Visiting Scholar Spotlight: Doğan Durna

Five questions with Doğan Durna, visiting scholar from Turkey

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

In 2010 I met Prof.John Head through a friend of mine who studied at KU Law. We discussed the Turkey portion of his book draft. At that time I told Prof. Head I hoped to find an opportunity to study at KU  Law in the future. Last year my wish came true:  I was granted a scholarship by the Ministry of Food, Agriculture and Livestock of Turkey, and I found an opportunity to study here. When I got the scholarship I contacted my faculty shepherd, Prof. Andrew Torrance. He accepted me, and I started my study here.

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

My goal is to get a deeper knowledge about my working area–namely, biotechnology law and policy. Also I hope to make contacts to prospect research. After I finish my research KU I will return to my home institution and serve as legal advisor on agrilaw issues.

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

There are differences from my home institution. First, all academic and administrative staff are very helpful and kind. When you need help they try their best. Secondly, KU Law has a multicultural environment. You can find different people from different parts of the world. It gives an opportunity for comparative understanding of legal issues.

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

I have several favorite things  about Lawrence but the most important ones are that Lawrence is a small and safe city for child raising and people are very friendly. I miss my family and my hometown.

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

People who want to do research abroad should improve their foreign language ability. Study abroad is a very good opportunity to build a network for prospective academic and professional work. Try to meet people who work in a relevant field.

Doğan Durna analyzes agricultural biotechnology policy and law in Turkey. 

Presiding over the classroom

Kansas Supreme Court Justice Caleb Stegall teaching at KU Law

Kansas Supreme Court Justice Caleb Stegall teaches Appellate Advocacy at KU Law.

Alumni judges return to KU Law as teachers

For future attorneys whose professional success will often hinge on the ruling of a judge, having one as a law professor can be especially instructive.

Just ask 3L Lindsay Strong.

“Having a Kansas Supreme Court justice as a professor has provided the unique opportunity to learn how judges think and what they are looking for,” said Strong, who is taking Appellate Advocacy this fall from Kansas Supreme Court Justice Caleb Stegall. “This advantage is especially valuable given the court will ultimately decide the fate of our case.”

Stegall, L’99, is one of two sitting members of the judiciary teaching at KU Law. Judge Steve Leben, L’82, of the Kansas Court of Appeals, has taught Legislation (now Legislation & Statutory Interpretation) each spring but one since 2007. This is Stegall’s first time behind the classroom podium.

“I’ve enjoyed returning home to Green Hall,” Stegall said. “Being able to see anew the ideals of our profession through the eagerness and excitement of students is an invigorating reminder to practitioners and judges of why we fell in love with the law in the first place.”

Sitting judges serve KU Law in a variety of ways, from presiding over the final round of the in-house moot court competition to administering an oath of professionalism to each year’s incoming class to supervising students in judicial field placements and more. Some of those relationships span decades. Judge Robert Fairchild, L’73, of the Douglas County District Court retired from his service at KU Law last spring after 26 years of teaching Alternative Dispute Resolution and Criminal Law to generations of students.

“Students definitely get value from having a chance to interact in the classroom with a sitting judge,” Leben said. “Over the course of the semester, in addition to learning the subject matter at hand, they also get a feel for how courts and judges really work. I regularly discuss with them things that have happened in oral argument or in working through an opinion – after it’s released, of course. And as the semester goes along, they feel free to ask more questions about the judicial process.”

Stegall requires his Appellate Advocacy students to observe oral arguments at the Kansas Supreme Court, where they see classroom conversations play out in a practical setting.

“This allows us, as students, to focus on the positive and negative aspects of attorneys’ advocacy styles and determine how we would go about advocating differently,” Strong said.

Beyond imparting practical skills, Stegall said he hopes increased interaction between law students and judges helps strengthen the relationship between the legal academy and the judiciary. “Anything we can do to reconnect the two strikes me as a good thing for the bench, the bar and the legal profession as a whole.”

Leben, who is winding down a 20-year run as editor of Court Review, the quarterly journal of the American Judges Association, hopes he might be able to add a second course to his teaching load at some point.

“If I weren’t teaching, I would miss getting to know these new students who are starting careers, thinking about what they can do to contribute and how they can do their best work,” Leben said. “Like all teachers, I suspect, I know that our future is in the hands of today’s students. If I can help them be their best, I’ve done my part.”

— By Mindie Paget

10 reasons to attend the Southwest Kansas Bar Association annual meeting

Southwest Kansas Bar Association attendees

Miranda Clark-Ulrich, third from left, attended the 2017 Southwest Kansas Bar Association meeting in Dodge City with Assistant Dean of Career Services Arturo Thompson, far left, and fellow KU Law students.

Over my birthday weekend early this September, I gathered with attorneys and fellow students to see what the life as a Jayhawk lawyer in southwest Kansas looks like, and I have to say, it wasn’t half bad. To further describe my experience, I decided to provide the top 10 reasons to go to the Southwest Kansas Bar Association annual meeting during your time at KU Law.

  1. First and foremost, pecan-coated bacon. I’m serious, that stuff was too delicious. We were able to enjoy the bacon among many other Western delights, including mountain oysters, at the party that was thrown for our KU Law group and the Washburn Law students. I’m a total foodie, so they basically won my heart from the start with the meal.
  2. Now back to this party. The trip is one night, but they certainly make that a night to remember. After a panel of attorneys answered our questions, we were taught the merengue by a professional dance coach so that we could properly get our groove on later that night. A band, beer, great conversation, and as previously stated, food, was provided for the students for the purpose of giving us the opportunity to meet attorneys casually.
  3. At this party we were also able to mingle with Washburn Law students and created friendships with some of them. Comparing law school experiences was intriguing, to say the least. After the party, several of us made plans to meet up again at the Boot Hill Casino to continue the evening, where our connections were made stronger.
  4. Not only were attorneys and other law students at the party, there were several judges, including Kansas Court of Appeals judges. I was having what was probably too casual of a conversation and asked the person I was speaking with what they do, and learned they were on the Kansas Court of Appeals. Umm, oops! As it turns out, one of them is from my hometown, so I was able to make a strong connection with her. In another instance, I was discussing a case that my boss and I presented in front of the Kansas Court of Appeals this past summer, and he was one of the judges on the case. There was ample opportunity to make connections and meet distinguished people from diverse areas of the law. I had no expectation of that happening when I signed up for the trip.
  5. After enjoying the company of people I hope to be like when I grow up, we hit the Boot Hill Casino. We probably stayed way too late for having interviews the next day, but boy was it a good time. No one lost hardly anything, and most people profited at least something. The Chiefs beat the Patriots, and I “mastered” blackjack.
  6. The main purpose of the trip was interviewing with potential employers the next day. There were seven interviewers and roughly 13 students between KU and Washburn. Each interview was 10 minutes long, and then we rotated. I thoroughly enjoyed this interview process because it was casual, low-pressure and helped students make quick connections or figure out if a particular opportunity was a good fit. The start of each interview usually included the interviewer telling me what it is they do and asking if I am interested in working in that capacity. Several of them were transactional, so that was a quick no, but that did not conclude the interview. We then knew that I would likely never work for them and spent the rest of the time discussing what it is like to work in southwest Kansas or experiences that they thought I might learn from. The overall experience was productive, and I made about four contacts that I could see going somewhere.
  7. Who doesn’t love a good road trip? I’ve always loved a good drive, and Lawrence to Dodge City is definitely a stretch. During our 10 total hours in the car, I got to better know not only the fellow law students who enjoyed the trip, but also the professors who drove. My van was driven by Professor Suzanne Valdez, and I would consider her to be a strong contact after having hours of discussion. We also stopped and ate going each way, and I already mentioned how I am about food. Moral of the story: Don’t let the long drive hold you back from attending this trip. We made good use of the time and enjoyed every minute of it.
  8. For those of you readers from eastern Kansas, or really anywhere besides western Kansas, I think it would be worth your while to check out the other side of the state. Life is quite different from life in good old Larryville, but I certainly wouldn’t say for the worse. People are incredibly friendly, there are things to do (contrary to popular belief), and it’s so humble. I’m not saying everyone should go live that life, but seeing what else is out there is important because, who knows? You might totally change your path.
  9. Not only are people who work in wansas attorneys, they are also major community influencers and leaders. They hold powerful positions and make actual change happen for their towns. People look up to small-town attorneys in a different way than attorneys in larger cities.
  10. Lastly, there are so many job opportunities in all different areas of law, or a combination of several of them. And they pay well! One huge benefit I see to working in western Kansas is that most attorneys work way fewer hours, have a personal life and get paid relatively similar to attorneys working in larger firms. Another great benefit is that so many are hiring or wanting to pass their firm on to the next attorney. People often do general practice rather than focusing on one specific area, so if that’s something you’re into, this could be a good fit. After working in western Kansas all summer, I can see the need for attorneys across that part of the state. There are some great opportunities just waiting to be snagged.

— Miranda Clark-Ulrich is a 2L from Russell, Kansas.

Visiting Scholar Spotlight: Yueqing Li

Five questions with Yueqing Li, visiting scholar from China

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

One of my friends recommended KU to me.When viewing the web page of KU, I found my supervisor had the same research area. So we began communication and finally I came here.

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

My main goal at KU Law is to get more knowledge about American business law. After I go back to China I may continue my research in business law from a comparative  perspective.

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

There are more study and research materials are available.

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

I like the quiet environment and beautiful natural scenery in Lawrence. I miss my relatives and friends .

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

Prepare to take up challenges including language, communication, study and daily life.

Yueqing Li conducts comparative research on Chinese and American corporate law. 

An entrepreneur in the law

Group shot in front of bridge

The Legal Hackers International Summit in Brooklyn featured lawyers, professors, coders and entrepreneurs from the U.S., Nigeria, Ukraine, Dubai, Canada and more ― all focused on the common theme of making law more accessible and efficient through technology. 2L Nate Crosser, third from left on the front row, attended on behalf of the Kauffman Foundation.

After a respite from the pressures of “Fun-L” year (in the form of a trip to Europe), I dove right into two jobs this summer. I had no idea what to do with my life, so I decided to hedge my bets and work in two totally different sectors. I didn’t expect that the two together would serendipitously give me clarity and purpose. I want to do whatever I can to make the law more accessible and efficient through the entrepreneurial process.

I spent the first half of my summer working for the chief judge of the U.S. District Bankruptcy Court, District of Kansas in Topeka and the latter half at the Kauffman Foundation in Kansas City.

My biggest takeaways from my judicial field placement were that the law does not work the same for everyone, and in most instances, justice is extremely slow and expensive. Even in the bankruptcy system ― where people are there literally because they don’t have enough money ― it seems to be a practical necessity to hire an attorney. Once a case has been opened, hours and hours of attorney, court and trustee time are devoted to tracking and arguing over the debtor’s payment progress. I spotted a problem.

At the Kauffman Foundation (a large non-profit), I worked in the entrepreneurship department, where our goal was to create systems to support entrepreneurs across the country. An entrepreneur is someone who sees problem as opportunity, then has the courage, ingenuity and grit to pursue a novel solution.

A few months ago, thanks to the Kauffman Foundation, I got to attend the Legal Hackers International Summit in Brooklyn ― a gathering designed to improve the field of law through technology and entrepreneurship. It was a surreal experience, where I got to work with thought (and action) leaders from around the globe.

Jim Sandman speaking before group.

Jim Sandman, Legal Services Corporation president, speaks at the Legal Hackers International Summit.

Our first speaker was Jim Sandman, president of Legal Services Corporation, the largest funder of low-income civil legal aid in the U.S. He stressed the myopia of the field of law ― it is designed by lawyers, for lawyers, to perpetuate lawyering ― despite the fact that in 70 percent of state civil cases, at least one party is “pro se” (without an attorney), and as high as 90 percent in eviction cases. This wouldn’t be a problem if our system were more user friendly, but it’s not. Mr. Sandman summed up the problem with an anecdote about a sign in a courtroom that read “pro se litigants here” ― as if they were supposed to know what that means.

The rest of the summit was devoted to innovators providing their solutions to tackle problems in the law: using data science and network theory to improve prosecution of human traffickers, using the blockchain to enable self-sovereign personal identification, creating transparent systems to fight corruption and bureaucracy in the Middle East and Nigeria, and more.

I could say a lot more, but this is already too long. Suffice to say, I took a couple seemingly random internships this summer, and it has changed the rest of my life! I suppose the takeaway for my classmates reading this is go ahead and do that weird thing you aren’t sure will help your career. It could be the most important thing you do.

― Nate Crosser is a 2L and KU Law Student Ambassador from Lenexa.

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