer to the main question stated above, you already know that the answer to each of these questions is also yes.
Opportunity to prosper practicing law is important. Law students invest a lot of time, work, and money to become qualified to practice law, and that investment should bring a handsome return. I found that such returns are available in southwest Kansas. Sitting in an Old West saloon, practicing attorneys from Dodge City, Garden City, Liberal and other frontier towns emphasized that there is plenty of legal work in the area. One experienced attorney said, “You can make as much money as hours you are willing to work.” Given that the going rate is $150-$250 per hour – and there is as much work as a young attorney can handle – I concluded that the opportunity element was satisfied and moved on to the community element.
Community is important. I want to live happily both in my career and at home. That means more than just developing my skills and getting paid well. It means having good neighbors. If the attorneys, judges, law enforcement, and locals I met in Dodge City are any indication, the community is friendly and welcoming. In addition to those I met, there is a growing immigrant population from more than a dozen countries bringing their rich cultures to the area. There are also a number of young professionals working at hospitals, offices, and colleges in the area whom I would be sure to get along with well. I could see myself going to church, playing sports, hunting, writing, serving on boards, and doing other fulfilling things with the people of southwest Kansas. Collectively, those people satisfied the community element, so I considered the legendary element.
Legends never die. Well, the saying from “The Sandlot” goes, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” “The Sandlot” is one of my favorite childhood movies, and since childhood I have fancied myself a legend in the making. As such, I want to be in a legendary place where legendary people have been. Southwest Kansas is legendary. I found that the area is really more akin to the American Southwest than to the prairie states of the Midwest. It looks and feels like the Old West movies I love so much, and the people there seem to fit the part with their cowboy hats and sure gazes. The legendary history of the area includes hard times during the Dust Bowl era, travels on the Santa Fe Trail, and massive cattle drives up from Texas to the railroad. Legendary lawmen like Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Bat Masterson made their names in Dodge City. Perhaps its grandiosity, but I think I can make a name for myself there, too. I could be a legendary lawman of a different sort, I imagine. The larger-than-life history and potential for becoming noteworthy in southwest Kansas satisfied the legendary element.
When we look back on our lives, we can place dots along the timeline where significant events occurred. In my life, there are many events that were necessary to get me where I am today. Had my mother not taught me to be determined, I would not have pushed through hard times in work, life, and school. Had I not answered the call to serve in the Army, I would not have had the opportunity to witness and mimic professionals working toward a greater goal. Had I not acted on my passion for justice, I would not have taken the LSAT and applied to KU Law. Whether or not my experience in southwest Kansas this semester becomes a dot on my timeline remains to be seen. That said, because I discovered all three things I was looking for there, I suspect it will be.
— Jonathan Ehrlich is a second-year law student from Creston, Iowa, who served in the U.S. Army and earned a degree in philosophy and religion before law school. He is interested in opening a general practice in a rural area.
PHOTO | KU Law students (from left) Helen Jacober Atkinson, Jonathan Ehrlich, Alex Driskell, Austin Knoblock and Gabriella Guerena recently visited Dodge City as a guest of the Southwest Kansas Bar Association and the KU Law Office of Career Services.
Posted on September 20, 2016
Dual degree candidate studies international trade in the breadbasket of Europe
As a JD/MA candidate in Russian, East European, Eurasian Studies and Law I’ve long had an interest in Eastern Europe, but it wasn’t until I studied international trade at KU Law that I began to focus my studies on Ukraine. During my 1L year, the Euromaidan protests ensued, Crimea was annexed, and the conflict in Donbas escalated. Media outlets mentioned Ukraine nearly every day.
Ukraine and the EU signed an Association Agreement (AA), which includes the Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Agreement (DCFTA). I recognized new prospects and challenges would arise from these relationships, and as an aspiring international trade lawyer, I wanted to learn more. I had studied Russia and Russian language, receiving a BA in Russian and International Relations. I knew studying another Slavic language and country would give me a leg up in the field.
I focused my research on Ukraine’s international trade system, particularly its challenges in shifting from predominantly trading with Russia, to openly trading with the EU, and adjusting to a new market and requirements. I realized if I really wanted to improve my language skills and understand the complexities of the culture, economics, rule of law, and politics, I had to go to Ukraine. I researched programs from which the ABA accepted credit, and approached Dean Kronk-Warner about the possibility. I was approved by the law school and by the university (Ukraine is under a travel advisory from the State Department and required further permission), and received a scholarship. I enrolled at Kyiv-Mohyla Academy, a well-known and reputable university in the region and the oldest in Ukraine.
During my time studying, researching, and living in Ukraine, I used Russian and Ukrainian every day. Ukraine has a bilingual polity, likely more so than any other country in the world. I found it frustrating when I wanted to speak one or the other: menus in Ukrainian, waiter speaking Russian, professor speaking Ukrainian, advertisement in Russian, etc. I worried that I would speak someone’s second language or offend them. Then I had an opportunity to go to a village of my one of my friends in Central Ukraine, and everyone there spoke “surzhik” (a mixture of the two languages). I learned to relax and find common language. As a foreigner, most assume if you are going to speak a foreign language you speak Russian, but on three different occasions, people told me it touched their heart when I spoke Ukrainian.
Besides understanding the language, conversations in classes and at activities such as Ukrainian speaking club allowed me to understand diverse viewpoints about Euromaidan, politics, the tensions with Russia, Ukraine’s future, and the DCFTA, which came into force when I arrived in Kyiv. One of my professors worked at the EU Mission to Ukraine, so she informed us of the developments.
As a result of my Ukrainian studies and research, I have been awarded some great opportunities. I interned this summer at the joint United Nations/World Trade Organization agency, the International Trade Centre (ITC). I worked in the Office of East Europe and Central Asia, and one of the primary reasons ITC offered me the internship was because of the agency’s new project in Ukraine. I helped Ukrainian fruit and vegetable exporters enter the EU market and comply with DCFTA standards. I was able to convey to businesses how the system works and how it is beneficial to Ukraine and the EU. I plan to build upon these experiences to pursue a career in diplomacy and international development through trade.
Traveling around Ukraine and enjoying the culture was just as enjoyable as my professional and academic work. From seeing beautiful cities such as Lviv and Odessa, to mustering up the courage to visit Chernobyl and mourn the tragedy on its 30th anniversary, to wearing a vyshyvanka (a hand-embroidered shirt) and eating borsch with salo (a beet soup with cured pig fat), it was a truly valuable experience. I would encourage any law student to learn more about developing markets and seek opportunities there. For me, it is Ukraine, and as it is known as the breadbasket of Europe and for its sunflowers, Ukraine is not so different from Kansas.
– Josh DeMoss is a 3L from Gilmer, Texas.
Posted on September 13, 2016
I had always thought about going to law school as a kid but never truly had an opportunity to see what life is like as an attorney until I had my first legal internship as an undergraduate.
As a student at the University of Arizona, I interned in U.S. Probation and Pretrial services for three years. It was one of the best job experiences I ever had, because it gave me an intimate look at how the federal courts work, as well as how attorneys work with their clients to preserve their rights.
During this experience, I got the chance to meet the Honorable Chief Judge Raner Collins. He was the first judge I met during this internship, and I was so impressed with how intelligent, friendly and inspirational he was. I quickly made up my mind as an undergrad that sometime during law school I would try to work for him as an extern or clerk.
Sure enough, following my 1L year, I was given the opportunity to apply to work in his chambers. These positions for law students at the federal court in Tucson are competitive, especially with another law school just a few miles away. My lawyering professors helped me produce a great writing sample, and accomplished faculty members wrote me letters of recommendation, for which I am extremely grateful. It would’ve been difficult to obtain a spot in Judge Collins’ chambers without the help of KU Law.
Like many 1Ls going into their first summer jobs and internships, I was nervous at first because I wasn’t sure what to expect, but I was happy to be put at ease after the first meeting in Judge Collins’ chambers. He’s personable and friendly. There was even a business casual dress code, which was convenient considering how hot Arizona summers can be!
The judicial field placement program was extremely rewarding. Not only did I learn a lot from my work in the judge’s chambers, but I also got the chance to tour two different federal corrections prisons in Tucson and Florence, Arizona. I also got an exclusive tour of the Arizona-Mexico border in Nogales, put on by U.S. Border Patrol in conjunction with the courthouse.
I am interested in a litigation career, and this field placement assured me that I’m on the right path. This summer I researched and drafted bench memoranda while researching complex legal issues. I learned a great deal from the communication I had with Judge Collins and other members of counsel, a highlight of the experience. It was truly the best summer I’ve had as a student.
– Davis Bauer is a 2L from Phoenix, Arizona.
Posted on August 29, 2016
‘There is quite a bit of nostalgia in my return’
Professor Sarah Deer has returned to the University of Kansas School of Law to serve as the 2016 Langston Hughes Visiting Professor.
Deer is a graduate of both the University of Kansas (1995) and KU Law (1999), and is currently a professor at Mitchell Hamline School of Law. She is recognized nationally for her expertise on sexual violence in Indian country and her advocacy on behalf of Native women.
This fall, Deer will co-teach the Sex Crimes course with KU Law Professor Corey Rayburn Yung, and the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic with Professor Elizabeth Kronk Warner. She will also teach a class on Feminist Jurisprudence.
“I am honored to have been selected for the Langston Hughes Visiting Professorship this semester,” Deer said. “I have missed Lawrence ever since graduating, and there is quite a bit of nostalgia in my return. I have strong Jayhawk heritage in my family.”
Both of Deer’s parents attended KU, and she met her husband, Neal Axton, L’98, during law school.
A citizen of the Muscogee (Creek) Nation, Deer has documented in her scholarship a history of inadequate protection for victims of physical and sexual abuse in Indian country. She has simultaneously worked with grassroots and national organizations to reform federal policies that hinder the ability of tribes to prosecute offenders. Her efforts were instrumental in the passage of the Tribal Law and Order Act of 2010 and the 2013 reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. In 2014, she was named a MacArthur Fellow by the MacArthur Foundation.
Deer recently published a book, “The Beginning and End of Rape: Confronting Sexual Violence in Native America,” and participated in a conference hosted by the White House Council on Women and Girls.
“Since receiving the MacArthur fellowship in 2014, I have been focused on scholarship and activism that amplifies the voices of Native women – particularly those affected by violence and abuse,” she said. “During the last year, I co-authored two Supreme Court amicus briefs on behalf of Native women’s organizations.”
Deer’s next book project will feature the writings of young Native women who are working on social justice issues. Down the road, she plans to publish a book on indigenous feminist legal theory in American law.
“Having the opportunity to co-teach Sex Crimes and teach Feminist Jurisprudence at KU will provide even more foundation for that project,” Deer said.
The Langston Hughes Visiting Professorship was established at KU in 1977 in honor of the African-American poet, playwright and fiction writer who lived in Lawrence from 1903 to 1916. The professorship attracts prominent or emerging ethnic minority scholars to KU. This is the first Langston Hughes appointment for the law school.
Posted on July 27, 2016
A KU Law graduate who has built a successful career in the international energy sector is supporting the school where he got his start.
John P. Bowman, L’80, a partner at King & Spalding LLP in Houston, recently established the John P. Bowman Law Fund with a $125,000 gift to KU Law. The fund will provide unrestricted support to the law school.
“For many years, I have wanted to thank KU Law for teaching, training, and enabling me to pursue a truly enjoyable, always challenging career as an advocate representing international oil companies in international oil and gas disputes,” Bowman said. “I hope this gift will help KU students and faculty pursue careers in the law that they find equally rewarding.”
For 36 years, Bowman has represented international energy companies in a wide range of commercial and investment disputes. He leads King & Spalding’s upstream oil and gas practice segment and frequently writes and speaks on international arbitration and international oil and gas topics. During law school, he was editor-in-chief of the Kansas Law Review.
Bowman, who earned a bachelor’s in economics and humanities from KU in 1974, also made a $125,000 gift to the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in support of the humanities.
Posted on July 27, 2016
The Hon. Janice Miller Karlin of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Kansas has been appointed chief judge of the court, becoming the first woman to serve in the role.
“I am delighted to serve as chief judge of our court,” said Karlin, L’80. “I follow my colleague and law school classmate Bob Nugent as chief judge, and as a result of his long and efficient service in that position, I inherit a court that provides the kind of service the parties and the lawyers deserve. My hope is to continue to lead our court to achieve the just and speedy disposition of all matters.”
Karlin joined the court in 2002 and was reappointed this month to another 14-year term by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit. She also serves as chief judge of the Bankruptcy Appellate Panel for the 10th Circuit; she is the first woman and the first Kansan to hold that position.
During law school, Karlin served as note and comment editor of the Kansas Law Review, then worked as an assistant U.S. attorney until she was appointed to the bankruptcy court in 2002. She becomes the fifth chief judge to lead the court since its existing structure came into existence in 1978.
Posted on July 25, 2016
A 2016 KU Law graduate has earned a scholarship awarded to only a select few students in New York University’s No. 1-ranked graduate tax program.
Matthew Schippers, L’16, has been chosen as a recipient of a Tax Law Review Scholarship at NYU School of Law for 2016-2017. The merit scholarship, which covers half of tuition, is awarded to eight outstanding entering LL.M. and joint-degree students. As a scholarship recipient, Schippers will be a graduate editor of the Tax Law Review and work closely with the publication’s faculty editors.
“Receiving a scholarship to attend NYU’s tax LL.M. program is an incredible honor,” Schippers said. “This extra year of school will deepen my knowledge as I prepare to practice law.”
Schippers has accepted post-graduate employment with Triplett, Woolf & Garretson LLC in Wichita. He is studying for the Kansas bar this summer and will move to New York at the end of August to begin the LL.M. program.
KU Law Dean Stephen Mazza received the same scholarship and served as an editor of the NYU Tax Law Review in 1992-1993. Recent KU Law students to complete NYU’s highly regarded tax LL.M. program include 2015 graduates Paul Budd and Mark Wilkins and 2012 graduate Joel Griffiths.
A native of Wichita, Kansas, Schippers earned a bachelor’s in business administration and accounting from KU in 2008. He worked for five years as a corporate accountant for Koch Industries in Wichita. He holds an active CPA license and has written two Tax Court case briefs for the Journal of Accountancy.
At KU Law, Schippers graduated in the top 10 percent of the 2016 class, completing the Tax Law Certificate and the Business and Commercial Law Certificate. He received both the UMB Bank Excellence in Estate Planning Award and the Robert E. Edmunds Prize in Corporation and Securities Law. He was also a recipient of the J.L. Weigand Scholarship. Schippers served as an articles editor on the Kansas Law Review, where his comment was published in December 2015.
Outside the classroom, Schippers led KU’s Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program, which prepared nearly 250 federal and state returns for low-income taxpayers in the Lawrence area during the 2016 tax season. He was Phi Alpha Delta treasurer for two years. He also serves as a Shook, Hardy & Bacon Scholar, leading a 1L study group for Contracts and Constitutional Law.
Posted on May 14, 2016
Tom Meier, L’16
Tom Meier took more than a few twists and turns on his path to graduation, but today he will earn his law degree after a 16-year journey.
Originally from Indiana, Lt. Col. Meier, who retired from the U.S. Army in 2009, completed his undergraduate degree as an ROTC member at Ball State, then launched his 21-year military career. He began his legal education in 2000 at George Washington University School of Law in Washington, D.C. At the time he was on active duty, pursuing law school at night.
“Literally every evening we had class, and then weekends were for studying, so pretty much all other activities came to a halt,” Meier said. Life was consumed by military duties, family commitments and coursework.
And then, during his second year of law school, the Sept. 11 attacks changed everything. The Army assigned Meier additional duties and transferred him to Fort Riley.
“I was fortunate that GW Law gave me an exception to continue my studies wherever I might be — with the understanding that I still needed to come back on campus to finish some of the credits,” Meier said. In the following years, Meier split his time between Kansas, South Carolina and Georgia, training National Guard brigades mobilized to go to Iraq. Throughout it all he never gave up his dream of finishing law school, completing military duties during the day and taking courses as a visiting law student at Washburn at night.
Meier next spent a year on deployment in Iraq, where he worked to find and bring to trial former members of the Hussein regime. The firsthand exposure to international law strengthened his determination to complete his legal degree. “It led to me thinking I wanted to do international law work,” Meier said. “Trying to help a host country implement the rule of law within their culture – that’s what I want to do after I graduate.” After he returned from Iraq, Meier was transferred to Fort Leavenworth, where he completed his military career and continued his studies as a visiting law student at KU.
When Meier retired from active duty, the prospect of returning to D.C. to finish law school seemed out of reach. But KU Law Dean Stephen Mazza had a solution: Meier could transfer to KU and take advantage of American Bar Association exceptions for various requirements in recognition of students who have served in the military. “As it worked out, not only was I accepted into KU Law,” Meier said, “but I was able to enroll in enough courses this semester to graduate and get my GI Bill to pay for the tuition.”
When Meier arrived in Green Hall as a full-time student in January 2016, he faced another transition: adjusting to life without the full-time paycheck he had been earning as a civilian military analyst. He continued working part-time, his schedule once again packed with family, career and school responsibilities. Today, he’ll gather with family and friends to celebrate the degree he began earning 16 years ago.
“The main reason for my success was the support of friends and the faculty and staff at KU Law,” Meier said. “There were so many things going on at the same time that an extra hand from time to time was really helpful. More so than I think many of them know.”
— This is the fifth and final post in a series profiling a select few among the many outstanding members of the KU Law Class of 2016. Read our profiles of Ashley Akers, Bryce Langford, Grecia Perez & Jacque Patton, and Bradley Thomas.