Back to the grind: a 3L’s perspective on the beginning of a new school year

Once again, it’s the beginning of another school year and I’m sitting around wondering where my summer went. I spent a good portion of my summer studying for the MPRE and working in the Rockhurst University Athletics Department doing some compliance work. I did manage to sneak off to San Diego for a couple weeks and catch the first weekend of the College World Series up in Omaha. As my Mom said, “You better enjoy it now, because starting next summer, you’ll be working full time.”

What Mom didn’t warn me about was that “3L-itis” sets in about 2 days into the semester and that searching for a job that will allow me to pay off my student loans is turning in to a full-time job in itself! Add job hunting to my 15 hours of class, my part-time job, and what you get is a very busy semester! I am in no way complaining – in fact I’d rather be busy and have things to get my mind off of class. I’m enjoying being a part of the real world, even if it is only for 10 hours a week. Searching for a job, while not the most exciting thing I’ve ever done, is really rewarding when I get a phone call or email saying that I’ve landed an interview.

Hopefully I can report back in a few weeks (or months) and tell everyone that I’ve landed a fantastic job in a really fun city, but until that happens I’ll continue sending out resumes, cover letters, and transcripts while trying to stay on top of my reading and outlines. I’m not completely consumed with school and job applications; I’ve managed to find time to catch some KU football games and play some golf, and once basketball season starts (October 15 is Late Night in the Phog) I will be camping in the Fieldhouse and attending the games like any other KU student.

I’m definitely looking forward to my last year as a full-time student, but getting more excited every day to walking down the hill at graduation in May!

Courtney Johnston, 3L

Islamic Law Students Association supports Muslim students, aims to improve understanding of Islam

The Islamic Law Students Association (ILSA) was created in 2007 with dual purposes in mind. On one hand, ILSA provides a networking platform for Muslim students at Green Hall to help and interact with each other. Considering that ILSA includes students from varying nationalities and academic backgrounds, it offers a wealth of experience among its members and the opportunity for all Muslim students to utilize it. In this regard, ILSA strives to aid Muslim students not just with career development, social life and academic and religious issues.

On the other hand, ILSA seeks to further diversify and improve all students’ understanding about Islam and Islamic law. In this vein, ILSA does not limit itself to Muslim students but invites all KU students to discuss any concerns or questions they have about Islam and Shari’a. ILSA hopes that with open discussion it can distance Islam’s image at the law school from terrorists and fundamentalists, provide a more receptive atmosphere for Muslim and non-Muslims alike, and explore the future of law and economics in Islam.

Elena Delkhah, ILSA President

Learning the law in London

My name is Josh Williamson, and I am currently a 3L here at the University of Kansas School of Law. During the 2010 spring semester, I had the opportunity to study law in London as a participant of the London Law Consortium. (In addition to KU Law, the London Law Consortium is comprised of six other law schools located throughout the U.S.) Needless to say, I had a number of unique and memorable academic and cultural experiences.

The consortium campus is located just a few minutes from the British Museum, in the Bloomsbury neighborhood of London. Having never been to London before, I elected to live just a few blocks from campus with a couple of other consortium students. I was very happy with this decision because, as it turned out, the campus is within easy walking distance of sights such as Trafalgar Square, Covent Garden, Chinatown, Leicester Square, Regent’s Park, Buckingham Palace and Parliament, just to name a few. It also meant I had a short walk to class each morning and could easily return to campus in the evening, after some sightseeing in the afternoon, to study if the need arose. However, many of the consortium students elected to live in various other neighborhoods throughout London and were equally pleased with their decisions. Really, no matter where in London students choose to live, the consortium campus is easily accessible via the numerous surrounding tube and bus stations.

The consortium building itself is open 24 hours, allowing students continuous access to the computer lab, classrooms and various study areas.  The building is also equipped with a student lounge, library, visiting faculty offices and wireless Internet. In the immediate vicinity of the building, there is a grocery store, a FedEx, a very well-equipped YMCA and multiple pubs and eateries perfect for grabbing a quick bite to eat.  Also nearby, and essential to the existence of every law student, is a two-story Starbucks with ample study space and people-watching opportunities. With everything so conveniently located, I found that I had more than enough time to fully experience London while still managing a full class load.

Given that the consortium only accepts a limited number of students each spring, the classes themselves were small and extremely interactive. Professors from assorted consortium schools travel to London and teach the U.S.-based law courses, while the English/European law courses are taught by English professors. Throughout the semester, I got to know both my professors and fellow classmates very well. I also really enjoyed the opportunity to participate in classroom discussions with law students from schools throughout the U.S. Everyone’s unique perspectives and experiences really contributed to keeping class discussions interesting and informative. Although the classes offered change each year, I took Federal Courts, English Legal Systems, English Legal Methods, European Union Law, and International Human Rights. There were other class options available, but this schedule gave me a total of 13 hours, which I found to be very manageable. One class I found to be especially interesting was English Legal Methods.

Similar to the Judicial Clerkship Clinic offered here at KU Law, the English Legal Methods course matches students with English barristers specializing in a variety of different practice areas. I was paired with a criminal defense barrister and was able to accompany him while he tried various cases in London’s famous Central Criminal Court. Throughout the semester, I observed high-profile rape, murder, attempted murder, and embezzlement cases. I was also able to accompany my barrister to other venues in and around London for prison visits and client conferences.  This experience provided me with firsthand insight into the English legal system, and I would highly recommend it to anyone planning on taking part in the consortium program.

Lastly, in addition to enjoying the neighborhoods of London, other students and I made it a priority to try and travel to other European countries each weekend. This was very easy given the relatively short distances involved, cheap flights and convenient access to local airports. Together, we managed to visit areas within England, Scotland, France, Austria, Denmark, Italy, Switzerland and Sweden.  For me, these additional trips really contributed to an already wonderful study abroad experience.

I found the chance to study law in a foreign country, while simultaneously being completely immersed in the culture, to be extremely rewarding. The experience has proven to be tremendously valuable to me, both personally and academically, and I would strongly recommend it to anyone even remotely interested in studying abroad. For additional details, please visit http://law.ku.edu/studyabroad.

Josh Williamson, 3L

The benefits of meditation for lawyers, law students

It appears that meditation has gotten a bit of a bad reputation thanks to a lot of misinformation. So I should probably clear some things up! Meditation is not in itself a religious practice anymore than pushups are. Granted, most religions do have some sort of meditative practice. However, the universal appeal of meditation not only points to its usefulness but also to it not being attributable to any one religion. Religion and spirituality are not a requirement for meditation or vice versa. Meditation is simply a practice of quieting the mind, giving it a short vacation.

In the legal profession, activity, achievements and results are rewarded. So why turn to meditation, which seems to be a non-activity with little achieved? Well, just as your body needs sleep to recover after exercise, your mind needs time to break away from the chaos of modern life. And if any of you have been as stressed as I have, you will know that your brain definitely does not stop when your head hits the pillow. As a matter of fact, it seems that the little monkey that lives in our heads is nocturnal.

So meditation can help give your brain a bit of a rest. But what else can it do?

  • Health benefits
    Meditation has been shown to help alleviate stress and anxiety, both of which are major predictors for heart disease. Decreased stress and anxiety leads to decreased probability of heart disease. On top of that, meditation has been linked to lowered levels of cortisol, a hormone released by the adrenal gland during times of stress. Cortisol increases blood sugar and counteracts insulin. Basically, it makes you chubby. Lowering levels of cortisol by decreasing your stress and anxiety may actually reduce your pant size. Not to mention less sick days!
  • Detachment
    OK, I really don’t like this word. How about, “You stop taking things so personally and getting annoyed at the little things.” Meditation helps build perspective by allowing us to detach ourselves from these little, annoying thoughts that bounce around in our heads. Now don’t confuse this with indifference! It just means you are able to keep a cool head in obnoxious times. And wouldn’t that be helpful as a lawyer?
  • Concentration
    Regardless of what you are doing, be it work, sports or music, concentration is an essential skill — especially today, with so many distractions. Many studies have shown that those who meditate regularly have heightened levels of concentration.
  • Spontaneity and creativity
    Thought has a tendency to run from A to B to C in a linear form. Many times this means that we focus on the past and the future with little time left for what is right in front of us. Just as meditation can help us concentrate by quieting that monkey mind of ours, it can also open us up to spontaneity and creativity — both of which are valuable qualities to possess in the legal industry.

This is just a short list. There’s so much more! It’s hard to imagine that doing something for such a short time everyday can have such a large impact. Want to get started? Come to Room 129 today at 12:30 p.m. and I’ll show you one way to do it. Can’t make it? Well Google “meditation techniques” and pick one that works for you!

W. Blake Wilson, Instructional & Research Services Librarian

A ‘best value’ in a tough market

Recently KU Law was honored as a top 20 “Best Value” in legal education by preLaw magazine. Law schools are honored if they meet four criteria:

  • Tuition less than $35,000 a year for in-state residents;
  • Average indebtedness of less than $100,000;
  • Bar passage rate higher than the state average; and
  • Employment rate nine months after graduation of 85 percent of higher.

We’re obviously proud of this recognition, as it confirms what we’ve been preaching about KU Law for years: that students receive a high-quality, affordable legal education that enables them to compete effectively in an increasingly ornery job market.

And just how bad is the market? While 2007 marked a 20-year high for entry-level legal employment, the national employment figure for the law school class of 2009 marked the lowest “nine-month” employment rate since the mid-1990s.

KU Law also saw its employment statistics decline during this time period. Utilizing the US News & World Report reporting methodology, 63.2 percent of the KU Law Class of 2009 was employed at graduation, and 89 percent was employed within nine months of graduation. These employment statistics will be reported to US News this fall and will appear in the April 2011 rankings issue.

Preliminary data from the Class of 2010 is illustrative of the legal market’s sluggish recovery. It was difficult for members of the Class of 2010 to find work in the summer of 2009, and many summer jobs did not produce paid, full-time offers.

The national offer rate to 2009 summer associates for entry-level positions to begin in the fall of 2010 fell by more than 20 percentage points, from 89.9 percent in 2008 to 69.3 percent in 2009. This is by far the lowest offer rate measured since NALP began collecting this data in 1993. The acceptance rate of these summer offers was 85 percent, an all-time high.

To date, about half of the KU Law Class of 2010 has reported employment.

In a tight legal market, the importance of minimizing law school debt is heightened. We mentioned Dan DiPietro’s comments on this topic in a summer blog posting, and they bear repeating in light of KU Law’s appearance in the top 20 “Best Value” list.

DiPietro is the managing director of the Law Firm Group at Citibank and visiting professor at Harvard Law School. Citibank’s Law Firm Group provides advice and services to over 650 law firms in the United States and London. The group lends to more than 200 law firms in the U.S. and UK, including over half of the Am Law 100.

At the National Association for Law Placement’s annual conference in late April, DiPietro spoke about trends in law firm profitability. The dominant theme was that 1998 to 2007 was a golden age of profitability, marked by strong growth in demand for legal services, double-digit revenue growth and client tolerance for steady rate increases. Associate attorneys were hired at a rate that corresponded to the strong growth in demand, productivity was relatively steady and the largest law firms outperformed the industry.

Over the last two recessionary years, DiPietro described six factors that combined to place enormous stress on the profitability of private law firms.

  • Client consolidation: Consider the financial services industry. Because of mergers and failing businesses, there are fewer clients doling out business to law firms.
  • Convergence and casting a wider net: For example, GE recently cut the number of law firms it employs from 400 to 200, and then again to 112. Large clients are actively seeking more attractive rate structures from their law firms.
  • Commoditizaton: Firms can become “expert” in a practice area quickly by hiring partners from other firms.
  • Heightened client demands: Clients want increased partner time but are less willing to accept high rates. This attitude has led them to cast a wider net when considering firms.
  • Intensifying price pressure: Clients are shopping for good value in all but “bet-the-company” cases.

These factors resulted in 2008-09 being marked by declining demand for legal services, rates increasing at a slower pace, profits per partner declining and the largest law firms underperforming the industry.

In closing, DiPietro noted that he has a daughter who just finished her first year of law school. As an applicant, she was admitted to a top 20 school with no scholarship, as well as a lower-ranked school with a 90 percent scholarship. She sought her dad’s advice about where to enroll, and DiPietro strongly encouraged her to enroll at the solid but lower-ranked law school where she could graduate with minimal debt.

It is DiPietro’s belief that due to uncertainty about the availability of jobs at large law firms paying six-figure salaries, it is wise for law students to get a good but affordable education that will enable them to consider the widest range of potential entry-level jobs.

Todd Rogers, Assistant Dean for Career Services

Countdown to the return of the Supremes

After a summer break, the Supremes will be coming back. So what does their end-of-summer look like leading up to Oct. 4?

    1. A return from summer fun stuff. Many of the Supremes spend time in foreign countries teaching law students, giving speeches and, of course, getting some much-needed rest. Well, except for Justice Kagan. She’s been at the court learning all of the ins and outs, such as which is the quietest restroom and where to pick up the best cupcakes for her coworkers. She’ll want to make a great impression on her first day!
    2. Sept. 27 is the Supremes’ long conference. This is a meeting of all of the justices at which they will discuss all of the cases that came up during the summer and decide whether or not to grant cert. The most junior justice is required to sit by the door and is responsible for passing notes in and out of the room and fetching coffee. I’ve also heard the most junior justice has to wear a bunny suit, but this has yet to be confirmed.
    3. Oct. 1 will be Justice Kagan’s formal investiture, with a special ceremony in the Supreme’s courtroom. Kagan will get to sit in John Marshall’s old chair and, afterwards, will walk down the stairs of the courthouse with the chief justice. Sans bunny suit.
    4. Oct. 4 at 10 a.m. will be the start of the term. It is likely that the chief justice will welcome Justice Kagan, and then they will move right along to the first oral arguments. This looks to be a very exciting year!

I know that I’m lookig forward to a new term with a new justice. How about you?

W. Blake Wilson, Instructional & Research Services Librarian

Get involved: Student Bar Association plans full semester of service, social, networking events

The Student Bar Association is the representative student government for the School of Law at KU. Every KU Law student is a member of the Student Bar Association by virtue of being a student. SBA is essentially a self-supporting organization and receives limited financial support from the school. Therefore, we rely heavily on proceeds from our merchandise sales, donations at tailgates, and ticket sales to our various events.

SBA provides some funding for law school student organizations through Student Senate allocations. The SBA president serves as the chair of the Presidents’ Council to help unite the various groups and students, while members of the SBA General Board strive to make the student organizations work together to share ideas, debate, network and fund raise.

Every student has a vote in the yearly elections. The SBA Executive Board is comprised of five people: a president, vice president, secretary, treasurer and an ABA representative. The SBA General Board is comprised of the five Exec Board members, the class officers from each class and an SJD representative. Elections are held in the spring semester for all board positions except 1L positions, which are held early in the fall semester.

Events that SBA hosts include: home football tailgates; Make a Difference Day; SBA Halloween party; TGITs; Barristers’ Ball; Race Ipsa (annual 5K); various charity drives and fundraisers throughout the year; and numerous networking events.

Mark your calendars for:

  • Sept. 4: Tailgate for KU v. North Dakota State
  • Sept. 11: Tailgate with Bell Folsom
  • Sept. 13-17: Stress Free Week
  • Sept. 25: Tailgate with the Topeka Bar Association, Kansas Bar Association and Johnson County Bar Association
  • Sept. 27: 1L Class Officer Elections (mandatory informational meeting on Sept. 14)
  • Oct. 2: Make a Difference Day (To sign up – and get a free T-shirt and food! – e-mail Kansas.sba@gmail.com and make sure to include your T-shirt size. See Dean Wendy’s emails for more information.
  • Oct. 29: SBA Halloween party

Keep an eye on KLFP.org for more events! For any questions, comments or concerns, e-mail kansas.sba@gmail.com!

Natasha Das, SBA president

Law librarian, comic book fan sees superhero personalities in lawyers

For those who don’t know, I have been a fan of comic books pretty much my entire life. And much like anybody who is a fan of any type of fiction, be it Harry Potter, Twilight or D.C.’s line of comics, you begin to pick up on the character archetypes and see them appear in your world. So it’s not at all surprising that I would see different types of superheroes everywhere I go. So here’s my take on the lawyers I have met and which superheroes they reflect.

  • Green Lanterns
    The rules are there, they just need to be enforced! Work within the system; deal with the criminals directly. Green Lanterns are, literally, cops. But in the lawyer’s world, they are prosecutors. Green Lanterns are driven by sheer will power to uphold the law. And the law is the law, fair or unfair. “Believe in the system” is the Green Lantern’s mantra.
  • Green Arrow and Black Canary
    Direct action, advocating social change. Social justice isn’t created by following the laws that are on the books but by changing those laws to reflect what is right. Both Green Arrow and Black Canary practice public law. They might be public defenders or they might work in-house for nonprofit organizations like the ACLU, PETA or the Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
  • Superman and Supergirl
    Supes is a big deal. Justice is of utmost importance. S/he is a shining example of how a superhero should behave. Meet strength with strength, meet gentle with gentle. The bad guys are born bad guys, and they should be locked away. Forever. But supes does not work with or for the police. Oh no! Supes is a shark who normally works defense but has been known to represent plaintiffs.
  • Batman and Batgirl
    The Bats want you scared straight. Bats work with the police but are not trusted. The Bats are district attorneys who believe that being a criminal, for most, is a choice. Batsie wants to help you make the right choice and will even cut you a break if you seem scared enough. However, there are a few out there who are sick and cannot make the right choice. So they get put into a hospital where doctors work to cure their illness.
  • Wonder Woman and Wonder Man
    The Wonders are that indeed! Physically and mentally powerful individuals who are willing to fight to the death. They are passionate about what they do. But their first line of attack? Alternative dispute resolution: mediation, negotiation and arbitration. They want to come to an agreement and understanding first. Words before weapons. They are expert negotiators and will do what they can to make sure everyone gets what they need before dragging cases through a lengthy courtroom battle, which they are fully capable of.

So what kind of superhero lawyer are you or do you think you would be? Do you have any to add? Leave a comment or email me! I’d sure like to know!

W. Blake Wilson, Instructional & Research Services Librarian

First-day jitters and first-year myths

Green Hall was abuzz last Thursday morning with the excited chatter of first-year law students. KU Law faculty and staff welcomed another class of bright and motivated students with continental breakfast, several orientation programs and the first of many Lawyering class sessions.

After a few more days of Lawyering and orientation sessions, they begin their core courses today.

It hardly seems possible that it’s been 15 years since I anxiously began my law school experience in Austin. I remember making small talk with a KU graduate, Blaine Kimrey, as we waited to be welcomed to UT Law by the dean. My head was swirling as I looked around and sized up my classmates. I had graduated from college only a few months before and wasn’t sure that I was ready for the rigors of professional school.

As KU Law welcomes the Class of 2013, it seems like an appropriate time to reflect on five bits of advice I received as a curious prospective law student and a nervous 1L. I’m afraid I was pretty impressionable and absorbed most of these statements as gospel.

Did they prove to be true?

  • You’ll only get a job if you’re in the top 10 percent of the class.

And it’s corollary …

  • Law school is the most intense experience you’ll ever have. You must dedicate every waking minute to reading cases, studying and outlining in order to make good grades.

I’m not very good at math, but even I can figure out that the first statement is baloney. At KU Law, we admit about 160 students per year. After their first year, most students gain practical legal experience in the summer months or subsequent school years through paid or for-credit positions. And while our employment numbers dropped this year due to the recession, it’s typical that two-thirds of each KU Law class is employed at graduation and over 90 percent are employed nine months after graduation.

Of course grades matter. And of course some employers are more selective with respect to grades than others. But to state that only 10 percent (or 15 percent or 20 percent) of law students will be competitive in the job market is flat wrong.

Some of the most successful, grounded and happy law students I’ve known made time as 1Ls for hobbies, exercise and other activities that helped clear their minds and brought them back in touch with family and friends.

Law school is serious business, but if you treat it like a professional job — rather than just like undergrad — you’ll be surprised by how much you can accomplish while still reserving time for some fun. If you work steadily throughout the semester, you won’t feel overwhelmed when finals roll around in December.

While acquiring legal knowledge, don’t lose yourself. Take care of your body by getting plenty of sleep and exercise. Commit to investing time and energy in family and friends. Develop sound strategies for dealing with the stressful times head on. And be nice to one another! Law school is challenging, but it doesn’t have to be cutthroat or ugly.

  • Don’t bother with Career Services; they only care about the top 10 percent of the class.
    Our marching orders are to care about the employment prospects and well being of the top 100 percent of the class. That may be hokey, but it’s true. Our doors are open to everyone, and typically students with lower grades seek our assistance more regularly.
  • Don’t bother looking for a job in a state other than where you go to law school.About one-fourth of each KU Law class secures permanent employment outside of Kansas and western Missouri. If you want to wind up in Chicago or Denver or Houston, you should start your search early and consult with our office often. KU Law alums are spread across the country, and many will be amenable to assisting law students in establishing a foothold in a particular city or state.If you wait until you’re a 3L to decide that you want to move to another state, especially a state with which you have no previous connection, you’ll be fighting an uphill battle.
  • You’ve got to figure out what area of law you want to practice as soon as possible.
    During your first year, you’re learning how to read cases, spot issues, and analyze and apply statutes. In the process, you’ll gain some inkling of what you want to practice, but don’t buy into the hype that you must plot out your career path in its entirety by the end of your first year.Want some help with making sense of your options? Read “The Official Guide to Legal Specialties: An Insiders’s Guide to Every Major Practice Area,” by Lisa Abrams. Also, make an appointment with our office to discuss your options.

    Potential employers expect that 2Ls will be able to articulate an interest in an area or two. It won’t help your cause to say you’re interested in “all areas” or that you “just want a job.” You will need to answer practice area-related questions more thoughtfully by that point.

Todd Rogers, Assistant Dean for Career Services

Google and Westlaw had a baby and WestSearch is its name, O!

Beginning this fall, KU Law faculty, staff and students will have access to Westlaw’s newest product: WestlawNext.

I am going to try my best to not get into the super-geeky details here. Also, I’m going to avoid quoting West on this product. Instead, I am going to share with you my experience.

Many students who are starting to learn the online legal research process may find it difficult to switch over to using Westlaw. They are used to using search engines such as Google and Bing where they can just type in their question and go. Legal research just does not work that way. For example, to use Westlaw most efficiently, you have to understand three things: Boolean language connectors, West’s KeyNumber system and legal analysis. This makes online legal research particularly difficult for first-year students who have little if any exposure to these concepts.

Well, the magical minds at West have solved your problem. They have created a product that allows the user to use Westlaw the way that they use search engines: Just type in your question. You don’t have to pick a database or use exact search terms.

This doesn’t take away your need for legal analysis at all. But it does take away your need to understand Boolean logic and West’s KeyNumber system (well, not completely).

So here’s how it works.

  1. Pick a jurisdiction. No database choice is required.
  2. Type in your query however you are used to doing it: Boolean, natural language, citation or parties.

WestSearch uses the editorial additions already in place to rank the results and divide them up by type: case law, statutes, secondary sources, etc. You can then narrow your results using a checklist on the left side. Or find related materials on the right which WestSearch has flagged as AWESOME! Also, once you have looked at a document, West puts a neat little pair of glasses next to it so that you don’t go repeating yourself.

So who has access to WestlawNext? Currently, only faculty and staff. In a few weeks, all students will have access with the exception of 1Ls. Sorry guys! You still need to learn how to use Westlaw! But full access will be granted to you, too, come spring (maybe earlier if we so decide).

How do you get to WestlawNext? Simple. Sign in to Westlaw as you normally would. Once you do, you will see WestlawNext as an option at the top of the screen. Try it out. Play around. We will offer training as the semester rolls on. Otherwise, feel free to sign up for one of the webinars listed below. These are for FACULTY AND LIBRARIANS ONLY! Sorry students!

If you can’t make it, don’t worry! Westlaw will put these up on its TWEN page!

W. Blake Wilson, Instructional & Research Services Librarian