Practice makes perfect

Photo by Ashley Golledge

I elected to start my law school career in the Summer Start program, where I completed 8 hours of coursework by taking Contracts and Criminal Law during the summer. Like many beginner law students, I did not know what to expect from law school and the “fear of the unknown” seemed to be doing its best to make things as challenging as possible. Although I did not know it at the time, the 18 other students who joined me would become some of my closest friends. We all still laugh at how crazy those summer months were as we questioned whether learning contracts was like learning another language. Thankfully, we had incredible professors who dedicated their summer to helping us begin our law school career.

It was during the summer where I had the honor of being a student in Professor John Peck’s last Contracts class before retirement. After completing the course, the Summer Starters all agreed we were fortunate to have him as our professor. His teaching style and passion for the material made it easier for us to digest and learn the dense nature of contracts.

Members of the 2019 cohort of Summer Starters participate in an in-house moot court competition at KU Law. Photo courtesy of Luke Viestenz.


(Front row from left) Betsy Donahue, Jameson O’Connor, Luke Viestenz, Riley Cooney and Eric Kerschen. (Back row) Cathryn Lind, Professor Emeritus John Peck, Ashley Niedzwiecki, Kalie Belt and Evan Rose.

Also during this time, I had the opportunity to compete in an in-house moot court competition where I represented the plaintiff in the famous contracts case: Fiege v. Boehm. Joined by two of my classmates, we competed against three other classmates who represented the defendant. It was exciting getting to act like real attorneys as we conducted research and formulated arguments in preparation of our competition. As we entered KU Law’s courtroom we were greeted by a panel of judges also consisting of my classmates who were led by Chief Justice Professor Peck. While I thought I knew how things would go, I found myself mostly fielding tough questions by Chief Justice Professor Peck. I learned quickly the value in knowing your client’s case like the back of your hand and being able to think on your feet. It was great practice in developing skills I will use the rest of my life.

Prior to entering the competition, I had doubts whether I wanted to put myself out there at such an early stage in my law school career. After it was over, however, I could not have been more thankful I did. I have found this to be a common theme in law school. Not being afraid to put yourself out there pays off immensely. Everyone is new to law school, and we are all trying to figure it out together. Understanding that everyone will make mistakes and that these mistakes are beneficial to the learning process will launch you towards success in law school and beyond.

— By Luke Viestenz, a 1L from Overland Park and a KU Law Student Ambassador

Tips for successful remote learning and stress management

The past week has brought an abrupt shift to online instruction at law schools across the country. To help students at the University of Kansas School of Law navigate the transition to remote learning and manage stress in uncertain times, Professor Betsy Six and Assistant Dean Leah Terranova have compiled a list of tips, tools and strategies.

Tips for online learning from Professor Six

Setting up new routines can help ease the transition to online learning. Betsy Six, clinical associate professor and director of academic resources at KU Law, recommends setting a schedule, staying focused and keeping engaged.

  • Stay focused and engaged during class lectures. Think of this as good preparation for studying for the bar exam, when you’ll also be watching hours of video lectures.
  • Treat it like an in-person class.
    • Schedule class time. Even when class is a recorded lecture that you can listen to on your own schedule, have a planned time for when you are going to “go to class.” Do the reading before that scheduled time.
    • Minimize distractions. Set your phone to “do not disturb” mode. Close all other applications and windows on your computer.
    • “Go” to class. Sit down prepared and ready to pay attention and take notes. Take class notes just as you would if you were sitting in a classroom. Even if the class is a recorded lecture that you can rewind, don’t plan to rewind. Doing so takes more time and encourages you to pay less than your full attention.
  • Engage with your professor and classmates to ask questions.
    • Take advantage of every opportunity to engage with your professors, such as Zoom office hours and synchronous Q&A sessions.
    • Stay engaged with your fellow classmates. Consider a virtual study group using Zoom or Skype. Start and share a Google Doc where you ask questions and share ideas or a group outline. 
  • Make sure you’ve properly tested the technology and are comfortable using it. Students need to be able to regularly access and use Blackboard, KU email and online meeting platforms such as Zoom. Make sure you have access to these services:

Additional university resources are available in the “students” section of remote.ku.edu. If you have technology access issues, please reach out to the IT Customer Service Center, 785-864-8080 or itcsc@ku.edu.

Tools for shutting off distractions

When working and learning online, it can be difficult to avoid the distractions the online universe provides. Several software applications can help you avoid distractions and have a concentrated period of time to focus and learn. 

They vary in cost, compatibility and features, but all allow the user to customize the amount of time they block access to the outside world.  Some block all access while others let the user specify what is blocked. Here are a few to consider:

  • Freedom – a simple productivity application that blocks all internet access for set periods of time. Mac or Windows. Free, but not open source.
  • Focus – blocks sites, allows sites, launches and quits apps, and more. You can schedule breaks when sites are not blocked. Mac only. Free to try, then there’s a fee. Not open source.
  • RescueTime – scheduler, time tracker, etc. Free plan, but full features have a monthly fee. Not open source. Will block distractions and remind the user of their commitment to undistracted time. Mac or Windows.
  • SelfControl – a free open-source application that allows you to block access to websites, mail servers or anything else on the internet for a period of time. Mac only. 

Tips for managing stress from Dean Terranova

It’s hard to fend off anxiety when facing an unfamiliar landscape. Leah Terranova, assistant dean for academic and student affairs, recommends focusing on the process, not the outcome.

  • Focus on what you can control – your thoughts and actions. Set your sights on taking small steps each day to normalize this new experience and meet your daily goals.
  • Know that you are capable. Moving online does not mean you will lose the progress you have made or the momentum you were building. Many of the same habits that served you well for traditional classroom learning will also serve you well with online learning. This is an opportunity to reset and resolve to thrive in this new environment.
  • Allow yourself, and each other, some grace. After all, this new landscape is universal; we are all in it together. If you’re in need of some guided grace, please reach out to Blake Wilson, assistant director of instructional and faculty services, at wilsonwb@ku.edu. He has offered to hold meditation sessions over Zoom. Or, check out Insight Timer, a free app that has plenty of guided meditations focused on specific areas of interest.

Resources for student support

There are several campus and community resources that provide support for wellness, mental health and financial assistance. Find a comprehensive list of campus resources at coronavirus.ku.edu.

  • Wellness and mental health:
    • Counseling and Psychological Services (CAPS): caps.ku.edu or 785-864-2277. CAPS is offering teletherapy to existing clients. Updates on services will be posted to the CAPS website.
    • Bert Nash Community Mental Health Center: bertnash.org or 785-843-9192
  • Financial assistance:
    • KU Law Student Emergency Fund: The law school’s Student Emergency Fund provides one-time grants of up to $500 to students in need of emergency financial assistance. Students can apply for assistance by contacting Leah Terranova at leaht@ku.edu or sending her a completed application form. Gift cards to Dillons or other grocery stores are also available for students struggling with food insecurity. Please contact Leah Terranova to obtain a card.

Stay healthy and connected, and know that everyone in Green Hall continues to support you.

— Compiled by Margaret Hair

Summer start or summer camp?

Photo by Ashley Golledge

Daily, things in the world and at the University of Kansas School of Law are changing. With frequently updating and changing news and innovative ways of learning being cultivated by our professors in this time of uncertainty, there is one consistency, the friendship and bond among my section of classmates.

Wanting to continue momentum from my undergraduate program, I elected to begin my first year of law school early — in the summer. Five days after I graduated from an undergraduate degree program at KU, I started my law school orientation. As first-year law school students, the 19 of us have navigated many trials together. Some of the things we navigated were simple, like learning where the best study spots are in the library or what lunch hour meetings are providing food. But, we have also navigated very serious ordeals together. The way that our section has bonded reminds me of friendships I created in my youth at summer sleepaway camp.

I went to sleepaway camp out of state for eight weeks most summers of my youth. Spending a large amount of time together daily, away from our parents always made people become fast friends. As young campers we learned how to accomplish basic tasks together. This has been profoundly replicated in the relationship among my summer start section at KU Law.

The 2019 cohort of Summer Starters participate in KU Law’s annual Bluebook Relays competition on October 25, 2019. Photo by Meg Kumin/KU Marketing Communications.

When we entered Green Hall for our first day in May 2019, a majority of us were strangers. Within minutes of mingling with one another, I could tell that I would be deeply impacted by the rest of the summer starters. Many of them would become good friends and trusted confidants. It was a good thing that we seemed to regard and respect one another so highly, because we were about to spend a large amount of our time together essentially learning to speak a language that was foreign to us. In our first week of classes, our group message operated as a way to remind one another our daily assignments but also serve more seriously to help keep out-of-towners in the loop as to dangerous weather headed our way. In following weeks, any question a student had about class was always answered timely and completely.

As a non-traditional student with a different prior life experience than most of my cohort, I have found that experience to be valued and appreciated in the classroom with my small section. So many of us do come from differing places prior to law school. There are parents; college athletes; people with legal experience; students from other colleges in Kansas and out of state schools; students that were in the work force prior to law school; and students that have differing interests and opinions. Much like summer camp, this previous life experience helps in the classroom, it helps us to see differing perspectives, and helps us to learn and view things in a way that can alter a person’s world view. Adapting and understanding another person’s life experience will help us to be impeccable legal practitioners.

Like summer camp, we were required to traverse tests prior to our peers. This helped us to gauge vital law school skills, like, how each of us best creates an outline or prepares for exams. We also learned about each other’s strengths and limitations in a nearly empty building over the summer and learned how to use that knowledge to positively impact the entirety of our section.  We have rallied around one another as members of our cohort became dog parents, or accepted summer internship positions, and have comforted one another in times of grieving. The genuine bond we have still continues to grow ten months after our first introductions, and our group chat is always a place for clarity and assistance. Much like summer camp experiences continue to impact me many years later, I am certain that my experience as a summer starter will be a time I fondly revere throughout adulthood. 

— By Heddy Pierce, a 1L from El Dorado and a KU Law Student Ambassador

Annual Barrister’s Ball event is a beloved law school tradition

Law students Anna Meyer, Cori Moffett and Becca Henderson pose for a photo at Barrister’s Ball in 2019. Barrister’s Ball is often nicknamed as “Law Prom.” Photo courtesy of Becca Henderson.

I’ve been wrong many times in my life and in law school (emphasis added). My favorite misconception has been what I thought law school would be about. Before attending law school, I had a very skewed idea of what law school would entail.  

  • I imagined my peers would tear out pages of my textbook and that you were not supposed to befriend your colleagues because the competition is cut-throat.  
  • I imagined being cold called on the first day and a professor telling me to leave their classroom, like Elle Woods. 
  • I imagined the only school events that people would attend would be class and the riveting mandatory CSO events.  

And I was proved wrong. 

Don’t get me wrong, law school is a lot of work and dedication. But surprisingly, one of my most frequently asked questions by potential students is, “Do you ever have time to have fun?”  

Law students Anna Meyer and Becca Henderson pose for a photo at Barrister’s Ball
in 2019. Barrister’s Ball is often nicknamed as “Law Prom.” Photo courtesy of Becca Henderson.

Some days, I will answer that with a smile and say, “Of course!” And other times, like after an 8-hour Constitutional Law final, I will give the same answer with a hint of sarcasm.  

KU Law makes sure at least ONE night is dedicated to the students to take a break and enjoy. 

The Barrister’s Ball is an annual event put on by the Student Bar Association, and every law school in the country puts on one of its own.  

The Barrister’s Ball is always a memorable night because you were able to see all of your peers relax for the night. My favorite part was seeing my peers and colleagues in beautiful gowns and suits, while spending the night on the dance floor. It is the one night where all of your  classmates are in the same place at the same time celebrating. Last year, there was a photobooth and a DJ which seemed helped emphasize the nickname “Law Prom.” And I can promise, there is no mention of homework, classes or professors all night. 

The Barrister’s Ball is my favorite KU Law tradition. Law students definitely have fun. 

— By Becca Henderson, a 2L from Topeka and a KU Law Student Ambassador

New fund supports students when they need a hand

KU Law Giving Story - Student Emergency Fund

An unforeseen financial emergency or catastrophic event can have lasting effects on a student’s education. In an effort to make sure such a situation doesn’t prevent a student from continuing on to graduation, the University of Kansas School of Law has established the Student Emergency Fund. 

The fund provides one-time grants of up to $500 to students in need of emergency financial assistance, including covering costs such as counseling and mental health services. The grants do not need to be repaid.

The Student Emergency Fund also provides relief for students who may be struggling with additional financial hardships brought on by the abrupt changes COVID-19 has created.

Leah Terranova, assistant dean for academic and student affairs, said the fund provides a safety net for students who encounter a situation that could affect their ability to continue law school.

“This fund allows students to connect with counseling services and other vital supports without adding a financial burden,” Terranova said.

The Student Emergency Fund was made possible by support from the Janean Meigs Memorial Award in Law fund and its stewardees.

KU Law supporters donated $1,000 to the fund during this year’s university-wide giving day, ONE DAY. ONE KU.

The fund is one of several efforts at the law school to support student wellness. Additional programs introduced during the 2019-20 academic year include:

  • A weekly Peer Listening program, coordinated with KU Counseling and Psychological Services, brings Mental Health Peer Educators to Green Hall for confidential sessions where students can get support and learn how to connect with useful resources.
  • At weekly mindfulness and meditation sessions, certified meditation coaches lead 20-minute exercises to reduce stress.
  • A new dedicated wellness space includes a stocked food pantry, available to any student who may be experiencing food insecurity.

To make a gift to the Student Emergency Fund, visit the KU Endowment website and enter “Student Emergency Fund” in the “Other Purpose” field.

Students can apply for assistance from the Student Emergency Fund by contacting Leah Terranova at leaht@ku.edu or sending her a completed application form. Gift cards to Dillons or other grocery stores are also available for students struggling with food insecurity. Please contact Leah Terranova to obtain a card.

— By Margaret Hair

Expect the unexpected

Photo by Ashley Golledge

Being the first in my family to attend law school, I did not know what to expect and began law school feeling guarded. I prepared myself to face a fiercely competitive and harsh environment full of people waiting to see me fail. I thought the experience would be isolating. After my first semester, I can honestly say, KU Law is not what I expected. I am so glad I was wrong.

As I settled into life as a law student, I realized the environment in Green Hall is a unique kind of competitive. The kind where your biggest competition is yourself. The day-to-day focus is centered around self-improvement instead of direct competition. There is a “join me as I push myself to do my best” mentality around the school. I found myself sitting in a classroom full of people who came from different places, had different experiences, were at different stages of their lives, but were experiencing the same newness of our first year at KU Law. This environment actually fostered inclusion, instead of isolation.

Green Hall has also become an environment where I do not feel intimidated to make mistakes and to learn from those mistakes. I realized the dreaded cold call did not live up to its hype. We now laugh about a wrong answer given in class because we are all are unsure of the correct answer. It did not take long for cold calls to turn into team efforts with classmates offering to chime in to save each other.

I quickly realized that professors did not use cold calls to terrorize their students. Instead, professors want to gauge the class’ understanding and give students the chance to test their knowledge. The professors at KU Law genuinely want to see you succeed. They want to be here and care deeply about shaping you into a great law student and attorney. I did not expect them to make an effort to remember my name. It may sound small, but it was comforting to hear a, “Hey Lexi, come on in,” when I walked through their door after struggling through a concept in their class.

I’ve heard about the importance of finding a balance between law school and other fun, stress-relieving activities. This still rings true. However, I was under the impression I needed to leave all-things-law-school in Green Hall in order to find this balance. Again, I am glad I was wrong. My classmates turned into good friends who have made my experience that much more inclusive. Spending time with these friends outside of the class setting has been a fun way to take a break from the workload of law school. I find it comforting to spend time with friends who relate to the uncertainty we are all going through in our first year. Few things will be as funny as inside jokes about our law school experience that we have picked up along the way.

— By Lexi Christopher, a 1L from Denver and a KU Law Student Ambassador

Gaining unique legal perspective through Tribal Judicial Support Clinic

Photo courtesy of Aidan Graybill

Participating in the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic provided me with a unique perspective on tribal law practice. During my time in the clinic, I conducted research to be used for consideration in larger governmental projects by a tribal attorney. The majority of the research had to do with staying up to date on issues that directly impact tribal self-governance and internal relations.

Working in the clinic allowed me an opportunity to develop a clearer understanding of the basic concepts of tribal law and sovereignty in an environment where I could directly apply it. Through this, I also developed a vibrant understanding that my learning style requires such immediate application of rules to a particular scenario in order to allow myself the best opportunity to concretize and deepen my understanding of rules and issues. This will be indispensable experience beyond clinic work and in my coursework as well.

I primarily spent time working for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation at the Nation’s Government Center. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to meet people the tribal attorney works with regularly, including individuals working for the Nation’s government, the state government and other attorneys that specialize in fields of particular importance to the Nation. I was able to observe various projects that the tribal attorney was currently working on and had an opportunity to make connections with other students from Washburn Law that were working in the tribal attorney’s office as well. Overall, the experience demonstrated the variety and extent of work being accomplished while working for a tribal government as an in-house attorney.

— By Aidan Graybill, a 2L from Lincoln, Nebraska.

Advice: Think of law school like a full-time job

Photo by Ashley Golledge

Law school can seem overwhelming when balancing reading, homework and exams. Time is an incredibly valuable resource in law school and finding a balance between school, sleep and a social life can be difficult. The good news is, it is possible to find a balance between all of those things and find eternal happiness… or whatever the law school equivalent of that is. Being able to manage your time effectively will make your experience significantly better. For me, that entails treating law school like a 9 to 5 job.

1L James Schmidt is pictured on the Speaker’s Balcony in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of James Schmidt.

Because I worked full-time in Washington, D.C. before coming to law school, I was able to learn a lot about time management. As a Senate legislative staffer, I was often working on multiple projects at once and at a certain point prioritization of projects became necessary. Being able to pick between what you absolutely need to do versus what you would like to do is crucial to maximizing your time. For me, I’m able to maximize my time best when I’m at Green Hall because I treat my time there like it’s my job. From 9 to 5 (or until my work for the day is done), I’m either in class or trying to prepare for another class (or taking a long lunch). That way, when I go home at the end of the day, all of my work is done. Procrastination in law school can lead to a stressful experience. In undergrad, putting off your work until the day before is generally a conundrum you can work yourself out of. In law school, getting your work done in advance can greatly relieve your day to day stress, and frankly is essential to getting your work done on time.

Also important, having enough time to sleep and enjoy what free time you have. There will be times in law school where you have two assignments due at the same time, while also still having to prepare for class. It is easy to get overwhelmed in these scenarios, and for me, sometimes I find it necessary to forgo preparing for a cold call in class in favor of finishing my assignments and getting eight hours of sleep. This is why I find treating law school like a 9 to 5 important to my success. I know that after I go home for the day, I have the rest of the day to do whatever I want. Although 1L year will be stressful, finding that time to relax and watch a movie or go bowling with friends can prove more beneficial to your success than staying up until 2 a.m. studying.

While living in D.C., James Schmidt played on a recreational office softball league. Photo courtesy of James Schmidt.

As you begin preparing for your first year of law school, think about how you manage your time currently and how you can transition to applying that at law school. Effective time management can change your law school experience from stressful… to still stressful, but significantly less stressful and being less stressful will lead to a better overall law school experience.

— By James Schmidt, a 1L from Houston, Texas and a KU Law Student Ambassador

How to succeed as a parent in law school

Photo by Ashley Golledge

Law school is a big adjustment for anyone. But for those of us with kids at home, it can be a complete shock to the system! Good news… the initial shock dissipates fairly quickly. Not only is law school doable for us parents, but it is a place where we can dream, develop and dare to push ourselves harder and further than we realized possible, and our children get to watch from the front row!

I am a first-year law student, starting my legal career later in life with two teenage daughters at home. Initially, I thought it was crazy to go to law school at this stage in life. I assumed it would be too hard to make happen, and I wouldn’t be a good fit. But, to my relief, I quickly realized that I was just one of many students who have interesting and storied paths leading them to KU Law. With help from my family, it’s very doable. From the first day in Green Hall, I have felt as an integral part of this community!

And I’m not the only parent here; there are many of us! If you’re a parent and thinking about joining us at KU Law, you can do it! Here are a few tips some of us parents have put together on how we are able to be successful law students without losing our minds at home!

First-year law student Kendra Stacey is pictured with her two teenage daughters. Photo courtesy of Kendra Stacey.

1. Keep the important things important.

First-year law student Ely Markarian is a father of four ranging from 6 to 12 years old. He has found that by inking in the important daily tasks and time for his family, he is able do his school work in the remaining time left under much less stress because he knows his family has been taken care of.

2. Be intentional.

Third-year law student Sasha Raab is the head Dean’s Fellow, executive comments editor for the Kansas Law Review and mom to Edith (3). Raab insists that one the most important factors of a good school/home life balance is to have times at home when she is 100% present. She makes the time from daycare pick up until bedtime a law school free time.

3. Have a support system and use it.

Second-year law student Angie Lyn is a single mom of Charleigh (8) and president of the Student Division of Federal Bar Association. Lyn insists that being able to rely on her close family and friends is invaluable. Her mom lives with her to help with her daughter, and her best friend keeps her daughter one night a week for a sleepover.  

4. Don’t expect perfection.

First-year law student Mary McMullen is class president and mom to Jarek (5), James (1) and Meredith (3 months old). She stresses that she had to let go of preconceived expectations, both for her family and herself. She knows it is necessary to give a little on both fronts and understands that perfection is an irrational pressure all of us put on ourselves.

5. Enjoy the ride and know you can do it!

— By Kendra Stacey, a 1L from Kansas City, Kansas and a KU Law Student Ambassador

DDLC: Spring preview

Stephen McAllister, L’88, speaks at the University of Kansas School of Law on Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020. McAllister is the U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas and a KU Law professor. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

A new semester in Green Hall means new diversity and inclusion initiatives from the Dean’s Diversity Leadership Council (DDLC) and the Faculty and Staff Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) Committee. 

The DDLC started the semester with a lunch program where U.S. Attorney for the District of Kansas Stephen McAllister, L’88, spoke about acknowledging his white privilege and the work we all need to do as we strive to make the legal profession a more inclusive environment. There was also a Q&A portion that allowed students, staff and faculty to engage in a discussion both about McAllister’s experiences and the diversity, equity and inclusion work still to be done in the legal profession. McAllister is the E.S. & Tom W. Hampton Distinguished Professor of Law at KU Law.

The DDLC and DEI Committee are also hosting a three-part series on compassionate and non-violent communication skills, which will be led by Dr. D.A. Graham — the University Ombudsperson. The series will run over the lunch hours on Wednesday, Feb. 26, March 18 and April 8. Each session in the series will be crafted to be informative and practical, in the hopes of providing students, faculty and staff with the tools necessary to engage in challenging discussions surrounding diversity, equity and inclusion outside of DDLC and DEI Committee events. Check the KU Law website calendar for more specific information on each session closer to the session date. 

The DDLC is also excited to build connections between the Alumni Diversity Advisory Council and the current student body. The Council is made up of diverse KU Law attorneys who practice in a range of areas of law and who have knowledge about navigating topics of diversity and inclusion in the legal profession. Keep an eye out for upcoming collaborative events between the DDLC and the Council. 

As we mentioned in our fall semester wrap-up blog, the DDLC and DEI Committee are truly excited about the consistent engagement and support we’ve received. We want to encourage members of the KU Law community to engage with us even further by contacting the DDLC with any diversity, equity and inclusion events, policies, etc. that you would like to see at Green Hall. We also welcome any feedback on our previous events and policy initiatives.  Please feel free to reach out to the DDLC as a whole at ddlc@googlegroups.com, or to any individual member, whose information and email can be found here.

— By Delaney Hiegert, a 2L from Topeka and member of the Dean’s Diversity Leadership Council