Posted on April 12, 2017
Legislative committee invites KU Law student to testify on tax credit
Earlier this semester I had the privilege of testifying before the Assessment & Taxation Committee of the Kansas Senate. Of all the unique and interesting experiences KU Law has afforded me so far, this one really stands out and was certainly the most unexpected.
The opportunity to testify came out of my involvement in the Public Policy Practicum during the fall semester. I enrolled to improve my research and writing skills and gain exposure to the interactions between law and public policy. As part of the practicum, students embark on the semester-long task of writing a research paper on a topic of particular interest to the Kansas Legislature. The practicum, taught by Professor Jennifer Schmidt, culminates in the submission of this paper to the Legislature for members to read and rely upon. I found this aspect of the practicum novel and almost surreal since most papers we write in school are essentially for educational purposes only and never receive exposure beyond the confines of the classroom.
The topic of my paper was Kansas’ earned income tax credit (EITC). This tax credit helps low- to moderate-income working Kansans by easing their tax burdens. However, awarding these tax credits also means reducing the funds available to the state budget. Because of the fiscal implications, the EITC has become a topic of much debate within the Legislature, with 2015 alone seeing the introduction of two bills concerning the EITC – one hoping to reduce the credit, the other hoping to increase it.
After submitting my paper and concluding the fall semester, I thought my involvement was complete. So I was surprised when, a week before spring break, I received an email extending an invitation from Sen. Caryn Tyson, chairwoman of the Senate Assessment & Taxation Committee, to appear before the committee and testify on the EITC.
Without really knowing what I was in for, but knowing I could not pass up the opportunity, I accepted Sen. Tyron’s invitation. And I am glad I did because the experience that followed was truly rewarding and enlightening.
Professor Schmidt met me in Topeka at the Capitol and introduced me to members of both houses, lobbyists, Capitol staff, and other members of the political community. Before my testimony, I sat in on a hearing about a tax increase on gasoline and witnessed the impressive oratory skills of veteran lobbyists as they advocated for their sides the issue. Following that, I was called to lead off the hearing on the EITC.
My testimony, which lasted about 15 minutes, began with an overview of the EITC and its policy implications and ended with me fielding questions from the committee. Taking their questions, while a little nerve-racking, was definitely a highlight because it showed not only that the senators had read my paper but that they trusted the knowledge I had gained in researching the topic enough to feel comfortable relying on me to answer additional questions on the subject.
And to think, prior to enrolling in the Public Policy Practicum, I knew almost nothing about tax credits in general and had never even heard of the Kansas earned income tax credit. That in one semester I could go from having essentially no knowledge on a topic to being invited to testify on the same topic is a testament to the research skills I’ve honed under the guidance of KU Law professors.
– Kevin Berndt is a second-year KU Law student from Kansas City, Missouri. He plans to pursue a career in civil litigation.
Posted on April 4, 2017
Brunch, cherry blossoms, and KU basketball: Sixth Semester participants discover D.C.’s friendly side
I can sum up my experience in D.C. by taking you through the events of Saturday, March 25, 2017—the day Frank, Josh and Devontè broke our collective hearts. It started like the best weekend mornings in D.C. — eating brunch with friends, mimosa in hand. For reasons I haven’t quite deduced, brunch is a way of life in D.C. (except when we’re protesting), and when you come here you better be prepared for that.
After a couple more drinks, we set out to explore a sight only D.C. can offer, thousands of cherry blossoms in full bloom. There’s something iconic about seeing the Washington Monument framed by those beautiful flowers. One of D.C.’s greatest strengths is its abundance of amazing (and free!) entertainment. I’ve spent afternoons exploring the National Museum of Natural History, the National Air and Space Museum and the National Gallery of Art, among others. Kansas will pass a tax increase before you find yourself bored in D.C.
After the cherry blossoms, we headed to the KU alumni bar for KU’s Elite Eight game against Oregon. If you can’t watch the game in Lawrence, watching with a few hundred alumni and KU fans at a bar in D.C. is a nice consolation. Meeting KU alumni and other Kansans has been one of my favorite things about this experience. I’ve met lobbyists, government attorneys, members of Congress and senators. I even had the chance to ask Senator Roberts why several of President Trump’s nominees were less than honest about Russia in their confirmation hearings (this may shock you, but I didn’t like his answer). These are opportunities you can only get in D.C., and specifically, in the Sixth Semester program.
I don’t think I need to recap the KU game for you. Let’s just say the mood at the bar was more somber than Paul Ryan’s house after he couldn’t pass a healthcare bill he had seven years to work on. Of course, it was still Saturday night and we couldn’t head home yet, so we mingled with the other people hanging around.
At this point I should mention my favorite aspect of life here: No one is from D.C., so everyone understands what it’s like to move here without knowing anyone. This makes people much friendlier compared to other places I’ve lived and visited. For instance, as we mingled after the KU game we ran into a few people we’d met once before. These people barely knew us, and certainly didn’t owe us anything, but after a few minutes of talking about the game they invited us to jump in their Uber and head to a house party they were going to. Likewise, at the house party everyone was incredibly friendly and let us party with them the rest of the night. This is just one of many instances where I received uncommon friendliness from D.C. residents.
So I guess what I’m trying to say is—if you like delicious food, free entertainment, meeting Kansans doing remarkable work, talking politics like you know what’s going on, or hanging out in a big city with friendly people, then you’ll enjoy this experience as much as I have and the Sixth Semester program is for you.
– Nathan Mannebach is a 3L from Garden Plain, Kansas.
Posted on March 31, 2017
Busy law student, former teacher makes time to mentor children
While in law school you may have to give up a few things, like sleep. But you don’t have to give up your passion.
I have been working with kids for about 11 years now. The majority of those years were divided between three different summer camps. I also got my bachelor’s degree in secondary education. After I graduated from college, I taught 5th grade.
It’s safe to say that my passion is working with children.
But when I came to law school, I gave up working with kids to focus on my studies and really immerse myself in the law school experience. That was a good plan for my first year, but I really missed working with and mentoring children. So toward the end of my 1L spring semester, I applied to be a group leader at Boys & Girls Club of Lawrence. It has been one of the best decisions I have made so far! I am able to work with children and balance my busy law school schedule.
I love law school and all of its challenges. But I also love working at Boys & Girls Club and giving back to my community. Law school demands a lot, but everyone needs balance and a passion or hobby that helps them deal with the stress. Whether it’s reading, hitting the gym, climbing mountains or even mentoring children, we can make time in our busy lives to pursue the things that feed our spirit.
— Sophia Dinkel is a 2L and KU Law Student Ambassador from Norman, Oklahoma.
Posted on March 22, 2017
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:
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Posted on March 17, 2017
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.
Posted on March 3, 2017
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.
Posted on March 1, 2017
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
– 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.
Posted on February 20, 2017
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.
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).
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.
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.
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.
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 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.
Posted on February 9, 2017
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.
Posted on November 23, 2016
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.