Studying Biodiversity Law in the Virgin Islands

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Why choose Trento? The pictures say it all.

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

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

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

Apartment building in front of mountains

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

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

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

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

Biking with friends in Trento.

Miranda hiking alongside water and mountains.

A secluded day hike to a nearby lake.

Wooded hillside with fog and mountains in the background.

A beautiful hiking trail through a wooded hillside.

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

Mountainside with fall foliage.

Fall foliage in the Dolomiti.

Mountainous terrain and clouds.

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

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

People walking on gravel roads through vineyards.

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

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

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Breathtaking views from a swimming beach at Lago di Garda.

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

Meal with wine at outdoor cafe.

Typical “aperitivo” at Trento’s Piazza Duomo.

Two girls in winter coats eating gelato.

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

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

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

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

Student group with Trento sign.

Visiting Siena with other international students from Trento.

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

Miranda and Camila jump alongside a snowy, mountainous lake.

Hiking near Trento with my Chilean friend, Camila.

Friends in a dark nightclub with bright lights.

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

Friends in front of a windy, foggy lake.

Sightseeing with my Australian and Russian friends.

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jake Turner

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

1. The librarians

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

2. My professors’ unique teaching styles

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

3. The Roasterie in the DeBruce Center

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

4. Free pizza

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

5. My bomb Lawyering professor

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

6. My supportive small section

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

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

From hiking trails to Nationals games

Future Jayhawk lawyer relishes D.C. experience

Ciara Malone

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Malone and Bunner wearing baseball caps at stadium at night.

Malone and Bunner take in a Nationals game.

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

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

From weekend competitors to Jayhawk lawyers-in-training

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

Mock trial prepares undergraduates for law school

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

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

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

Jordan Kane and David Hammack

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

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

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

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

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

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

– By Emily Sharp

Devoted to public service

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

KU Law student leverages EJW Conference to launch legal career

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

— By Mindie Paget

Early to law school and loving it

Nate Crosser

First impressions from an accelerated degree student

I am about halfway into my first semester of law school and I can say, without hesitation, that I’ve gotten myself into the most fulfilling, outrageous, exhausting, formative, wonderful journey of my life. It’s not like what I expected, though.

I am a member of the first cohort of KU’s Legal Education Accelerated Degree six-year BA+JD program. The LEAD program pre-admits students from high school, so I’ve been set on going to KU Law since I was 18 years old.

In anticipation of my ultimate foray into this law thing, the last three years I had been building up many expectations of how I thought it would be. The first months of law school have been a bull in my china shop of expectations. In order to shed some light for undergrad LEADers or those considering law school, I’d like to share some of these expectations and compare them to reality as a neophyte in the field of law.

Expectation

“Law school is for people who are boring and ugly and serious.” — Elle’s dad from “Legally Blonde”

Reality

The people here are serious, no doubt. Most of my colleagues have years of work experience, amazing life stories, or other graduate degrees – and they mean business when they come to law school. Being surrounded by this caliber of people is both inspiring and humbling, and might be my favorite part of the whole thing. However, the people are anything but boring or ugly. We gather for a ton of social events such as weekly bar crawls, tailgates, Halloween parties, casino nights, happy hours with professors, and even a Law Prom. There are many opportunities to forge friendships, and the common experience of being law students strengthens these friendships to the point where I know they’ll last a lifetime.

Expectation

Being a lawyer is about verbally outmaneuvering your enemies in the courtroom.

Reality

No, it is nothing like “Suits” or “Law & Order” — sorry. Being a lawyer is about diligently researching a topic by spending many hours reading previously decided cases with similar issues and looking for precedent. Moreover, the vast majority of cases will never go to trial, so the big thrill for lawyers is writing a good document, not dropping evidence bombs in front of a jury. Reading comprehension and written analysis are definitely the key skills, not being able to use “verisimilitude” conversationally. So don’t worry if public speaking isn’t your thing.

Expectation

Law school probably won’t be that much harder than undergrad.

Reality

Wrong. But the work is infinitely more interesting and usable, so it is actually enjoyable. Also, although the work load is substantially higher on a daily basis, it is a blessing in disguise. One of my biggest takeaways so far is a new appreciation for the value of my time. You can definitely see this same appreciation among professors and other students as well. People in this field learn how to work hard and efficiently so they can carve out time for the things they enjoy most in life.

I never could have foreseen just what law school would be like, but so far I am anything but disappointed.

— Nate Crosser is a first-year law student and KU Law Student Ambassador from Lenexa, Kansas. He is a member of the inaugural LEAD Program class. The deadline to apply for the accelerated degree program is Dec. 1.

Couple says ‘thank you’ with gift for future law students

Roger Viola, L'74, and family

Roger Viola’s KU Law degree has opened many doors in his life, both professionally and personally. He and his wife recently responded by creating a scholarship.

Consider it a note of sincere thanks.

“I have had the opportunity to work in several interesting and rewarding legal fields, and none of this would have been possible without my KU Law degree,” said Viola, L’74. “I had the good fortune of having some of the best law professors in the country. The scholarship is one way to say thank you to such a great group of faculty for all they’ve done for me.”

The Violas established the Roger and Karen Viola Law Scholarship with an initial $15,000 gift and a three-year pledge to increase the fund to $30,000. The need-based award is reserved for a recipient who graduated from a Kansas high school.

“While our scholarship is currently modest in size, we hope to increase it during our lifetime and through our estate,” Viola said. “Karen and I look forward to meeting many of these students and following their progress.”

Now retired, Roger Viola worked in a variety of legal settings during his career, including private law firms, corporations, state agencies and nonprofit organizations. Most recently, he led the Topeka Community Foundation as president from 2007-2016. His daughter, Cori, graduated from KU Law in 2016.


PHOTO | Roger Viola, L’74 (right) and his wife, Karen (left), celebrate the 2016 KU Law graduation of their daughter Cori. Karen is holding granddaughter Rose Loftus (Cori’s niece), who joined the festivities.

Rural practice prospects? Legendary

dodge-city-student-group-2016

Student finds opportunity, community and special history in Dodge City

I recently spent two days in Dodge City, Kansas, attending the 2016 Southwest Kansas Bar Association Annual Meeting. (That’s me, second from left in the photo.) The trip was arranged and sponsored by the KU Law Career Services Offices, and five KU Law students participated. For me, there was one main question: Do I want to practice law in southwest Kansas? After completing the trip and reflecting on that query, my answer is yes.

In advance of the trip, I developed a three-part elements test to answer my main question. The elements were:

  • Whether there was opportunity for me to prosper practicing law in southwest Kansas;
  • Whether the community was a good fit for me; and
  • Whether there was something special or legendary about the place.

Per the nature of a conjunctive test, and my affirmative answer to the main question stated above, you already know that the answer to each of these questions is also yes.

Opportunity to prosper practicing law is important. Law students invest a lot of time, work, and money to become qualified to practice law, and that investment should bring a handsome return. I found that such returns are available in southwest Kansas. Sitting in an Old West saloon, practicing attorneys from Dodge City, Garden City, Liberal and other frontier towns emphasized that there is plenty of legal work in the area. One experienced attorney said, “You can make as much money as hours you are willing to work.” Given that the going rate is $150-$250 per hour – and there is as much work as a young attorney can handle – I concluded that the opportunity element was satisfied and moved on to the community element.

Community is important. I want to live happily both in my career and at home. That means more than just developing my skills and getting paid well. It means having good neighbors. If the attorneys, judges, law enforcement, and locals I met in Dodge City are any indication, the community is friendly and welcoming. In addition to those I met, there is a growing immigrant population from more than a dozen countries bringing their rich cultures to the area. There are also a number of young professionals working at hospitals, offices, and colleges in the area whom I would be sure to get along with well. I could see myself going to church, playing sports, hunting, writing, serving on boards, and doing other fulfilling things with the people of southwest Kansas. Collectively, those people satisfied the community element, so I considered the legendary element.

Legends never die. Well, the saying from “The Sandlot” goes, “Heroes get remembered, but legends never die.” “The Sandlot” is one of my favorite childhood movies, and since childhood I have fancied myself a legend in the making. As such, I want to be in a legendary place where legendary people have been. Southwest Kansas is legendary. I found that the area is really more akin to the American Southwest than to the prairie states of the Midwest. It looks and feels like the Old West movies I love so much, and the people there seem to fit the part with their cowboy hats and sure gazes. The legendary history of the area includes hard times during the Dust Bowl era, travels on the Santa Fe Trail, and massive cattle drives up from Texas to the railroad. Legendary lawmen like Wyatt Earp, Doc Holliday, and Bat Masterson made their names in Dodge City. Perhaps its grandiosity, but I think I can make a name for myself there, too. I could be a legendary lawman of a different sort, I imagine. The larger-than-life history and potential for becoming noteworthy in southwest Kansas satisfied the legendary element.

When we look back on our lives, we can place dots along the timeline where significant events occurred. In my life, there are many events that were necessary to get me where I am today. Had my mother not taught me to be determined, I would not have pushed through hard times in work, life, and school. Had I not answered the call to serve in the Army, I would not have had the opportunity to witness and mimic professionals working toward a greater goal. Had I not acted on my passion for justice, I would not have taken the LSAT and applied to KU Law. Whether or not my experience in southwest Kansas this semester becomes a dot on my timeline remains to be seen. That said, because I discovered all three things I was looking for there, I suspect it will be.

— Jonathan Ehrlich is a second-year law student from Creston, Iowa, who served in the U.S. Army and earned a degree in philosophy and religion before law school. He is interested in opening a general practice in a rural area.


PHOTO |  KU Law students (from left) Helen Jacober Atkinson, Jonathan Ehrlich, Alex Driskell, Austin Knoblock and Gabriella Guerena recently visited Dodge City as a guest of the Southwest Kansas Bar Association and the KU Law Office of Career Services.