Updated on May 4, 2018
Humans are complex beings. The evolutionary marvel that is the human brain is both our species’ greatest strength and weakness. It allows us, as lawyers and future lawyers, to understand, communicate and untangle intricate legal issues. On the other hand, it houses a complex web of emotions, thoughts and experiences all tied to the human condition. Lawyers are often called on to resolve distressing situations, frequently in time-sensitive settings. These type of environments create a concerning reality for many currently, and soon to be, in the legal profession.
In a recent study, the ABA partnered with Hazelden to examine the rates of substance use and other mental health concerns regarding lawyers. Among the approximately 13,000 lawyers polled, 61 percent reported concerns with anxiety and 46 percent reported concerns with depression. To cope with said mental health struggles, many attorneys turn to substance abuse—with over 20 percent of those polled screening positive for hazardous, harmful and potentially alcohol-dependent drinking.
The sad truth is we, as legal community, have known this for decades. Years and years of research has consistently indicated higher prevalence of suicide, alcohol/drug abuse, anxiety and depression among attorneys when compared to other professions. There seems to be a cloud of shame surrounding the issue for many—much of the way our society has, and still does, treat mental illnesses. For some, mental health is treated as inferior to physical well-being and there is much reason to believe this has had its consequences.
Thankfully law schools and organizations such as the ABA are teaming up to tackle the issue of mental health in the legal community. Furthermore, some law firms are adjusting internal policies and implementing programs geared toward their employees’ mental health.
Know that no amount of wealth or prestige can buy you a new brain. Know that no amount of wealth or prestige should take precedence over being mentally and physically healthy. Know that it is never too late to get healthy and never too early to start good habits. Know that there are people who are always available to talk. Know that your most important asset is your own well-being—because you simply cannot help other people until you help yourself.
-Jöel Thompson is a 2L and student ambassador from Fairfax, Virginia.
Posted on April 10, 2018
Reinvention the right move for journalist-turned-law student
Just a couple of months away from graduation and a few weeks out from my 28th birthday, I thought recently about where my pre-law school self would have envisioned me at this time in my life. I probably would have hoped that I’d be a news correspondent halfway around the globe. Instead, I ended up just over four hours away from where I grew up.
And I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
In high school, I was sure I’d be heading to medical school after graduation. But the summer before my senior year, I went to a journalism workshop because I’d always liked writing and hadn’t really made time for it in the middle of chemistry and biology (I’ve now forgotten everything I ever tried to learn in those classes). I fell in love with the newsroom — the pace, the constant change, the teamwork. It was enough to completely change the course of my life; I enrolled as a student at Mizzou’s journalism school a few months later.
Once there, I was hooked. I learned to love cold calling potential sources — despite being absolutely terrified of doing so when I arrived on campus. I loved the adrenaline rush of turning around a breaking news story and publishing it just before deadline. I loved the precision and accuracy that editing required. I was certain that once I graduated and began working for the Kansas City Star, I’d be launching into a lifelong career as a reporter.
But when I had the chance to cover court proceedings, something changed once again — I found myself wanting to know more about the trials I was watching, to understand the rules and to be part of the advocacy instead of writing about it. But I didn’t know whether I could make the jump from being a journalist to potentially working as an attorney someday — or even the jump to going back to school. I was unsure of whether any of my writing and research skills would transfer and whether I could be an advocate. I didn’t know if I was prepared for what I’d heard would be a brutally competitive environment. I was convinced as I applied to law schools that I was reinventing myself and my career too many times — that I just needed to pick something and stick with it.
Now that I’m just weeks away from taking my last finals of law school, I’m so, so glad I was wrong. Being a law student showed me that there’s no “right” background to prepare anyone to be a lawyer. There isn’t a correct timeline to follow to get through the doors of Green Hall. All that’s required is that you show up, ready to learn and ready to work, with an understanding that everyone is starting with a blank slate. Far from the depiction of law schools I’d seen in movies, everyone at KU Law has given me so much support. I’ve had countless opportunities to develop as a writer and an advocate. I’ve been able to put the skills I’m learning in the classroom to practical use. And it didn’t matter how long it took me to get here.
— Sangeeta Shastry is a 3L and KU Law Student Ambassador from St. Louis.
Updated on April 3, 2018
In MLP, student learns value of lawyers, doctors partnering for healthy communities
Looking past the stereotypes, lawyers and doctors have a lot in common. Usually seen as adversaries, I know that at least medical students and law students can be friends.
My best friend is an M2 at KU Med – no, not a 2M. She has a different test schedule every four weeks, her grades depend on more than just a single test, she can view her class lectures online at home, and she administers physical exams on trained actors for practice.
We have vastly different academic experiences. She complains about memorizing the clotting cascade for blood platelets. And I argue about a comma under the Last Antecedent Rule.
But we both have professional mentors, we have ethical and professional responsibilities, we worry about passing boards and bar exams, and we both post up at the library for hours on end.
Most importantly, in life, we both care about healthy communities, advocating for progressive and supportive legislation, working for the public interest and promoting women in leadership positions. And that is what we have in common. To be effective in achieving these goals, our professions have to work together.
In undergrad, we took public policy classes together and discussed policy’s impacts on communities. Back then I viewed our future professions as two different worlds — until I participated in KU Law’s Medical-Legal Partnership Field Placement at Lawrence Memorial Hospital. My supervisor’s words meant more to me than she probably intended, that “we cannot work in silos.”
While working at Lawrence Memorial Hospital, I saw this firsthand. I was able to visit patients on the floor to conduct intake interviews, sit on follow-up appointments, call clients with updates and work on court documents. This required working with LMH’s Care Coordination Office, nurses and physicians to provide care to patients.
Doctors and lawyers alone or together can be intimidating, but we have to forge partnerships to make sure our community is healthy. Whether it’s working on the language for legislation, referring patients to supportive services or understanding the medical decisions patients make, combining perspectives is vital to efficiently make a lasting impact on our communities.
While working at the MLP Field Placement, not only did I reconcile medicine and law, but I also found a passion for legal services. As I enter the second half of my law school career, I am thankful that KU Law had an MLP to focus my studies and career aspirations as well as unearth the connection between my degree and skills and an enduring passion that brings different professions together.
— Jessie Pringle is a 2L and KU Law Student Ambassador from Chanute, Kansas.
Updated on March 28, 2018
Student appreciates ‘feats of strength and determination’ by classmates, faculty
Mega-blockbuster superhero flicks are taking the world by storm. “Black Panther” recently surpassed a cool billion dollars at the box office (Wakanda Forever!), and “Avengers: Infinity War” is coming out at the end of April (seriously, can’t wait). Society has become amazed with the incredible feats of fictional characters – so much so that the incredible feats of everyday people go unnoticed. We don’t all have to turn big and green, be the God of Thunder, the King of Wakanda, a science experiment or a “genius, billionaire, playboy, philanthropist” to be a superhero.
In my short time at KU Law, I have come to appreciate the incredible feats of strength and determination by the people around me. I have come to realize that we all have superpowers. They can be having the mental fortitude to endure an eight-hour final; the will power to fight the temptation to take a night off from studying; the resolve to commute up to an hour daily to Green Hall (and be on time!); the resilience to be stretched to your thinnest and still keep it together; or the concentration to go to school while having little kids and a family at home. These are all superpowers in my book, and this is not, by any means, an exhaustive list.
The source of these superpowers that we all possess is the human spirit. It can be used to do incredible things, and using our superpowers is what turns us in to superheroes. Superheroes overcome great adversity and keep fighting, even when the outlook is bleak. In addition to fighting your power-hungry, mischievous adopted brother; taking down a super-secret organization that wants global chaos; or facing off with a mad titan, adversity can be getting up before the birds or being the last one in the library to make sure you complete the assignments and reading. Adversity can be holding a textbook one in hand and a baby in the other. It can be moving hundreds of miles from family to go to school. The human spirit is a powerful tool that can turn a seemingly average person into an Avenger like Black Widow or Iron Man.
I see these feats in the students and faculty around me, and I am as astonished by them as I would be by seeing Spider-Man swing around above me. I consider myself blessed to spend each day with these superheroes and to face the grind of law school with them. They come from every background and have endured much more than me to be where there are. As for me, I’m just a kid from Lenexa.
— Omar Husain is a 1L and KU Law Student Ambassador from Lenexa, Kansas.
Posted on March 20, 2018
I recently realized that I have been at KU Law for six months. It may not seem like a long time, but I’ve done a lot in this time. I moved to Lawrence, made new friends and finished an entire semester of law school! A person can learn a lot in six months, but I think there are six noteworthy things that I’ve figured out since August.
1) No one knows what they’re doing (and that’s OK!).
I’ve never had a lawyer in my family. I majored in tourism and hospitality as an undergraduate student. It’s safe to say that I knew next to nothing about law school before coming to KU for 1L orientation. As a control freak who hates surprises, this was pretty scary for me. But I realized very quickly in my first week at KU that everyone felt the exact same fear that I did. No one knows exactly what to expect before coming to law school. It’s a completely new experience for everyone, regardless of your academic background or your family tree. Your classmates are feeling just as freaked out, so lean on them for support!
2) It’s important to have law school AND non-law school friends.
I love the friends that I’ve made in law school. They’re supportive, fun and always down for a coffee run to the DeBruce Center between classes. Plus, I would NOT have survived finals week without our little study groups! But I quickly learned to appreciate my friends outside of law school, too. For me, non-law school friends pull me back into the real world during those times I can’t seem to stop thinking about legal memos and Constitutional Law hypotheticals. Sometimes a person’s just gotta talk about the new shows on Netflix! Plus, knowing that my non-law friends are proud of me is enough to keep me motivated through the more stressful moments in law school.
3) Getting involved in organizations has perks. Major perks.
Outline banks, free food during group meetings and advice from law students who’ve made it through 1L year: What more can I say? I obviously need these things. Plus, organizations were a great way to meet people with the same interests as me.
4) On that note, there are WAY more opportunities for involvement than I had expected.
KU Law has political action groups, religious-interest clubs, legal clinics, moot court … I could go on, but I won’t. There’s something for everyone. Just a couple of months into law school, I had the opportunity to volunteer with the DACA Clinic. You don’t have to be an experienced law student to find something to do. In fact, if you’re a law student at KU and you’re bored, then you’re doing something wrong!
5) Having a hobby outside of law school is important.
I study a lot more in law school then I generally had to in undergrad. However, I can’t live in the law library forever or I’ll go crazy! So, there are a few things I do to keep my stress levels down. I’ll binge watch some TV (hellooo student subscription to Hulu!), do some yoga in my apartment or catch a movie at the theater. Did you know the seats recline at the Lawrence movie theater? It’s amazing. I also learned that having a hobby isn’t just a waste of time. You can put it on your resume to show employers a little more about your personality. That’s a win-win if you ask me.
6) I’ve already learned so much more than I ever could have expected.
If you go to law school, you’ll be amazed at how much you learn in such a short amount of time. Looking at the papers I wrote in the beginning of my Lawyering Skills class compared to my fall semester final memo, I’m pleasantly surprised by how much my legal writing skills have improved. While I’ve learned a lot in six months, I know that there’s still so much more to come. Here’s to the next two and a half years!
— Emily Leiker is a 1L and KU Law Student Ambassador from Hays.
Posted on March 14, 2018
First-year KU Law student Terra Brockman, front row sixth from left, was a member of the winning team in the 2017 Bluebook Relays. The annual competition is just one of the ways students bond with their small-section classmates during law school.
Contrary to popular belief, law school is nothing like how it is portrayed on TV. Unfortunately, no one wears pink blazers like Elle Woods in “Legally Blonde,” and although I am not yet finished with Criminal Law, it does not seem like our professor will be letting us work on cases in court like the 1Ls in “How to Get Away with Murder.” There are some similarities that can be drawn from what is shown on TV, but there is still a lot that they just don’t tell you.
Law school is where you find your people. Almost every law school places you in small sections of people with whom you will have every class. On its face, this sounds a bit like high school, but it is probably the most comforting part of being a 1L. There is nothing worse than being sick in law school. However, being in a small section gives me an automatic 20 people I can reach out to for class notes. If you’re anything like me and managed to escape some undergraduate classes without learning a single person’s name, I promise that will not be possible in law school. These people quickly become your best friends – not just because you see them every day, but because there is something special about struggling together. The best of times, the worst of times, but at least you’re not alone!
At KU Law, different organizations put together events so you get to know your classmates. The Student Bar Association will make all your non-law school friends jealous that you get to relive your prom days. Barrister’s Ball, also known as Law Prom, is one of the few events where you’ll get to see that guy who sits in the back of the class all dressed up. The fun doesn’t stop there because Women in Law has a Pub Night where they auction off events with your professors. I mean, how often can someone say they had dinner at the dean’s house? In addition to both events being a fun excuse to dress up and get out of the house, the proceeds also go to charities within the community. So not only are you having a great time with your friends, but you are making a difference while doing it!
People say that college is the best four years of your life, but it’s safe to say those people probably never went to law school. The most accurate depiction of law school in “How to Get Away with Murder” is when Wes gets cold-called on the first day of class and has no idea that reading had been assigned. If that does scream 1L, I don’t know what does! This experience is like no other. You will lose sleep. You will be challenged beyond your comfort zone and will probably ask yourself, “Why am I here?” But behind every challenging endeavor comes a reward that makes it all worth it.
— Terra Brockman is a 1L and KU Law Student Ambassador from Overland Park.
Updated on February 26, 2018
As a KU Law Student Ambassador giving tours of Green Hall, one of the most common questions I hear from students is how to balance all the work of law school with a healthy life — socially, physically and emotionally. Personally, I was worried about that as well. Before I began law school, I had these scary mental images of myself as a hermit, hiding out in my bedroom, only coming out for unhealthy rations. And for the first part of my 1L year, that was, unfortunately, true. I wasn’t very social, I didn’t make/maintain friendships, and I did not do a good job working out or staying healthy. I am not only a stress eater, but also a stress cook, and when I am stressed I cook homestyle, Crisco-infused, tasty food.
As I continued further into my law school career, I realized that I was not going down a healthy road. I decided that it was time to make some changes and kick it into gear. I felt pretty good about the academics, but I needed to balance the rest of my life with my school work. Here are some practices that I implemented:
An awesome calendar to literally organize my life
I am not an organized person. I am perpetually running around like a crazy person trying to figure out where I need to be and when. A calendar minimizes my worry and allows me to organize my schedule in such a way that I can maximize my time. I like when my calendars have a monthly overview with the weeks expanded to allow detailed notes. I recommend finding a style that works for you and then using it to its fullest capacity.
As silly as it sounds, if you are worried about your health (or finances) and find yourself spending way more than you should on food you should not be eating, a lunchbox can really help. It allows me to make healthy food at home that is much more cost-effective. It also allows me to utilize my lunch breaks for school work, leaving less to be done when I get home in the evening.
Prioritizing downtime with family and friends
This one comes directly from my mother. When you start law school, it’s easy to allow school work to take over. I was certainly guilty of this. I am a Kansas girl, and my parents don’t live too far from Lawrence. During my first few months of law school, though, they easily could have lived 1,000 miles away for how much I spent time with them. Nowadays, I make it a priority to schedule one day each weekend to spend time at my parents’ house. I write it into my calendar and schedule the rest of my work with that time in mind. I do the same thing when planning date nights with my fiancé, game nights with friends, or if I am feeling like I need a mental health day. Now there are some times when school work can’t be avoided and you have to encroach on your planned time, but for the most part you can make free time a true priority.
(Mostly) not buying junk food
Now I am the first to say that I am NOT perfect. I have a weakness for cookie dough and a terrible love of gummy worms. If those items are in the house, I will binge eat an entire roll of cookie dough in about 20 minutes (don’t judge me). This just means that I have to exercise willpower at the grocery store; I try not to buy anything that I would be able to binge. Instead of chips, I get baby carrots. Instead of cookie dough, I get dark chocolate chips and peanut butter. Instead of gummy worms, I get grapes. They aren’t perfect substitutes, but they do cut down on the unhealthy stuff a little bit.
Making time for at least a couple of walks a week
I am not a gym rat. I hate cardio. But as a law student, I use school as an excuse to avoid working out way more than I should. (NOTE: I make time for “Criminal Minds.”) Taking walks is an easy and relaxing way to get moving. Again, this is something you kind of need to plan. But, honestly, a 45-minute walk is shorter than most of my grocery shopping trips and the length of one Netflix episode.
Although this is not an exhaustive list, these are some of the things that really helped me feel happier and less stressed while maintaining healthy relationships. Law school really is about finding a balance that works for you.
— Samantha Wagner is a 2L from Paola and a KU Law Student Ambassador.
Updated on April 4, 2018
Since 1967, more than 1,300 students have cut their teeth in KU Law’s Legal Aid Clinic under the supervision of seasoned attorneys and faculty, working to secure “justice for and to protect the rights of the needy.”
The Fall 2017 issue of KU Law Magazine features a retrospective story marking the 50th anniversary of the Clinic. We received far too many fond recollections from alumni and staff to include them all in the print edition, so we’re sharing them here on our blog.
Have a story to share? Add it in the comments!
Randolph Starr, L’73
Starr & Westbrook PC | Loveland, Colorado
My world as a lawyer bloomed with Legal Aid. I was the first in my family to attend law school. I didn’t really know what lawyers did, and I had never been in a court or in a law office. I enrolled in the fall of 1970. I struggled in the beginning (not much writing instruction in business school). As I hit my stride in law school, I decided to try my hand at one of the law school’s clinical programs. Mike Davis and Louise Wheeler were the sponsors and helped guide us through representation of real clients. I remember my first DUI case for a third offender. It scared the pants off me to think that he would probably spend time in the Douglas County Jail (not a nice place). He was happy with his three-month sentence, and I learned how to deal with alcohol offenses.
My first real trial was a change-in-custody case. The trial was held in Kansas City, Kansas, since that was the original venue. Neither Mike nor Louise could go with me, so they arranged to have the head of the legal aid program in KCK sit at the table with me. Of course he knew nothing of the facts; I was on my own. I violated one of the first rules of examination of one of my witnesses in trying to rehabilitate his damaging testimony: I asked a question that I did not know the answer to. My client was successful in maintaining custody, and I had won my first litigated case. I was, thereafter, hooked.
My years of sports had prepared me for the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat. But to help out another person using my knowledge and understanding was addictive. Legal Aid changed my goal and purpose for the law. I became a civil trial attorney, and my fundamentals served me well over the many trials I had over the last 44 years. Mike Davis was an incredible mentor to me. Judge Gray was tolerant with the “kids” who would appear on dissolution cases. And I learned what a “sundowner” order from the municipal judge was to our local traveling population. I would put my education at KU up against any other place.
Chuck Briscoe, L’75
Director, Legal Aid Clinic, Fall 1999 – Fall 2012
In the spring of 1995, while having coffee with friends in the Shawnee County Courthouse, one of the group mentioned a job posting for a supervising attorney in the Legal Aid Clinic. At the time, I had been practicing law for 20 years and I saw this as an opportunity to accomplish two of my professional goals: to teach soon-to-be attorneys how to practice law and to provide legal services to people who did not have the financial resources to hire counsel.
Dennis Prater was leaving the clinic, and Shelley Hickman Clark was succeeding him as the director. I had known Shelley since law school, and we had worked together in state government during Gov. John Carlin’s administration. As Shelly and I already had a good professional relationship, I was hopeful for the opportunity to join her in the clinic. Following the interview, I gladly accepted Shelley’s offer to become a supervising attorney.
I began working in the clinic in June 1995, joining Shelley, Stephanie Matthews and Barbara Wrigley, our office manager. With Shelley’s approval, I continued my private practice in Topeka. I asked for this concession because I did not want to leave my practice until I was certain the clinic would be a rewarding experience for the students and me. I also wanted to be confident our clients could be ably represented by a teaching clinic. By 1997, I knew that all of these conditions could be met and I closed my practice so I could work in the clinic full time.
In 1999, Shelley left the clinic to become the associate dean for KU Law. I became the director, and Suzanne Valdez joined us as a supervising attorney. Stephanie left the clinic in 2000, and Shelley later rejoined us. In 2003, Suzanne left and was eventually replaced by Jody Lamb Meyer in 2005. So the team from 2005 until my retirement on Dec. 31, 2012 was Shelly, Jody, Barbara Wrigley and me.
During my 17-year association with the clinic, it functioned as a small law firm with the supervising attorneys as the partners and our students as the associate attorneys. The firm’s practice consisted of domestic relations cases (which included divorce, annulment, paternity, protection from abuse and protection from stalking), defense of adults in municipal court and defense of juvenile offenders in district court.
We also represented clients in a variety of other matters, including landlord and tenant disputes, adoptions, guardianships, expungement of criminal convictions and juvenile offender adjudications, and preparation of wills.
From 1995 through 2012, approximately 370 students were enrolled in our program. Each student had an average caseload of 10 to 15 files, and the supervising attorneys were fully involved in each of the cases. On their first day in the clinic, the students were assigned to a supervising attorney and they received their case files. Often the students were overwhelmed during the first weeks of the semester when they were scheduled for court appearances shortly after arriving in the clinic.
Initially the supervising attorneys took the lead and the new students were second-chair observers. However, the goal of the supervising attorneys was to get the fledglings out of the nest as soon as possible, with a caveat: At no time would a student be placed in a position where the client’s interests might be jeopardized due to the student’s lack of experience.
Eventually the students settled in and the supervising attorneys were able to spend more time suggesting and directing case strategies. These discussions always included practical applications of the Codes of Civil and Criminal Procedure, statutory interpretation and legal research. During my tenure in the clinic, our students were required to enroll in the clinic for two semesters, and by the second semester they worked with more independence – to the mutual satisfaction of the supervising attorneys and the students.
The supervising attorneys were constantly teaching, in the clinic and in courtrooms. We had an open-door policy, which encouraged the students to ask questions and seek guidance at any time. It seemed the supervising attorneys always had a student standing at the doorways to their offices throughout the day, and we learned to work with constant interruptions.
Our law firm was very busy. From 1995 through 2012, we opened 7,484 files: 3,508 municipal court cases, 1,631 juvenile offender cases, 1,684 domestic relations cases and 661 miscellaneous civil cases. Most of our representation involved contested matters, and we were constantly in court. In our domestic relations practice, we did not hesitate to take contested cases involving issues such as child custody and domestic abuse. As a result, we were representing clients who were not only in need of legal representation, but also often in crisis.
A special tribute to Barbara Wrigley is in order here. She handled an unfathomable number of incoming telephone calls, many of which were from frantic clients, ran our court appearance calendar, scheduled office visits for clients, communicated with the courts, dealt with innumerable persons who came to the office without appointments, soothed many frustrated students (and an occasional frustrated supervising attorney), and so much more. Additionally, Barbara began working in the clinic in 1988, and her institutional memory was invaluable.
Although I enjoyed all of our areas of practice, I was especially proud of our representation of clients in contested domestic relations cases. While I was in the clinic, Kansas Legal Services had a limited presence in Douglas County, but it could not accommodate many clients. Therefore we felt the clinic had a moral obligation to accept as many domestic relations clients as we could, particularly in cases which involved either child custody or domestic violence. Without us, those clients would have to represent themselves in extremely difficult and stressful matters, often against retained counsel.
The large number of clients we represented is, in itself, significant, but more impressive was the quality of the legal services we provided. To put this into perspective, one has to consider that most of the students had no prior experience in interviewing clients, marshaling facts, maintaining case files, preparing and filing legal documents, negotiating with opposing counsel or appearing in court. Additionally, given the demands of their other law school classes, the students were not able to be in the clinic office full-time, so communication with clients and opposing attorneys was sometimes sporadic. When the students were not in the office, important phone calls and various crises had to be covered and resolved by the supervising attorneys. In addition, as our clients and cases did not pause for final exams, semester breaks and the summer (when our enrollment was lower), the supervising attorneys often had to assume full responsibility for some of the clients’ cases.
Through it all, our students gained experience by analyzing the facts and the law of each case, explaining possible options and outcomes to our clients, using negotiation in an attempt to resolve disputes and, when negotiation failed, advocating for our clients in trial. We were always prepared and professional, and we represented each of our clients to the best of our abilities. I marvel at all we accomplished given the constraints inherent in the representation of so many clients by law students who were just starting their legal training.
In the clinic, we taught basic legal skills to prepare our students to become counselors and advocates. They learned how to be organized, prepared, practical and compassionate, and they participated in numerous courtroom proceedings. There was no other course in the law school that provided similar training. I am confident that after graduation our students were better prepared to face their first days in practice having benefitted from their Legal Aid Clinic experience. As was said by a Confucian scholar, “What I hear, I forget; What I see, I remember; What I do, I understand.” And our students did a lot.
Jim Clark, L’75
I was a student director-in-training in the spring of 1974, and student director in fall of ’74 and spring of ’75, assigned to what was then Haskell Indian Junior College. At that time the Legal Aid office was located above Owens Flower Shop, as there was no room in Old Green Hall. At that office, not only did we have the constant scent of flowers, but often the smell of fresh donuts when someone dashed downstairs and next door to Joe’s Bakery. The office also had satellite locations at Haskell Indian Junior College, Ballard Place and Penn House, hence the need for student directors. While we were legal interns, we still needed supervision by practicing attorneys. The director of the Legal Aid Clinic, then Professor Louise Wheeler, followed by Professor Deanell Tacha, provided much of the court supervision, but we were also assigned to members of the Douglas County Bar Association. While representing clients in civil matters in district court and criminal matters in municipal court were challenging, often our biggest challenge was coordinating our cases with the schedule of our supervising attorney.
Nathan Harbur, L’77
Nathan C. Harbur, Chartered | Leawood, Kansas
I was a Legal Aid intern during the summer before and during my third year of law school. I was in the class of ’77. A big thanks to Deanell Tacha for choosing me as an intern. Having the guidance of an experienced mentor, an office and support as an intern were very inspiring to me. My experiences in the Clinic allowed me to better understand what practicing law in a small office was like and definitely confirmed my desire to represent regular people as a young lawyer.
Gary Pomeroy, L’84
Kansas Department for Children & Families | Kansas City, Kansas
I did Legal Aid during the summer of 1983. I was the first one of my group to appear in front of Judge George Catt, the municipal court judge. My client was charged with some alcohol-related violation. Judge Catt then asked me to state the appearances. I had no idea what he was asking me to do. So I did what I always do when confused and flustered: I improvised. I said, “I believe we are all here, your honor.” At which point the supervising attorney realized what was happening, stepped in and formally entered our appearances. She then pulled everyone else out into the hallway (this was when Municipal Court was roughly where Division 2 is in the Douglas County Courthouse now) and explained to them what to say and how to enter one’s appearance.
The following Thursday morning, we were back in Municipal Court for the criminal misdemeanor docket. I was again the first of my group up.
Before Judge Catt asked me to enter the appearances, he looked down from the bench, recognized me from the week before, and asked, “Counselor, are we all here?”
I bumped into Judge Catt at the Douglas County Courthouse shortly before he retired from the Municipal bench in 1998. I reminded him of our first meeting, and he responded, “That was you?” He then told me I had provided him with many free drinks based on the story of our first meeting.
Marty Brown, L’86
Farmers Corporate Legal & Foremost (a Farmers subsidiary) | Michigan
I participated in the Legal Aid Clinic in 1985-86, and it was a very memorable, influential and rewarding experience. Dennis Prater was the director. Dennis was a great mentor and teacher. I’ll never forget my first client, though I can’t recall her name, who was blind and had both legs amputated below the knees, both a result of diabetes. My job was to get her Social Security Supplemental Income payments restored. I went to visit her in a nursing home on the southwest side of Lawrence, not far from where I was living on south Ousdahl. As is often the case with government bureaucracy, her situation was due to a comedy/tragedy of errors. I made several visits to the Social Security office with various documents to show my client’s plight. While the Social Security folks were nice and understanding, they had their procedures and I had to cross all the T’s and dot all the I’s. After a few weeks, my client’s SI payments were restored.
While that was my first, and the most memorable of my LAC experiences, there were a lot more and I learned a lot about the actual practice of law. Of all my law school classes, there is no doubt that the Legal Aid Clinic is the class from which I received the most benefit. I interacted with many clients, made my only jail visit (to interview a client), had several court appearances, prepared many pleadings and did a ton of legal research, all of which were very beneficial to me in my post-Lawrence career.
Brian McLeod, L’89
City of Wichita | Wichita, Kansas
I was in the Legal Aid Clinic in the late ’80s, when Dennis Prater was director. In the large file room we called “The Bullpen,” there were a couple of old typewriters and a copy machine, none of which worked very well. Barb Wrigley was the only secretarial support for the whole office, and if we needed her help, we had to get stuff to her quite a while in advance. It was useful practical experience. I worked on a number of misdemeanor defense cases, some DUIs, a handful of interesting domestic cases with parentage, custody and property division issues, and one step-parent adoption. The report forms were a useful mechanism for keeping track of cases and, of course, conflict checking, client interviews and reporting to a supervisor apply in some form in most small law offices.
Peggy Rowe, L’90
Commerce Bancshares Inc. | Kansas City, Missouri
I participated in the Legal Aid Clinic in my third year (1989-1990). I really enjoyed the experience. One thing I remember, and the story I tell all of the time is:
During our “orientation” to the Clinic, Professor Prater told us something very empowering: “There is nothing you can do that I can’t undo.” That sentence empowered the participants to have no fear of failure, or at least no fear that a “failure” would be detrimental to a client. That grant of freedom also empowered us to be willing to take on any issue/matter. What is interesting is the experience I had in the Clinic was foundational to the work I do today. The skills I learned related to reviewing a matter (triage), understanding the law associated with the matter and offering solutions defines my daily work as deputy general counsel with Commerce Bancshares Inc. Today I am offered the opportunity to handle a wide variety of matters for our company, and that variety of work is one of the many reasons I love my job. While I am not handling criminal work or spending much time in the courtroom, meeting the challenge of handling a variety of matters began in the Legal Aid Clinic.
Tanya Rodecker Wendt, L’05
Deacy & Deacy LLP | Kansas City, Missouri
I was part of the Legal Aid Clinic during the 2004-2005 academic year. I feel like I gained so much from the Legal Aid Clinic, from appearing in court, to preparing documents, to meeting with clients. It provided me my first real-life experiences of being a litigator, and it gave me a venue to apply the skills I was learning about in my litigation classes. I also value the friendships I made with members of my class who I had not otherwise crossed paths with during our first two years of law school, some of whom are still close friends today. The Clinic is certainly one of my favorite memories of law school.
I’d like to share a story: I had a woman come in who was wanting a divorce. We went through our intake and proceeded to prepare papers for her. The next time she came in, she had a newborn baby with her. The fact that she was pregnant was never mentioned in our prior meetings and conversations. So we politely commented that we would have to make changes to the papers to account for the child, to which the client replied, “Oh, my husband is not the father.” To her, the child was not a factor in the divorce because they had been separated for some time. Little did she know, Kansas law presumes the husband to be the father, so it did matter. What is crazy is this happened to me a second time! A woman came in requesting a divorce, came back to sign the papers with a newborn, but the child was not her husband’s so she thought it did not affect the divorce proceedings. And no, I was not oblivious to their mid-sections. Both of these women carried their babies in such a way that it was not obvious that they were pregnant. After that, we changed the divorce intake form to ask if the client was currently pregnant. Lesson learned.
Updated on February 14, 2018
Law school can be overwhelming, and a 3L recently told me that feeling never really goes away. So you need to make time to have fun. Treat yo self. As an added bonus, the mental break will probably make you more productive when you hit the books again.
Although this list barely scratches the surface, here are some of my favorite places in Lawrence and Kansas City when I need a study break:
Alchemy Coffee and Bake House (Lawrence)
*happy sigh* You think you’ve had good cold brew before, but no. The cold brew coffee at Alchemy is amazing. And don’t worry, you can buy the nectar of the gods in a growler to fuel your caffeine addiction. The location is also convenient for grabbing coffee and walking around Mass Street.
Thou Mayest Coffee Roasters (KC)
As soon as you step in the door, you feel like you’re in the Pacific Northwest. This place has great coffee, cocktails, cozy ambience and even a cereal bar. So put on your lumberjack flannel, order a drink and be prepared to want to stay all day.
23rd Street Brewery (Lawrence)
My small section goes here regularly for $1 beers during happy hour.
Retro arcade games, a rooftop patio and giant Jenga/Connect Four. It’s like being a kid again, but with drinking. Need I say more?
Green Lady Lounge (KC)
This bar has a speak-easy vibe with live jazz music every night of the year.
Ruins Pub (KC)
This pub is low-key awesome. It has a self-pour beer wall, Hungarian-inspired food, trivia nights and live shows. Some nights the DJ plays only ’90s through early 2000s hip hop/R&B. It’s a blast, although some of you may be too young to fully appreciate the school-dance throwback!
The Dusty Bookshelf (Lawrence)
Something about the smell of used books is just good for the soul. This is a quaint used bookstore on Mass Street complete with comfy chairs and a roaming cat.
River Market (KC)
A KC neighborhood filled with restaurants, coffee shops and an open-air market year-round. I recommend buying spices at Al Habishi Market, drinking boba tea at Dragonfly and shopping at the pop-up flea markets.
Union Station (KC)
Allow me to geek out for a minute and confess how much I love Union Station. The building is over 100 years old and is absolutely beautiful, especially during the holidays. Pierpont’s at Union Station, a steak and seafood restaurant, has one of the coolest bars I’ve ever seen. If you want to dress up and splurge on fancy cocktails, this is a great place for it.
There’s also an event space for traveling museum exhibits, an extreme-screen movie theater, a science museum, planetarium, escape room and a stage for live theater. And if you’re feeling really adventurous, embrace your inner Sheldon Cooper and take the train somewhere.
Clinton Lake (Lawrence)
Located right outside of Lawrence, Clinton Lake is one of my favorite spots. In addition to boating and paddle sports, you can hike, camp, picnic, play disc golf and hang out on the “beach” (it’s Kansas; we take what we can get). It’s also far enough from town to make it a great place to watch meteor showers. The Ambler Student Recreation Fitness Center on campus rents kayaks, paddleboards, canoes, bikes and camping equipment, so it’s really easy to take advantage of lake activities.
— Alisha Peters is a 1L and KU Law Student Ambassador from McPherson, Kansas.
Posted on February 5, 2018
With graduation just a few months away, 3L Sophia Dinkel took a break from post-law school planning to offer words of wisdom to future Jayhawk lawyers-in-training.
As a 3L departing from law school in May, here are a few tips that I have picked up throughout the years.
- Get to know professors interested in the work you are interested in. They are great, very knowledgeable and will often times help you get a job.
- Take classes you enjoy. Enjoyable classes make the work much easier.
- Get to know your classmates! They are wonderful people and may also help you get a job.
- Make friends! The people in your class are the ones who will get you through the ups and the downs of law school.
- Do a clinic or two. They are good opportunities to get real-world experience.
- Be open. Your ideas about what you want to be when you grow up may change. Embrace it. You can be any kind of lawyer you want.
- Don’t pick a legal field for the money; pick one because you find it fascinating.
- Go to law school events! They are fun and a good way to meet other law students. Remember, they are going to help you get jobs. 😉
- Maintain a hobby. Law school is a lot of work, but find or maintain a hobby that keeps you sane. It will help your mental health and give you something interesting to talk to employers about.
- Join an organization you are interested in. Don’t join organizations for resume builders.
- If you see a program or event or opportunity that interests you, do it.
- Apply to that job, even if it seems like a far fetched plan. You never know what an employer is looking for. It could turn into the best job you’ve ever had.
- Find your study zone, whether it is at home, the library, a coffee shop. Find the place where you study best
- Don’t eat pizza every night. While it is tempting (law school events always have pizza), you will regret it later.
- Visit Career Services. They are great. Make them your friends and refer back to #3.
- Buy the law school gear. Its cool to sport it around town.
- You will make it through 1L year. We all did it, and you will too!
- Go to a law school where you feel comfortable. KU Law has a great laid back culture and is the perfect place to call home.
- Go to the firm meet-and-greets. It is always good to get your name out there and meet new people!
- Take care of your mental health, and practice good mental health tactics. Refer back to #9.
- Be open to new and different classes and experiences. You may just find something you love.
- Don’t just resume build.
- Use your resources! This could include study groups, professors, research librarians, online resources, etc.
- Do that interview! Even if it is just for practice.
- Use Jayhawk nation to help you find a job or get that introduction. They are great people and love KU Law.
— Sophia Dinkel is a 3L and KU Law Student Ambassador from Norman, Oklahoma.