Law students, lawyers should take stock of evolving career, personal goals

Just as the seasons change, our goals and dreams may also evolve or change over time. Now is a great time to assess your personal and career goals and take the necessary steps to get or stay on the right path.

Consider assessing your:

  • Personal goals: Although there are several assessment tools readily available, a familiar one is the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI) personality inventory. Your personal style influences many things, from how you address others to the type of work environment you prefer.
  • Skills and interests: Interested in exploring new career paths or want to learn if your job is the best fit for your skills and interests? The Strong Interest Inventory is one type of assessment test to help you with these particular questions.
  • Career goals: When was the last time you took stock of where you are and where you want to be this time next year, or in five years? Some questions to ponder:
    • What is your attitude toward your career right now?
    • If you could do it again, would you go to law school?. Why?
    • At work, what do you enjoy doing the most, the least?
    • What accomplishments during law school or your career are you most proud of and why?
    • Are you satisfied with the amount of time spent with your family and friends? Is there anything you would like to change?
    • If you couldn’t practice law, what would you do instead? Why?

There are many excellent resources available to help get you started, including:

  • “The Official Guide to Legal Specialties,” by Lisa Abrams
  • “Life After Law: Second Careers for Lawyers,” by Mary Ann Altman
  • “What Can You Do With a Law Degree?” by Deborah Arron
  • “What Color is Your Parachute?” by Richard Bolles
  • “The Opportunity Maker,” by Ari Kaplan
  • “Guerilla Tactics for Getting the Legal Jobs of Your Dreams,” by Kimm Walton

All of these books, and many others, are available at the Office of Career Services library.

Don’t forget to take advantage of your local resources. As a student or alumnus of KU, the University Career Center offers assessment tests at a discounted rate, including the Strong Interest Inventory and the Do What You Are personality assessment test. Todd Rogers and Karen Hester can counsel you on available opportunities based on your goals and information gleaned from your self-evaluations. There are also career coaches, some of whom specialize in working with attorneys, who can help you identify your goals and the steps you need to take.

Karen Hester, Director of Career Services

Law School Olympians square off in hoops, joust and hot dog-eating

The KU Sports & Entertainment Law Society put on the first Law School Olympics on Saturday, Oct. 3, at Dad “Perry” Park. Six teams, made up of both law and non-law students, fought the early morning cold weather only to be rewarded with a beautiful fall afternoon.

To kick off the event, the PIG tournament started on the basketball courts as the bag toss showdown was going on at the top of the hill. Sharp shooters highlighted both the PIG and bag toss tournaments, and the Olympics were off to a great start. Over-the-line waffle ball was full of diving catches, knuckling line drives and wind-aided long bombs. Everyone enjoyed the four-inning games while eating hot dogs and chips for lunch.

After the first three events had completed, we moved on to one of our headliner events — the joust. With homemade weapons and a gymnastics balance beam (thanks to event director Francie Boyer), Olympians tried to do their best American Gladiators impersonation. While nobody would have been confused for Blaze or Nitro, there were plenty of hard hits and big laughs.

The sand volleyball tournament was the one pre-finals event that incorporated all team members. Some of us still might be shaking sand out of our ears and picking it out of our teeth. The weather had warmed up, and the Olympians had loosened up enough to make a few picture-worthy dives in the sand.

Five events down, just one to go: the hot dog-eating contest. With a two-minute time limit, 10 hot dogs were looming on the picnic tables for the brave Olympians willing to try and become the next Kobayashi. Needless to say, nobody is taking on a career change. Two and a half hot dogs was the top mark.

After calculating the point totals, the top four teams were put into the dodgeball finals. The five D’s were on full display: dodge, duck, dip, dive, dodge. After a full day of great events, Francie awarded our official Olympic medals to all of our champions, both individual and team.

I want to thank all of those who came out and participated, and especially those who volunteered their help. Francie Boyer did a terrific job of organizing and running this event, and I hope that the next wave of SELS members will continue the Law School Olympics for years to come.

Brian Martinek
President, KU Sports & Entertainment Law Society

Event Winners
PIG: John Lamb (non-law)
Bags: Greg Thorne and Kevin Robertson (2Ls)
Wiffle: Team Nibbles
Joust: Matt Meyer (1L)
Sand volleyball: Team Nibbles
Hot dogs: Randy Krahulik (non-law) and Brian Duerksen (1L)
Dodgeball: Burge Brawlers

Confidence key to performing well in law school

The first year of law school is a wholly unique experience. Everything is new: people, textbooks and even the law itself. Law school requires you to develop a method of studying that best aids your learning, and it also requires you to take notes differently than you did in undergrad. New experiences are always exciting, but they can also be a little bit intimidating – my 1L year was no exception.

I had a different feeling this year as a 2L: lots of the same people, same heavy books and the law itself was more familiar to me. The basic confidence that you gain by successfully completing your first year of law school makes the following year a much different experience. Confidence is important in many areas of your life, but it is particularly important in law school. The more nervous your are, the more difficult it is to perform well in Socratic.

This semester I am taking Business Associations, Constitutional Law, Evidence, Juvenile Law and Professional Responsibility. Although I am still enrolled in a couple of required courses, it was nice to be able to develop my own schedule. It is also neat to be able to enroll in elective classes that are of particular interest to me. I am enjoying all of my classes, but Evidence is probably my favorite so far.

Well, until next time…

Chelsea Barnett, 2L and Student Ambassador

ScotusWiki a convenient tool to preview, follow the 2009-10 Supreme Court term

Yesterday was the first Monday in October, which means it is time to start the 2009-10 Supreme Court term. So you are curious about the cases coming up, right? And you would like a place to go to where you can browse these cases and, if you want, pull the documents. Well you are in luck!, the blog of the United States Supreme Court, has a companion site called ScotusWiki.

From ScotusWiki’s About page:

"Wiki" is derived from the Hawaiian word for quick, and in that spirit we’ve launched the ScotusWiki project; we hope the site enables you to find a plethora of information about Supreme Court cases incredibly quickly. While this site is still in its early stages, we’ve created a page for each case set for argument in the October sitting, and at each case’s page, you’ll find detailed previews, recaps and analyses, as well as links to briefs and other articles of interest. Each page will be regularly updated as the case progresses, but all the information will be available in one easy-to-find place (you can also view each page in a printable view). Organizing information by case is something that we can’t do given the scrolling format of a blog, and we’re excited for the possibilities. Over the coming weeks, we’ll be expanding the case section to include all cases granted in OT07.

One-stop shopping!

A couple of cases I’ve heard a lot of buzz about are Graham v. Florida (08-7412) and Sullivan v. Florida (08-7621). The issue of each is whether the imposition of a life without parole sentence on a minor for a non-homicide violates the prohibition on cruel and unusual punishments under the Eighth and Fourteenth amendments, where the freakishly rare imposition of such a sentence reflects a national consensus on the reduced criminal culpability of children. Currently available on the Wiki are links to all of the briefs and documents, including the petitions for certiori and the merit and amicus briefs. For cases that have alread been heard or that have further analysis, there are areas in the Wiki for oral argument recap, opinion analysis and links with further information.

So visit ScotusWiki and take a look at the cases scheduled to be heard. Any of them seem interesting to you? Which ones?

Blake Wilson
Instructional and Research Services Librarian

Federalist Society to bring Robert Levy, Ken Starr to KU Law

This semester has been busy for the Federalist Society, and we are just getting started.

Officers and members have been busy planning social events and getting ready for our fall lecture series. We started off with Professor Teresa Collett, from the University of St. Thomas School of Law. Professor Collett was a former special Attorney General for the state of Kansas. Her event, titled “Sex, Jurisprudence and Rock and Roll,” centered on the controversy of requiring health practitioners to report statutory rape of female minors seeking abortions. KU’s own Professor Jelani Exum offered some great commentary for the 75 or more students, faculty and community members who attended the event. The free pizza was a plus, but these distinguished scholars were the real treat.

This fall will continue to be busy for the Federalist Society. We are preparing to elect a couple of 1L officers to help with our remaining events for the semester. Bringing in heavy hitters like Robert Levy, chairman of the CATO Institute, and Kenneth Starr, takes a lot of effort. Thankfully, the KU Law administration and faculty have been supportive of our events, from funding to attending.

The rest of the semester should shape up nicely. Membership this year has grown quite a bit. There are over 45 dues-paying members at KU alone. With so many events yet to come, we expect membership and attendance to keep going up!

Brandon Smith, president, KU Federalist Society

Happy Banned Books Week! Sept. 26-Oct. 3, 2009

Banned Books Week is an annual event celebrating the freedom to read and the importance of the First Amendment. The American Library Association, through their Office for Intellectual Freedom (OIF), gathers statistics on books which have been challenged in various jurisdictions. In 2008, 513 challenges were reported to the OIF. The top 10 most challenged books of 2008?

  1. “And Tango Makes Three,” by Justin Richardson & Peter Parnell
    The book is based on the true story of two male penguins in New York’s Central Park Zoo. They formed a coupling and were given an abandoned egg to raise.

    Reasons: anti-ethnic, anti-family, homosexuality, religious viewpoint and unsuited to age group

  2. “His Dark Materials” (trilogy), by Philip Pullman
    This book follows the coming-of-age of two children as they wander through a series of parallel universes against a backdrop of epic events.

    Reasons: political viewpoint, religious viewpoint and violence

  3. “TTYL;” “TTFN;” “L8R, G8R” (series), by Lauren Myracle
    This book follows three best friends throughout their high school careers. The books are told entirely in instant messages.

    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

  4. “Scary Stories” (series), by Alvin Schwartz
    The title sums it up! Just toss in some gruesome, nightmarish illustrations.

    Reasons: occult/satanism, religious viewpoint and violence

  5. “Bless Me, Ultima,” by Rudolfo Anaya
    This stort is about a Mexican boy who is torn between the Native American religion and Catholocism. All this is set upon the backdrop of World War II.

    Reasons: occult/satanism, offensive language, religious viewpoint, sexually explicit and violence

  6. “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” by Stephen Chbosky
    This story is narrated by a teenager who describes various scenes in his life in letters written to an annonymous person. It takes place during his freshman year of high school.

    Reasons: drugs, homosexuality, nudity, offensive language, sexually explicit, suicide and unsuited to age group

  7. “Gossip Girl” (series), by Cecily von Ziegesar
    Narrated by the omniscient yet unseen blogger “Gossip Girl,” the series revolves around the lives and romances of the privileged teenagers at an elite school for girls. The story follows the characters through their high school lives up through their graduation and moving on to college.

    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

  8. “Uncle Bobby’s Wedding,” by Sarah S. Brannen
    Two male guinea pigs get married.

    Reasons: homosexuality and unsuited to age group

  9. “The Kite Runner,” by Khaled Hosseini
    The story of a young Afghan boy and his struggles through the Soviet invasion and the rise of the Taliban.

    Reasons: offensive language, sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

  10. “Flashcards of My Life,” by Charise Mericle Harper
    A young girls recieves flash cards as a present, which are meant to be filled out according to their topic (e.g., Friends, Kiss, Identity). This book is what is on those flashcards.

    Reasons: sexually explicit and unsuited to age group

There are a ton of books out there which have been banned, many of which we now consider “classics.” Take a look around and see what you find. Which do you find to be the strangest? Let me know!

Blake Wilson

KU basketball, football feud offers cautionary tale for law students, lawyers on Facebook

If you’re a KU student or alum, you’re undoubtedly aware of the recent brouhaha pitting members of the KU football team versus members of the KU basketball team. As I read the press coverage in the Lawrence Journal-World, University Daily Kansan and (gulp), I predictably thought of lessons law students and attorneys could glean from these ugly incidents.

Let’s put aside the fisticuffs and focus on the fallout from a certain basketball team member’s Facebook postings. It seems obvious that someone who represents a university, business or other organization should never post offensive and possibly self-incriminatory statements on Facebook or other social media sites. But far too often posts are cringe-worthy and cause embarrassment or worse for the organizations the posters represent.

It also seems obvious that lawyers, schooled in the recognition of potential liability, and those training to be lawyers would grasp the dangers of social networking sites. For example, it’s common knowledge that employers search the publicly accessible Facebook, My Space and Twitter accounts of potential employees. But ask any employer in the legal profession if they’ve ever encountered information on social networking sites that made them think twice about a candidate. The answer will be yes.

The reality is that many law students and attorneys, through imprudent use of social networking, put themselves at risk of the same type of negative publicity that has befallen the basketball team. In the September 2009 edition of the KC Counselor (the magazine of the Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association) appears the article “J.D. Bird Street: All the Little Lawyers Go Tweet, Tweet, Tweet: Legal Ethics of the Socially Networked,” by Therese Miller of the law firm of Shook Hardy & Bacon. Ms. Miller offers many general guidelines to social networking; the following bear repeating:

  • Everything you post is discoverable and traceable.
  • Be respectful.
  • Stop and think before posting. Make sure it would be something you would be OK with if your colleagues or a judge read it.
  • Avoid personal attacks, online fights and hostile communications.
  • Do not post anything that is offensive or inflammatory.
  • Do not post anything negatively about opposing counsel, judges or other members of the profession.
  • Be honest.
  • Your profile should never contain anything that is false or misleading.

An article from the Lawyerist Web site gets more specific, offering some practical suggestions for utilizing the privacy features of Facebook.

Todd Rogers, assistant dean for career services

Legal films – even the funny ones – teach valuable lessons

Films are a wonderful way to teach the legal profession. Unlike casebook reading, they allow students to immerse themselves in the role of the lawyer, client or judge and ask the question, “How would I handle myself?” A simple search on the Internet will turn up a list of films usually including “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Amistad,” “Twelve Angry Men” and so on. But there are some overlooked films out there that I believe warrant some recognition.

“Legally Blonde” is about a fashion merchandising student, Elle, who attends Harvard in an attempt to win back her boyfriend. She ends up being really good at law and even wins a case during an internship.

What can be learned from “Legally Blonde”? Elle promises her client that she won’t divulge her aliby: She was getting liposuction during the time her husband was getting murdered. Elle sticks with her promise and gets her off using her knowledge of perms.

“Rounders” is about a poker-playing prodigy law student who is trying to work his way through law school when his old partner is released from jail. To help his old partner out, he joins him in a round of poker-playing, cheating style. Bad things happen.

What can be learned? Playing the game by the rules and using your talents is how you win. This is true in poker, life and law school.

“The Devil’s Advocate” is about a small-town defense lawyer, Kevin Lomax, who is romanced by a large firm in the big city. Come to find out, the head partner, John Milton, is Lomax’s dad. And the DEVIL!

What can be learned? Regardless of the stage set, you always have free will to choose how to handle yourself, your clients and your career.

In “Liar Liar,” a boy’s wish is granted and his father, a very prosperous attorney, cannot lie. What can be learned? Family life is the highest priority, and honesty wins out over deception.

In “Miracle on 34th Street,” a man who thinks he is Santa Claus is brought before the court in a commitment hearing. Surely a guy who thinks he is Santa Claus is insane!

What can be learned? Certain kinds of disputes ought not be submitted to the court. In particular, disputes about belief should not undergo judicial scrutiny. Whether or not Santa Claus exists is a matter of personal belief, not something the courts should decide.

In “Jury Duty,” Tommy Collins, an unemployed stripper who lives at his parents’ home, is sequestered for jury duty. He decides to cause the trial to drag out as long as possible so he can live in the lap of luxury.

What can be learned? There are imperfections in the legal system. The film also delivers the message that because we are human beings and not machines, it’s natural that justice demands such a system. Note: This is an adaptation of “Twelve Angy Men” but stars Pauly Shore.

So go out, rent some movies and see what you learn. And let me know if there are any other movies you like that are law-related.

Blake Wilson

Public Interest Law Society fundraiser will benefit law students

The Public Interest Law Society at KU Law is off to a great start this year.

We just secured The Alton Ballroom at Pachamama’s as the location for our big annual fundraiser, Casino Night. It will be Oct. 1 from 7 pm to midnight. We will have roulette, poker, blackjack, prizes and all the fancy food and drink we can take. We hope the whole law school will be able to attend.

The proceeds fund all the club’s activities, including a career panel, a trip to Yale for a few delegates to the Rebellious Lawyer conference, and summer stipends for students who volunteer at a Legal Aid or other public interest organizations over the summer.

Also, KU PILS has a new Facebook page this year to keep up with our members on the site they visit most. Search KU Public Interest Law Society on Facebook and join us online!

KU Public Interest Law Society (KUPILS)

Students plan sand volleyball tourney and multicultural potluck picnic

On Sept. 24, the Phi Alpha Delta Legal Fraternity is hosting its 2nd Annual KU Law Sand Volleyball Tournament in conjunction with a Multicultural Potluck Picnic.

All law students will be invited to form volleyball teams to take on last year’s defending champion team from the Native American Law Students Association.

This event is co-sponsored with several other student organizations, and everyone is encouraged to bring along their favorite cultural dish to share with the group. Last year, 60 students attended the picnic for an afternoon of volleyball and great food, and we are looking forward to an even larger turnout this year.

Phi Alpha Delta Legal Fraternity, Green Chapter