From newbie to whiz kid

Samantha Wagner

LEAD program lends novelty status to one of KU’s youngest law students

“The best three years of your life that you will never want to experience again.” That was how a current lawyer and mentor described law school to me. And let me tell you, he was right. I am currently in my first year, and it is the most challenging, stressful thing I have ever done. That being said, I am loving law school! It is amazing, and I have made closer friends in the last few months than I had through years of undergrad.

I have had my sights set on law school since high school. I am a member of the inaugural class of KU’s Legal Education Accelerated Degree Program. It is a 3+3-year program for my bachelor’s and law degrees. Part of being in the LEAD program means that my first-year law classes are counting toward the last year of my bachelor’s degree, and after I finish my 1L year I will graduate from undergrad.

I was a summer starter, so I finished the last day of my junior year undergrad on a Friday and started orientation at Green Hall the following Thursday. It was intense and nerve-racking, but I was more than excited to pursue the education I had been working toward for the last three years. Being in an accelerated program means that I’m the youngest of almost all my law school classmates. On the first day of classes, my professor went around the room asking what degrees we had, what schools we had them from and whether we had been in the workforce before law school. For everyone else that meant, at the very least, listing their bachelor’s degree and for some their master’s or higher! Many listed different work experiences they had after completing their most recent level of education.

Then the professor got to me.

Now remember, I haven’t graduated yet. After listening to all the people who had spoken before me, I really didn’t know what to say. So, in a fairly quiet voice, I told the class (and the intimidating professor) that I am still working toward my bachelor’s degree from the University of Kansas and explained the LEAD program.

Starting law school at age 20 has had its ups and downs. But here are the top five things about being a little bit younger that made law school better:

  1. During the summer I wasn’t tempted away from my studies by fun and adventurous nights out with friends.
    Sometimes it was hard and not so fun, but for the most part I was very focused on school. This sounds like a pretty lame downer, but in law school studying is vital and having a built-in excuse was nice sometimes.
  1. Your friend base is a lot more diverse than other people your age, and you have the opportunity to learn from them.
    Law school is a diverse place. When your peers go from being primarily single students around your age to being people from all walks of life, all relationship statuses, and all ages, you learn a lot about the world. For instance, while a bunch of us are bachelors and bachelorettes, one of my classmates has a 15-year-old and another has newborn twins!
  1. You feel like a whiz kid when others find out your age.
    Getting raised eyebrows isn’t always a good thing, but it does help you stand out when there is a large group congregated around a recruiter’s table.
  1. It is a great conversation starter.
    There is no way to not have a conversation with someone who finds out that you are younger than most, and bonus points for being in the LEAD program. Having a narrative that you can follow also makes it easier to find things to talk about when you are feeling a little intimidated.
  1. You feel like you are getting a jump-start on your career.
    Being a year ahead of the curve is scary, but it is also a great feeling to know that you are on track to be just a little younger going into a legal career. With the world changing, every advantage helps. Having a one-year head start is a comforting feeling.

Samantha Wagner is a 1L and KU Law Student Ambassador from Paola, Kansas.

Living for the memories, not the glory

Arizona transplant finds friendship, community at KU Law

“How do you like KU Law so far?” is the question people ask me most often as a Student Ambassador. My best response is to describe the way KU Law has influenced me outside of the classroom. Law school is more than attending classes and taking exams. It’s a way to build friendships, discover yourself, and make memories that will last a lifetime.

I had hesitations about attending KU Law because I’m from Arizona and would have to leave my family and friends behind. However, as I finish my second year of law school and reflect on the memories I have made at KU Law, I am beyond happy with my decision to become a Jayhawk.

I remember the first person I talked to after deciding to come to KU Law. Her name was Maya, and she was a KU Law student, too. She posted in the Class of 2018 Facebook group seeking a roommate. I messaged her, and the rest is history. I’ve been so lucky to have her as a roommate and friend. When I felt homesick or had doubts about law school, she reminded me she was there for me and we would get through law school together. No words can adequately capture how thankful I am for her support and friendship.

I remember my first time entering Green Hall. Maya was by my side, and the building was full of new law students anxiously awaiting the start of orientation. We gathered in the commons and started making new friends. Dean Mazza gave a speech. We took a mock class. We met our professors. I still recall how nervous I was, knowing that I was about to officially start law school.

I remember two times I felt a sense of competition at KU Law: during the Bluebook Relays and the BLSA Thanksgiving Food Drive. For both events, first-year small sections compete against each other. My Bluebook Relays team chose the theme “Ware’s Waldos,” in honor of our Contracts professor, Stephen Ware. We won! And we used our prize money to purchase canned goods for the food drive. We all worked together and had a great time.

My favorite memories involve our KU intramural sand volleyball team, “Motion to Strike.” Volleyball gave my small section time to forget about our studies and have fun. We got to know each other on a more personal level. Eventually, we formed a softball team and invited other classmates to join. I remember my friend, Matt, diving to catch a ball in the outfield and getting the last out of the inning.

If I had not come to KU, I would never have met my best friends or my roommates. I take my studies seriously, but I want to leave law school with memories beyond the words in my textbooks. I don’t know what my future holds, nor whether the friends I’ve made in law school will be my friends next year or a decade from now. But I’m living for the memories, not the glory.

Rayven Garcia is a 2L and KU Law Student Ambassador from Tucson, Arizona.

Early black graduates exemplify how diversity makes us better

Isaac F. Bradley Sr. was KU Law’s first black graduate, graduating with the class of 1887.

Isaac F. Bradley Sr. was KU Law’s first black graduate, graduating with the class of 1887.

The University of Kansas School of Law has a proud history of diversity in its faculty and student body. On the heels of Black History Month, I feel it’s appropriate to honor and remember two KU Law graduates: Isaac F. Bradley Sr. and his son, Isaac F. Bradley Jr.

Isaac F. Bradley Sr. was KU Law’s first black graduate, graduating with the class of 1887.

He maintained a private practice in Kansas City, Kansas, before serving as a city justice of the peace from 1889-91, becoming one of the state’s first African-American judges. Bradley Sr. then served a five-year term as assistant county attorney in Wyandotte County beginning in 1894. He was also active in early civil rights movements, joining W. E. B. Du Bois in a predecessor to the NAACP called the Niagara Movement in 1905. In 1930, Bradley Sr. became the owner and editor of the Wyandotte Echo newspaper, where he worked until his death in 1938.

Isaac F. Bradley Jr. was born in 1895 in Kansas City, Kansas, and matriculated to KU Law in 1914. He graduated with the class of 1917 and was admitted to the Kansas State Bar the same year. Bradley Jr. served as special assistant attorney general from 1937-39, but left the post to serve as a captain in the Kansas State Guard during World War II. Bradley Jr. died in 1975.

The example set by the two Bradley men serves as a great opportunity to learn how diversity can impact the future. They lived during times where acceptance and inclusion were hardly guaranteed, but both persevered and exemplified all the characteristics that KU Law hopes its students absorb during their time in Green Hall. They were hard-working, motivated, generous men who, together, set a high standard for all future KU Law students.

Diversity means bringing together all sorts of different backgrounds, ideas and worldviews and using that mixture to grow and improve our own understanding of others. During a time when the world is wrought with tension and fear of those who are different, I think we can look toward the Bradley men for examples of how diversity can make us better. Diversity has been a pillar of KU Law since its inception, and it is imperative that we continue to value those who are different from us and use such differences to learn and grow.

— 1L Aaron Holmes is a KU Law Student Ambassador from Hutchinson, Kansas.

Studying Biodiversity Law in the Virgin Islands

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Biodiversity Law students and course instructor Professor Andrew Torrance gather at the University of the Virgin Islands after a snorkeling excursion.

Over winter break when many of my peers were braving the cold Kansas winter, I found myself attending law school in the Caribbean. While others sat indoors recovering from their holiday feasts, I was swimming, snorkeling, boating and hiking my way across the Virgin Islands.

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This January, 12 KU Law students embarked on a journey to St. Thomas, U.S. Virgin Islands, to study Biodiversity Law. I was fortunate enough to be included in this group of future lawyers passionate about their roles in understanding and preserving biodiversity. The intersession class focused on the role of law in regulating, managing, utilizing and conserving the earth’s rich biological diversity.

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Our group ranged from students studying patent or intellectual property law to those focusing on other areas of law but still having a deep connection to biodiversity issues. I come from a science background, with a bachelor’s degree in animal science and master’s in biomedical sciences. It was a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to use the knowledge from my previous degrees and expand upon it in the Virgin Islands.

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During our stay, we visited the University of the Virgin Islands (UVI), where we met students studying marine biology. Discussing the direct effects humans have on marine life was helpful in trying to formulate effective policies.

UVI Lecture

Another highlight of the trip was snorkeling off the coast of St. Thomas with the UVI dive instructor. Although I was not the best at snorkeling, I felt an instant connection to the underwater life that calls the Caribbean home. Actually seeing the marine life, which many statutes and agency regulations aim to protect, emphasized its importance.

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We also met with many local advocates for protecting biological diversity, including a guest speaker who developed her legal career working for the Environmental Protection Agency and now focuses on sustainable energy at the U.N. It was enlightening to interact with local professionals and see the day-to-day struggles they encounter while protecting biodiversity. It is relatively easy to understand the science behind why certain species need to be protected or habitats need to be preserved, but it’s hard to fully grasp the challenges of these policies until observing them in action.

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The pinnacle of the trip for me was a half-day hike through Virgin Islands National Park on the island of St. John. The thousands of acres of preserved land demonstrated nature’s beauty, while also telling the story of our ancestors who utilized the land and sea for survival.

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This incredible opportunity to learn about the law in a hands-on environment drove home the significance of conserving the earth’s rich biological diversity. My classmates and I gained knowledge on this trip that could not easily be taught in a traditional classroom.

IMG_9316– Bobbie Jo Horocofsky is a 1L and student ambassador from St. George, Kansas. She is shown here with petroglyphs carved into a rock face at Virgin Islands National Park.

Why choose Trento? The pictures say it all.

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A typical scene in Trento–a beautiful blue sky and clouds hanging low on the hillside.

3L Miranda Norfleet spent last semester studying with two KU Law classmates in Trento, Italy. Check out a few favorite memories from her stay, and the top four reasons she chose to study abroad.

The Views.  Trento is a small city nestled in a mountainous river valley on the southern edge of the famous Italian Dolomites.  From any vantage point in Trento, the mountains seem to extend endlessly.

Apartment building in front of mountains

The most-popular student housing accommodations in Trento, Studentato San Bartalomeo.

The Activities. A fortunate consequence of Trento’s mountainous locale is that it is impossible to be bored while living in Trento.  Networks of biking trails are everywhere, and plenty of hiking trails are sprinkled throughout the nearby mountains (generally the trailheads are easily accessible by public transportation).

bike trail alongside water and mountains

A bike trail along the Adige in the heart of Trento.

Three students on bike trail in front of buildings and mountains.

Biking with friends in Trento.

Miranda hiking alongside water and mountains.

A secluded day hike to a nearby lake.

Wooded hillside with fog and mountains in the background.

A beautiful hiking trail through a wooded hillside.

Bus stop with mountain views and clouds

Even waiting for the bus to retrieve you after a day hike is a scenic activity in Trento!

Mountainside with fall foliage.

Fall foliage in the Dolomiti.

Mountainous terrain and clouds.

A three-peak hike with some new friends near Monte Bondone in Trento.

Several large mountain lakes, like Lago di Garda and Caldonazzo, are just a short train or bus ride away and are excellent places to make a splash or lounge around with a glass of wine made from local grapes.

People walking on gravel roads through vineyards.

A late afternoon walk home through the vineyards from a day spent at Lago di Caldonazzo with good food, weather, and friends.

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Catamaran-ing with friends at Lago di Garda, near Trento.

View of water and mountains.

Breathtaking views from a swimming beach at Lago di Garda.

The Food (and, more importantly, the vino). I’ve never been surrounded by so much pizza and pasta in my life, but Trento was more than that.  Because of the region’s unique history, Trento is a cultural blend of Germanic and Italian influences—which meant a culinary offering from both German and Italian cuisines.  Plus, think of all of the cannoli and gelato you can imagine, Trento has it all! Unfortunately, I’m way too into my food to ever think about snapping a picture before I inhale it, so you’ll just have to trust me on this one.

Meal with wine at outdoor cafe.

Typical “aperitivo” at Trento’s Piazza Duomo.

Two girls in winter coats eating gelato.

Notice the attire—in Italy, gelato is appropriate for all seasons.

The Community. Of course, someday I will reflect on my time in Trento and think fondly of the mountains and of the food, and I’ll cherish those days spent at the lakes or on the trails, but what I will most enjoy remembering will certainly be the people who shared those experiences with me. The University of Trento hosts approximately 400 international students at any given time, and almost all of them seemed to live in the same student housing complex. Unlike many study abroad programs I’ve heard about from friends, the program in Trento hosts far fewer Americans than it hosts students from all over the world (while I was in Trento, I only met one American aside from the two other Jayhawks studying there). I developed meaningful friendships with people from all over Western and Eastern Europe, the Middle East, South America, and Asia. I learned about their cultures and we bonded over shared interests in the outdoors, in movies, in television or music, in food, in wine, in travel, and in just being a young adult.

Miranda and Gili laughing with hair blowing in front of water and mountains.

I spent Christmas Day hiking in Ireland with my Israeli friend, Gili, who studied with me in Trento. On the trail, we shared memories of holiday traditions our families had–I told her about my mom’s Christmas morning cinnamon rolls and explained the whole charade of Santa and his elves, and she talked about her favorite memories celebrating Rosh Hashanah on the beaches of Tel Aviv with family and friends.

Student group with Trento sign.

Visiting Siena with other international students from Trento.

My schoolwork in Italy was interesting and occasionally even challenging, but going into my semester abroad, I sought something bigger than a classroom—I wanted to challenge my ideals and expand my understanding of the world—and in my new international network of friends, I found that experience.

Miranda and Camila jump alongside a snowy, mountainous lake.

Hiking near Trento with my Chilean friend, Camila.

Friends in a dark nightclub with bright lights.

Enjoying a concert with my French friends, Jade and Joann, and my Chilean friend, Camila.

Friends in front of a windy, foggy lake.

Sightseeing with my Australian and Russian friends.

Friends at outdoor picnic table.

A beautiful night with friends from Australia, Iran, and Hungary, enjoying a meal we cooked together at our student accommodations.

– Miranda Norfleet is a 3L from Parkville, Missouri. Want to add an international dimension to your legal education? Stop by tomorrow’s Study Abroad Info Session and learn about upcoming programs.

Getting by with a little help from friends, and the perfect study spot


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If you’re scoping out the perfect law school, you’re probably wondering about where to live, the local establishments where you can successfully avoid undergrads (and professors), the parking availability, the friendliness of faculty, or how transferable your J.D. will be.

I would like to add something else to your list… great places to study. As KU Law students and Lawrence residents, we are lucky to have so many study spots in town. I have a list of places that have helped me and others love the Lawrence area and helped us actually understand Contracts.

Starbucks: Everyone’s backup for studying is Starbucks and rightly so. Starbucks is a reliable institution with ample seating and chill music. Someone is always giving out Starbucks gift cards at law school events too. The Massachusetts street location is classic, but there are more study spaces at the 6th street location.

Bon Bon: Whether you are new or old to Lawrence, this place is going to be the hottest spot in town soon. Nestled in the art district of East Lawrence, this restaurant opens at 7 am for all you morning people out there looking for good drip coffee and gluten-free breakfast options.

Panera: My friends spend hours at Panera studying Torts and writing cover letters. I personally don’t get it, but it works for them. And, you will quickly find out you have got to find out what works best for you when it comes to studying so try out every place, even Panera.

The DeBruce Center: The classic go-to for everyone in Green Hall. DeBruce has everything a KU Law student needs, including: coffee, basketball, pulled pork sandwiches, and lots of outlets. This brand-new building is a getaway just right across the street when you have spent too much time in the law library.

Lawrence Public Library: This is probably considered an 8th wonder of the Library world. Lawrence is a hip town and this library is evidence. You can get a library card for free and schedule a high-tech glass-enclosed study room for effective group study. It will feel like you’re sitting in the fancy modern firm where you want to be a summer associate.

The Bourgeois Pig: Here, all the different lives of Lawrence meet, including: attorneys, artists, professors, college students and local residents. Don’t get distracted by the people, the beautiful art on the wall or the late-night drink menu, remember that you’re there to study.  Early Saturday mornings are the best time to grab a table and get your property notes finished before noon.

Green Hall: The oldie, but goodie that will never fail you. I reserved a desk near all my friends where I will find someone who can explain the reading for that day to me. We all get by with a little help from our friends, especially those who also care about your success as much as theirs. You can study at a desk, in the commons, find an empty classroom or practically anywhere.

– Jessie Pringle is a 1L and student ambassador from Chanute, Kansas.

1L thankful for friends, librarians and theater-worthy hypotheticals

Jake Turner

My first semester at KU Law is winding down and Thanksgiving break is this week. During my time as an undergraduate, Thanksgiving was a break from school and work. In law school, all my 2Ls and 3L friends tell me the exact opposite: It’s finals season. Before the long nights at the library and cramming for exams begin, I thought it would be appropriate to think about what I have been thankful for during the first semester of my 1L year. So, below are the top six things I am most thankful for at KU Law!

1. The librarians

I can’t even begin to describe how helpful and awesome the librarians are at KU Law. Who do you go to if you are researching something and are stuck? The librarians. Who do you go to if you are having a problem with Blackboard? The librarians. Who do you go to if you want to see cute pictures of dogs? The librarians. Who do you go to if you need advice? The librarians. I think you are seeing a common trend here.

2. My professors’ unique teaching styles

KU Law professors all have their unique teaching styles that manage to keep students really engaged. Professor Kautsch re-enacts fact patterns of tort cases with clip art and sometimes with the help of my theater-major roommate. Professor Lucas gives in-depth hypotheticals about his love for Mercury Cougars. Professor Hines draws maps on the board with stunning accuracy — if you are into abstract art. All of them care deeply about the subject they are teaching and us as students. KU truly has a high class of professors.

3. The Roasterie in the DeBruce Center

Having a phenomenal coffee shop a two-minute walk from Green Hall is clutch.

4. Free pizza

I feel like 73 percent of my diet in Green Hall is pizza. Two or three times a week, an organization or the Career Services Office puts on presentations over lunch. They almost always provide lunch, and it is almost always pizza. You will get to know the pizza places of Lawrence very well.

5. My bomb Lawyering professor

Every 1L takes Lawyering Skills, where we learn how to write and research like a lawyer. My small section had Professor Keller as our Lawyering professor. Despite the stress of writing our open memos, Professor Keller kept our class fun, challenging and engaging. She put up with all our questions and shenanigans over the entire semester, and we emerged as stronger legal writers.

6. My supportive small section

1L year would have been awful without my small section. These 20 people took all the same classes I did, and I became close to all of them. They know when to be serious and when to relax and have fun. We just had a Friendsgiving and everyone made amazing food. I do not know what I would do without this squad.

— Jake Turner is a 1L and KU Law Student Ambassador from Mission, Kansas.

From hiking trails to Nationals games

Future Jayhawk lawyer relishes D.C. experience

Ciara Malone

3L Ciara Malone took time away from her internship to network with alumni at KU Law’s D.C. reception in June.

This summer I worked and lived in D.C. and cannot wait to go back. Working with incredible D.C. and Virginia attorneys cemented my desire to be part of the legal community there. Landing an internship in D.C. was not easy. Getting advice from KU alumni in the area was a huge help in understanding the legal culture and knowing what to expect at D.C. firms. I was also helped by personal connections to lawyers in the area. I used these connections to target specific litigation firms. I sent out resumes and detailed, firm-specific cover letters. I flew to D.C. in August 2015 and spent a week going to as many interviews as I could schedule. Through these efforts, I landed an internship at Ashcraft & Gerel LLP, a great plaintiff’s civil litigation firm.

I worked in Ashcraft & Gerel’s D.C. and Alexandria offices, switching back and forth between mass torts and workers’ compensation. These two areas are very different, and I was able to get a broad range of experience. In workers’ comp I responded to interrogatories, prepared motions for court, drafted settlement demand letters, and attended hearings. Workers’ comp taught me the importance of the local bar. D.C.’s bar is not as big as you might expect, and maintaining positive working relationships across the aisle is essential.

In the mass torts division, I researched different jurisdiction’s laws, wrote memos, and compiled and organized client data. Our firm worked with firms from all over the country. Efficiently working with attorneys in different firms and time zones is a much-needed skill. I enjoyed the work and loved working with Ashcraft & Gerel.

Malone and her girlfriend, Rachel Bunner, in front of trees and rock outcroppings.

Malone and her girlfriend, Rachel Bunner, hike Bear Island’s Billy Goat Trail just outside of Washington, D.C.

I also loved living in D.C. The area is filled with exciting and delicious experiences. One of my favorite discoveries was Union Market, a warehouse filled with vendors serving delicious food from all over the world. D.C. also has a great sports culture. I went to a Nationals baseball game and had an incredible time surrounded by Nationals’ fans.

If I ever got home sick for Lawrence, I would visit Old Town, Alexandria. Old Town is a cute, Lawrence-esque small town within a large city. I also enjoyed getting out of the D.C. area. There are wonderful national and state parks not far from the city. Bear Island, 30 minutes outside of D.C., had the best hiking trail I have ever been on. The trail involved scrambling up cliffs, jumping from rock to rock, and taking in incredible views.

I very much enjoyed my summer and am excited to start my career in D.C. after I graduate. My internship gave me first-hand exposure to the area’s legal culture and introduced me to aspects of D.C. I had never seen before.

Malone and Bunner wearing baseball caps at stadium at night.

Malone and Bunner take in a Nationals game.

My advice to anyone considering a career or internship in D.C. is to find a way to travel there to network and job search. It can be difficult to convince smaller firms and government agencies to fly you out for an interview. It is a lot easier to convince a firm to interview you when you will already be in the area. Ask our KU Law Career Services Office for contacts in the D.C. area. There are many alumni living and working in D.C. who are willing to give advice and point you in the right direction.

— Ciara Malone is a 3L from Overland Park, Kansas.

From weekend competitors to Jayhawk lawyers-in-training

KU mock trial team photo

David Hammack, fourth from right in back row, and Jordan Kane, far right in middle row, with their mock trial teammates in 2014.

Mock trial prepares undergraduates for law school

KU Law provides ample opportunities for students to gain hands-on courtroom experience, but for some future Jayhawk lawyers, the training began long before stepping foot in Green Hall. KU is home to a growing mock trial program that allows undergraduate students of all academic majors to participate in simulated courtroom trials. For some students, mock trial is a fun weekend diversion and a great opportunity to make new connections and brush up on presentation and analytical skills. For others, it’s all that plus the first step in launching a legal career.

2L David Hammack built on his undergraduate mock trial experience by pursuing law school at KU. The program provided public speaking experience and an introduction to the legal system. “The first time I stood up to give a cross examination, I remember my legs shaking so bad I thought I wouldn’t be able to walk,” Hammack said. “After a while, it became second nature. I came from a family with no legal background, so it was invaluable to learn some of the procedure and terminology.”

Classmate and former teammate Jordan Kane agrees. “It wasn’t until I was in law school that I realized how much mock trial benefited me,” Kane said. “It gave me great context for understanding the content I was learning in my courses. It also gave me practical knowledge about trials that most law students do not learn until their second or third year of law school.” Kane learned the basic structure of a trial, from how to give opening and closing statements, to questioning witnesses, to using Federal Rules of Evidence. Mock trial also teaches students proper courtroom decorum, teamwork and strategy.

Jordan Kane and David Hammack

Kane and Hammack, then graduating seniors, at the team’s 2015 awards banquet.

Hammack and Kane note that few things compare to the rigor and intensity of the first year of law school, but mock trial offers a foundation for the practical skills lawyers need to succeed, including oral advocacy and familiarity with trial procedures.

“The first year of law school was fairly different than mock trial because most of what first year involved was studying and reading case law,” Kane said. “In my second year, there has been a lot of use for my mock trial experience. For example, I am taking evidence and I have already had four years of experience applying the Federal Rules of Evidence.”

Hammack and Kane continue to expand their practical skills experience. Hammack participated in the Judicial Field Placement and serves as chief en banc of Traffic Court, while Kane interns with the Project for Innocence. Both plan to participate in moot court and will compete as partners.

“I would absolutely recommend mock trial to anyone considering litigation,” Kane said. “During four years of undergrad, I’ve participated in over 60 mock trials. Through those experiences I developed courtroom presence and invaluable practice being an attorney in a competitive setting.”

First-year law student Tyler Fix, 2L Daniel Hilliard and 3L Eric Wilson also participated in KU’s undergraduate mock trial program. KU will host its annual Jayhawk Invitational Mock Trial Tournament in Lawrence Dec. 3-4, 2016. See our previous post about the team, and check out the latest on KU Law’s new mock trial program. Learn more about the KU mock trial program on Facebook and Twitter.

– By Emily Sharp

Devoted to public service

KU Law students Emily Dutcher and Wills McVicker, her boyfriend, in South Africa

KU Law student leverages EJW Conference to launch legal career

As a 1L, Emily Dutcher spent a month volunteering at Cape Town’s Project Abroad Human Rights Office, providing legal aid in vast shanty towns of over a million people. Demand for assistance was so acute that client lines snaked out the clinic door.

“The disparity in wealth, education and resources simply left them without knowledge of any of their rights,” Dutcher said. “They were always so happy when we told them they weren’t allowed to be treated a certain way.”

Dutcher’s experience in South Africa cemented her passion for a legal career focused on public service.

Back in the states, she applied to attend the Equal Justice Works Conference and Career Fair in Washington, D.C. The conference is the largest career fair of its kind, allowing students to network and interview with more than 150 employers from across the country. The KU Law Career Services Office paid all expenses for Dutcher and 12 other students to participate in 2015.

With a focus on landing a summer field placement near Charlotte, North Carolina, Dutcher interviewed with both the public defender’s and prosecutor’s office from that community and others. Before she had even returned to Kansas, Dutcher received an offer from the Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office – an offer she ultimately accepted.

KU Law student Emily Dutcher (front row, second from left) with fellow interns at the Mecklenburg County Public Defender's Office in Charlotte, North Carolina.

KU Law student Emily Dutcher (front row, second from left) with fellow interns at the Mecklenburg County Public Defender’s Office in Charlotte, North Carolina.

“I spent my days in front of judges, advocating for indigent clients who were told daily that because they were poor they weren’t able to have certain things in life,” Dutcher said. “The goal of my office was to provide good, honest, hard-working counsel and to treat defendants as human beings. My clients were grateful and surprised anyone cared for them, and that firmly grounded me in the public defender world.”

Dutcher worked alongside students from law schools like Duke, Virginia, Wake Forest, NYU, George Washington and UCLA. They served adult clients charged with criminal offenses in state trial courts, learning from the more than 60 attorneys who handle cases in the office. Inspired by that experience, Dutcher hopes to secure a public defender position after graduation.

“I am certain I would not have gotten the job in Charlotte had I not attended EJW last October. It’s a great chance for those who want to work outside of the Midwest to meet with employers face to face,” Dutcher said. “Nailing down a summer job early gave me peace of mind, and Career Services made sure the trip was one to remember. There was even an alumni event that allowed students to network with Jayhawk lawyers in D.C.”

Dutcher will return to the nation’s capital this month with 16 other KU Law students attending the 2016 EJW Conference and Career Fair as guests of KU Law’s Career Services Office. Several of them are preparing to spend their final leg of law school in KU Law’s 6th Semester in D.C. Program, working in field placements at government agencies, nonprofits and NGOs while taking classes from KU Law faculty and establishing a professional network in D.C.

For Dutcher, who thoroughly enjoyed her time in Charlotte last summer, a public interest job in North or South Carolina is the ultimate goal.

“The skills we learn in law school are valuable and unique,” she said. “I want to use my skills to help others who may otherwise be at a loss.”

— By Mindie Paget