Visiting Scholar Spotlight: Bakht Munir

Bakht Munir

Five questions with Bakht Munir, visiting scholar from Pakistan

1. Why did you choose to study at KU Law? How did you learn about our program and establish contact?

There are lots of considerations for selecting KU Law, including highly qualified faculty, access to online databases and a huge library, congenial and studious environment, friendly and cooperative management, and of course the beautiful weather of Lawrence. I explored this university on a search engine and contacted the management and professors with expertise in my relevant field. After an email, I got a very positive response from Associate Dean Crystal Mai and Professor Rick Levy, who is currently serving as my faculty shepherd.

2. What are your professional goals for your time at KU Law? What will be your next career step after your time here?

I have been sponsored by the Higher Education of Pakistan to conduct Ph.D. research at KU Law for six months. During this period of time, I am committed to finalizing my dissertation draft. I will also audit two courses of my faculty shepherd, Professor Levy. Further, I enrolled in an Applied English Center (AEC) course in order to advance my speaking and presentation capacities. After completion of my Ph.D. research at KU, I will have to defend my thesis in Pakistan. Keeping in view the standard of research, facilities and research opportunities at KU Law, I would try my best to earn an SJD / JD degree from KU Law or a post-doctoral fellowship.

3. How does the academic and research environment at KU Law differ from your home culture / institution?

The academic and research environment at KU Law is quite different from that of my home institution. Unlike my home university, the faculty at KU Law shares every lecture and its relevant materials on the Blackboard site that is accessible to every enrolled student. In my home university, there is hardly a concept of take-home exam. The KU Law faculty is full-time available to serve the students, help them in their studies and motivate them in conducting research. At KU Law, education is not limited to books ― rather, it goes to the extent of its application in the courts.

4. What are your favorite things about Lawrence? What about home do you miss the most?

Well there are plenty of favorite things about Lawrence, such as KU, Clinton Lake, lush greenery, sports and community life. So far as home is concerned, I miss my family, friends and domestic food.

5. What advice would you offer to other scholars who may want to do research abroad?

While going to a new place, accommodation is one of the biggest challenges. It is strongly suggested that one should secure accommodation before traveling and live with people from different races, cultures and genders. The researchers who are intending to go abroad must overcome linguistic barriers. Learning cooking skills is also suggested, as it helps in adjusting at the new environment. Last but not least, it is suggested that the researchers should establish contacts with the locals, explore new areas and cultures, and be a positive ambassador for his/her home country.

— Bakht Munir is conducting research on constitutionalism and judicial autonomy in Pakistan. To learn more about his work, see his Visiting Scholar profile

Alumni donor inspired by intersection of law, economics

Paul Yde

Paul Yde considers pursuing a graduate degree in economics while studying at KU Law one of the best professional decisions he ever made.

“For my entire career, I have practiced antitrust law, which is very explicitly focused on economics,” said Yde, L’85. “My joint law and economics studies at KU gave me a comparative advantage professionally, and I wanted to help KU provide the same advantage to other students.”

To that end, Yde and his wife, Sarah Elder, BSW’85, established the Paul Yde Law and Economics Fund in 2008 and have contributed $120,000 toward its growth. The fund primarily supports scholarship, faculty activity and teaching, symposia, annual lecture series, and related activities that promote an interest in and an increased understanding of the relationship of economic principles to the practice of law. For example, the fund helped KU Law host the 2015 meeting of the Midwestern Law and Economics Association, a group of scholars ― including John M. Rounds Distinguished Professor Chris Drahozal ― who study the intersection between economics and the law.

Yde is a partner in the U.S. antitrust group at Freshfields Bruckhaus Deringer in Washington, D.C. He previously held positions in government antitrust enforcement, serving as counsel to two Federal Trade Commissioners, and as a litigation attorney in the FTC’s Bureau of Competition.

A firsthand look at federal Indian law

Ben Stringer with Bureau of Indian Affairs sign3L gains experience through internship with Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation

This summer I worked as a law clerk for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation in Mayetta, Kansas. The Prairie Band Potawatomi are one of four federally recognized Indian tribes in Kansas, along with the Sac & Fox Nation of Missouri, the Kickapoo Tribe in Kansas, and the Iowa Tribe of Kansas & Nebraska.

The first thing I noticed working in the government office on the reservation was the passion everyone had for their jobs. It was contagious. As the Nation’s law clerk, I worked side-by-side with the Nation’s in-house counsel, Vivien Olsen. I cannot overstate the wealth of knowledge I acquired through observing and working with Ms. Olsen. She taught me many invaluable lessons and gave me the opportunity to take on projects that gave me excellent hands-on experience.

A large portion of my work for the Nation was on Indian Child Welfare Act (ICWA) cases. The ICWA was passed in 1978 after Congress recognized an alarming number of Indian children were being taken from their families and tribes with little cause and adopted to non-Indian families. In the almost 40 years since the ICWA’s passage, there has been great progress, but tribes still face many challenges in these cases. The U.S. Supreme Court has heard only two ICWA cases, meaning much of the ICWA is interpreted and applied differently based upon which state, or even county, the case is heard in. Over the summer I worked on cases in Brown, Douglas, Sedgwick and Shawnee counties, and all four counties treated their ICWA cases very differently.

One of my best memories from my time with the Nation came in the third week of my clerkship. Our case in Douglas County was not progressing as we hoped, and we determined it would be best to seek a transfer to tribal court. In ICWA cases, the tribe can request a transfer of jurisdiction to the tribe’s court unless “good cause” exists to deny the transfer. I was tasked with drafting our motion for a transfer of jurisdiction. The morning of our evidentiary hearing, the judge and the ADA agreed there was no legal basis for objecting to our motion, and the case was transferred without a hearing.

My summer was not limited to handling family law matters. Indian law is an all-encompassing field, and I learned that quickly with the Nation. Over the summer, I assisted in drafting a new Title IV-E code, petitioned the Kansas Judicial Council to amend the state’s pro hac vice admission rules, met with state officials about current and future tribal-state relations, helped create business licensing notices and handled probate matters. There was never a dull moment with the Nation, and I could stay fresh on all sorts of legal issues.

After my summer with the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation, I am confident and passionate in my desire to represent tribes. Many students enter law school hoping to save the world, but we often forget about the people in our own backyard who need help. I encourage every KU Law student to visit the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s reservation at some point during their three years at Green Hall, and to take at least one tribal law class. You will not regret the experience, and you may just find a new career path.

— Benjamin Stringer is a 3L from Jacksonville, Florida.

Crusading for the planet

KU Law 3L John Truong at Earthjustice

3L takes on polluters, habitat destroyers through environmental law internship

When people ask what kind of work I did this summer at Earthjustice, I tell them it was like being one of Captain Planet’s planeteers: battling villains that breathed smog, slung sludge and stomped on cute, defenseless endangered species. But unlike the cartoon, these problems didn’t resolve in 30 minutes. Instead, Earthjustice has been defending the environment, and the communities dependent on it, for over 40 years and counting. This summer, Earthjustice gave me the opportunity to fight alongside them. From its team of experienced lawyers, I learned about the intricacies of international environmental law and policy, connected with current events around the world and awakened a deeper appreciation for the threatened environment Earthjustice lawyers strive to protect.

At Earthjustice’s headquarters in San Francisco, I clerked for its International Program with two other third-year law students, addressing environmental issues on a global scale. My work took me on a metaphorical journey around the world to countries like Indonesia, Australia, Mexico and more, each facing their own environmental issues and each having their own environmental laws, policies and jurisprudence to learn. The diversity and depth of the work may have been intimidating at first, but under the diligent guidance of the International Program attorneys, we managed to quickly understand and address these complex issues. The attorneys constructively challenged our research, investing time to sit with us one-on-one and give feedback on our work ― line by line and word by word ― with the intent to help us grow and develop our skills as lawyers.

More than just handing out assignments, Earthjustice took care to give its interns and clerks an opportunity to learn of all its endeavors. The organization arranged a number of brown bag lunches for us to hear from attorneys in offices across the country about their work. Whether in Seattle protecting marine life, in Denver challenging reckless fossil fuel development or in New York City defending farmworkers from harmful pesticides, Earthjustice attorneys shared their diverse experiences with incredible vigor and were open to any questions we had for them. The International Program team invited us into meetings and gave us a platform to help brainstorm ideas, contribute to strategy sessions and share how we felt Earthjustice should proceed in the future. In every way, the attorneys treated us like colleagues rather than “just interns,” respecting our ideas and appreciating our contributions.

Beyond work, the attorneys also treated us like friends. They planned a hiking day out for us, giving us an opportunity to appreciate the environment we work to protect and spending time getting to know each other. Every two weeks we shared communal office lunch, homemade by one of the International Program staff. As our clerkship came to an end, we were invited into one attorney’s home for dinner as a final farewell. This experience taught me more than just skills to be a great lawyer. Seeing how Earthjustice’s team worked and communed so passionately for a cause so significant for our world inspired me to do more than just work for a good cause, but to do so in a manner embodying the care and passion demonstrated by the team at Earthjustice.

John Truong is a 3L and KU Law Student Ambassador from Wichita, Kansas.

Alumna selected for prestigious health policy fellowship

Trinia Cain Health Policy Fellowship

A 2009 KU Law alumna has been selected for the 2017-2018 Robert Wood Johnson Foundation’s Health Policy Fellows Program, one of the nation’s most prestigious learning experiences at the nexus of health, science, and policy.

Lt. Cmdr. Brutrinia Cain, senior policy adviser in the Office of the Surgeon General, Division of Commissioned Corps Personnel and Readiness, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will spend a year in Washington, D.C., working on health-related legislative and regulatory issues with members of Congress and the executive branch. She will also engage in seminars and discussions on health policy and participate in leadership development programs.

“I am incredibly humbled, excited and honored to have been selected for this year’s fellowship class,” Cain said. “I look forward to using everything I experience to deepen my expertise in health policy and the legislative process, and to become a stronger leader.”

Fellows were chosen in a national competition for highly accomplished health, behavioral and social science professionals who have an interest in health policy. Their experiences in Washington will enrich their understanding of federal policy formation and how federal and state governments relate to the mission of their home institutions and local communities.

Read the news release

Bhala shares international trade, Islamic law expertise in New Zealand

Professor Raj Bhala

Photo by Rebekah Robinson.

KU Law students aren’t the only ones who escape Green Hall to gain practical career experience and explore broader horizons during the summer. Our faculty members also take advantage of their breaks to engage in enriching scholarship, faculty development and teaching opportunities in Lawrence and beyond.

Professor and Associate Dean for International and Comparative Law Raj Bhala served as the 2017 New Zealand Research Foundation Visiting Scholar at the University of Auckland in May and June. The competitive program selects one distinguished scholar each year from a worldwide pool of applicants. The visiting professor delivers major public lectures, produces work for the New Zealand Law Review, and teaches in Auckland’s intensive international LL.M. course.

Bhala at lectern.

Prof. Bhala speaks on China and India trade policy.

“Given the competition, luminaries who have been selected in the past, and prominence of the LRF, my first response when I heard the news was, ‘Wow, this is manna from Heaven!’” Bhala said. “The LFR holds a very high status in New Zealand.”

During his time in Auckland, Bhala spoke on the World Trade Organization, the Trans Pacific Partnership, Islamic legal interpretation, China and India trade policy, and Islamic finance, and led a workshop exploring the interpretation of international legal texts using literary theory. “At each event, the questions and comments were excellent,” Bhala said. “Many came from perspectives not normally heard in an American setting.”

Bhala’s work also captured the attention of New Zealand media. His Radio New Zealand interview explored Islam-friendly finance, while a profile in the New Zealand Listener shared his perspective as a Catholic Indian-American teaching Islamic Law in Kansas.

Bhala znd Zainab Radhi

While in New Zealand, Bhala connected with Zainab Radhi, SJD’15. Radhi is developing an international trade consultancy and works on refugee resettlement issues in New Zealand.

Ranked among the top 50 law schools in the world, the University of Auckland attracts students from the Asia-Pacific region and beyond. Bhala’s International Trade Law course included LL.M. students from Papua New Guinea, Pakistan, India, Norway, Netherlands, Indonesia, Thailand, Korea, China, Russia, and New Zealand.

International programs help build KU Law’s global profile and build ties with leading international institutions.

“At KU Law, we have first-rate programs that add considerable value to the life and career of a law student from overseas,” Bhala said. “With a targeted admissions class size of about 105, our students from overseas count within this figure, meaning that continuing to attract overseas students can help us focus on the best and brightest American students.”

Exploring immigration and asylum policy at UNHCR

Interning at UNHCR, the UN Refugee Agency, seemed like a hopeless goal a year ago, but it became a reality this summer. Thanks to KU Law’s Career Services Office, I attended the Equal Justice Works Conference in Washington D.C. this past October. During this trip, I met KU Law alumni working in Washington and interviewed with the UNHCR and other non-governmental organizations. A few days later, I received a summer internship offer from the UNHCR and immediately accepted it.

My interest in UNHCR stems from my background. I am a dual citizen of the United States and Mexico and grew up in a border town. My background invested me in immigration issues, which ultimately pushed me to attend law school in hopes of becoming an immigration lawyer. I’ve worked in immigration law firms, the Mexican Consulate and the Executive Office for Immigration Review. International exposure seemed like the obvious next step.

Historically, the admission of refugees was not always a partisan issue, but the new administration has made it contentious. Whether it’s dealing with the admission of Syrian refugees or looking for solutions to handle the humanitarian crisis in the Northern Triangle, Congress can’t seem to agree on solutions. Washington’s current political climate makes working for the UNHCR’s U.S. Protection Unit quite exciting.

Garcia and UNHCR High Commissioner Fillipo Grandi.

Garcia with UNHCR High Commissioner Fillipo Grandi.

Part of my work has consisted of monitoring legislation addressing asylum and immigration policy in Congress. I have attended House Committee and Senate Subcommittee hearings to keep track of lawmakers’ debates and developments relating to issues of concern. I work with other staffers to better inform lawmakers about the role of international law. I assist affirmative and defensive asylum seekers within the United States by explaining the process and providing evidence that will help them present their case before an Immigration Judge.

I have prepared memoranda concerning United States’ ratified treaties to analyze how it may affect existing immigration/refugee law. I work closely with staffers to prepare amicus briefs before the Board of Immigration Appeals, U.S. Circuit Courts, and the Supreme Court. I hope to extend my responsibilities by working on refugee status determination in the Caribbean Unit.

I am very appreciative of the Public Interest Law Society stipend and Brad Bradley Fund to make this summer possible. I hope to come back to Washington during my last semester of law school through the 6th Semester in D.C. program. While I still don’t know where my career will take me after law school, coming back to Washington seems like a great opportunity to continue working with immigration and asylum policy.

– Arturo Garcia is a 3L from El Paso, Texas.

Building cultural bridges and living in peaceful coexistence

I earned my undergraduate degree in Medinah, the second  most sacred city for Muslims after Makkah. Some of the classes I took in my undergraduate studies included Is­lamic jurisprudence in several schools in Islam, principles of jurisprudence, Islamic law of inheritance, Islamic economics, contracts, judiciary in Islam, Islamic political law, and Islamic education. I earned my bachelor’s degree in 2008 with dis­tinction and honor and then pursued my master’s in Islamic law and graduated in 2013 with distinction and honor. Dur­ing my master’s degree studies, I focused on family law, the criminal code, and financial law. With this background, I now intend to pursue LL.M. and S.J.D. degrees in programs that focus on international trade and other kinds of law includ­ing: contract, tort, constitutional law, criminal law, civil pro­cedure, jurisdiction, administrative law, property, and family law.

My interest in international trade and civil law stems from their significance to the individual as well as the whole society. Investigating these fields will allow me to gain more knowl­edge on the specific laws concerning the rights and obligations among people. Additionally, I would like to dig deeper into these fields because I already have solid background knowl­edge about them from an Islamic perspective. Now I would like to expand my horizons and explore other international laws and law in the United States. To follow my dream and fulfill my goals, I decided to apply to the law school at KU which has a wonderful reputation and is replete with stories of people who have become successful in their careers. I still recall the first moments after I learned that I had been admitted to the KU School of Law; I was more than happy because my dream had come true.

Almohammadi poses with KU Law Dean Stephen Mazza and SJD graduate Sulaiman AlGhafri at KU Law’s 2017 hooding ceremony.

The KU School of Law is the best place for me because of the sense of community the faculty and staff maintain with the students and the school’s dedication in supporting international students. I have found friendly people who are very kind and caring. They have greeted me and made me feel at home. Since classes began, I have “knocked myself out” acquiring more knowledge about the American justice system. I faced many challenges. One of them was reading cases. It was like pulling teeth getting myself to read so many pages in depth every day, to write an accurate and specific memorandum, and to cite from the Bluebook. Fortunately, I have had wonderful, competent professors and classmates who would give the shirt off their back to help me. As time went on, I overcame most of the difficulties I had at the beginning of the semester. I felt more comfortable participating in the class.

I have come to the United States to follow my dreams and to help build a bridge of knowledge, cultural awareness, civil­ity, and respectful communication between the east and the west. When I was in Medinah, I often found myself dreaming of how we could live in peaceful coexistence despite a world full of conflicts between people. Since I have been living in Lawrence, I have had an excitement and curiosity in a new stage of my life. With these experiences, I believe, the answer is yes. With more education and justice, we could live togeth­er in harmony on this planet.

Finally, I would say my slogan in life is what Martin Luther King, Jr. once said, “Law and order exist for the purpose of establishing justice, and when they fail in this purpose, they become the dangerously structured dams that block the fl.ow of social progress.” This powerful quote expresses my perspec­tive on the significant influence of law over any given society. Personally, I strongly believe that law is a crucial pillar ensur­ing the continued existence of modern societies. In fact, law is the key to stability, prosperity, improvement, and-most importantly-peace. People across the world must remember to work together, with respect and love, to pursue this goal.

— Bander Almohammadi recently completed his LL.M. degree at the University of Kansas School of Law and is embarking upon the S.J.D. degree at KU Law. He was born and grew up in Medinah, Saudi Arabia, and moved to Lawrence with his wife and two children to pursue his legal education in the United States. He earned his bachelor and master’s degree from Islam University in Medinah, where he taught as a teaching assistant for several years. Following graduation, he plans to teach and practice in the areas of international trade or civil law. This column originally appeared in the April 2017 Journal of the Kansas Bar Association.  

Law and wanderlust

Cachet Hancock in Antarctica

Curiosity, sense of adventure draw student to 7 continents in 10 months

Cachet Hancock’s legal education spanned three years and seven continents. The 2017 graduate combined her love of travel with her educational pursuits, visiting all seven continents within a span of 10 months during law school.

“I fell in love with traveling as a little girl,” said Hancock, who grew up in rural Wabaunsee County, Kansas. “I was on the road a lot with my family and remember loving learning about people and culture.”

Hancock was drawn to travel for many of the same reasons she was drawn to law school — to learn, be exposed to new ideas, and consider unfamiliar perspectives. “I love learning, seeing new things, and interviewing people,” she said. “I learn to understand and hopefully walk away with new insight.”

During her first semester of law school, Hancock heard about KU Law’s study abroad program in China and became intrigued by the prospect of immersing herself in a region she knew little about. She participated in the program during the summer of 2015, then began seeking ways to integrate international experiences into her remaining coursework.

Cachet Hancock with fellow KU Law students in Italy.Cachet Hancock with a kangarooCachet Hancock in India.A semester in Trento, Italy, followed, as well as a visit to India for a friend’s wedding. “I remember thinking that I could hit six continents within the year if I was conservative with my money,” Hancock said. “Then I thought, ‘What if you hit seven?’” She began researching study abroad programs in Antarctica, eventually settling on an independent research trip to explore the continent’s unique legal status, including jurisdiction elements, environmental laws, and enforcement measures.

Beyond her legal studies, Hancock’s globetrotting adventures satisfy a personal curiosity. A highlight of her trips is reaching out to local people to conduct interviews. “Most of my interviews have been focused on finding people who do what they love or who have overcome challenges,” she said. “I’ve met people from all walks of life and always learn something.”

One of her most compelling interviews was with the operator of a successful horse farm in New Zealand, who found peace and fulfillment through following his talents and passions. She hopes to eventually compile her interviews into a book or archive for others to enjoy.

As she concludes law school, Hancock is still considering her options for the future. She doesn’t know exactly where she will launch her legal career, but she’s confident that her curiosity and love of learning will serve her well as a young attorney.

“Asking questions comes naturally to me,” Hancock said. “I’ve always been a curious person and love hearing about the lives of others.”

— Emily Sharp

This post is the final in a series highlighting just a few exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2017. Check out stories about James Houston Bales, Hannah BrassKriston Guillot, Taylor RayMatt Scarber and Sylvia Hernandez as we count down to the Hooding Ceremony on May 13.

El Paso native finds her niche at KU Law

Sylvia Hernandez

Challenging coursework, enriching leadership experiences, practical learning opportunities recipe for graduate’s success

Sylvia Hernandez is the first to note that her transition to law school wasn’t an easy one. Moving from El Paso, Texas, to Lawrence required a big adjustment and new perspective. “In El Paso I never saw myself as a minority,” Hernandez said. “However, here in Kansas and in law school that was one of the hardest things I faced. This, unfortunately, turned me into a shy person, which I have never been.”

As she got involved with the Hispanic American Law Students Association and absorbed herself in challenging coursework, Hernandez found her niche.

“I came to law school with the mentality to be a litigator, but I began to doubt myself,” Hernandez said. “I took a jurisdiction class that forced me to gain my confidence back. It was one of my favorite classes, and it made me realize I could do this.”

With her confidence recharged and one year of law school completed, Hernandez started exploring different practice areas.

“I was never fixed on one type of law,” Hernandez said. “I always kept an open mind and believed that I wouldn’t know what I liked if I didn’t try it.”

After interning with the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence & Post-Conviction Remedies, Hernandez enrolled in KU Law’s Medical-Legal Partnership, then interned with Baldwin & Vernon in Liberty, Missouri. The internship led to a job offer as an associate, doing plaintiff’s work in employment discrimination cases.

In addition to her practical experience, Hernandez remained heavily involved on campus. She served as a student senator, a member of the Legal Services for Students advisory board, and as president of HALSA.

“Leadership positions were really rewarding. I like to be involved, and I like to take on  responsibility,” Hernandez said. “Being part of the Student Senate and Advisory Board of LSS gave me so much knowledge on how the university worked. I learned a lot about the issues students faced.”

While she initially felt like an outsider at KU Law, Hernandez’s perspective ultimately proved to be an asset to her clients and the KU Law community. “Two of my clients spoke only Spanish,” she said, recalling her field placement with the Medical-Legal Partnership. “Their faces lit up when they realized I could truly understand their situation. It was fulfilling to put people at ease while I advocated on their behalf.”

As graduation approaches, Hernandez looks forward to starting her post-graduate career at Baldwin & Vernon.

“It is exciting but also a big responsibility,” Hernandez said.

– Rachel Riggs

This post is the sixth in a series highlighting just a few exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2017. Check out stories about James Houston Bales, Hannah BrassKriston Guillot, Taylor Ray and Matt Scarber, as we count down to the Hooding Ceremony on May 13.