Alumni rally support for Reginald L. “Reggie” Robinson Law Scholarship

Giving Story: Reginald L. "Reggie" Robinson Law Scholarship

A group of KU Law alumni are encouraging their fellow Jayhawk lawyers to support a law scholarship established in memory of the late Reginald L. “Reggie” Robinson, L’87.

Robinson, who earned his undergraduate and law degrees at KU, passed away in September 2020. Over four decades of teaching, mentorship and leadership in the KU community, he served as a law professor, chief of staff for Chancellor Robert Hemenway, director of the School of Public Affairs and Administration, and vice chancellor for public affairs.

Reggie Robinson

The Reginald L. “Reggie” Robinson Law Scholarship was established based on Robinson’s wishes to benefit academically talented female students who express a strong interest in public service. To date, more than 225 family, friends, colleagues and KU alumni have contributed over $160,000 to the fund. Organizers hope to increase the fund to $500,000, which would provide a full-tuition scholarship for a student. Justin Lungstrum, L’00 and Emily Lungstrum kicked off the fundraising effort with a $50,000 gift.

Contributions can be made through Launch KU.

The Robinson family – Jane, Clare and Paige – expressed their gratitude to KU Law alumni and friends for supporting the scholarship fund.

“We are so grateful for the outpouring of support from KU alumni, faculty, staff and friends of Reggie’s from across the country who have given to the Reginald L. ‘Reggie’ Robinson Scholarship. Reggie described his time at KU as ‘terrific’ and said that he ‘loved the law school experience’,” they said.

“To be able to continue his commitment to KU by supporting future KU law students through this fund is such a fitting way to honor him. Having championed women throughout his life, it was his desire to support women pursuing a law degree with an eye toward public service. This is a great way to extend his positive effect on the lives of students for years to come.”

Make a gift to the Reginald L. “Reggie” Robinson Law Scholarship

— By Margaret Hair

Recent Graduate Spotlight: Sowensky Lumene combines law, engineering interests at Microsoft

Sowensky Lumene, L’21, set great expectations for himself as a teenager, envisioning a career in engineering or practicing law.

“I always wanted to go to law school ever since I was a teenager,” Sowensky Lumene said. “It was law school or engineering, and in the U.S., you can do both.”

Lumene, a Class of 2021 KU Law graduate, landed a position at Microsoft in Redmond, Washington as an intellectual property associate, combining his interests of engineering and law. Lumene officially began his journey with the company in August 2021.

Sowensky Lumene

“I’m still in the learning process now, but a lot of what I’m learning is how to harvest invention from Microsoft engineers,” Lumene said.

Microsoft provides the opportunity for Lumene to not only learn from in-house attorneys but attorneys at other firms in the area as well.

“I work on patent prosecution as well, but it’s only for learning purposes,” Lumene said. “I would never actually file them. I just get to learn from other attorneys that are outside of Microsoft.”

When his training phase is complete, Lumene will determine whether to seek patents on inventions for the company. He looks forward to the future and more responsibility.

“I think that will be really cool – it’s like, ‘Hey, I say let’s pursue a patent on this,’ without having another attorney there,” Lumene said.

Lumene did not always plan on working in patent law. As a teenager, he had a passion for public defense.

“That’s what I really wanted to do,” Lumene said. “Defend criminals that couldn’t afford to hire an attorney. Well, I wouldn’t say criminals, but people who are accused.”

Ultimately, the father of three decided going into patent law would likely lead to a more lucrative career than public defense.

“Things change when you have a number of kids,” Lumene said with a chuckle.

He feels confident in his choice to support his family. They were always at the forefront of his mind and the deciding factor in Lumene attending KU Law.

“My wife is from Kansas. We needed to be there. The goal is to eventually get back to Kansas,” Lumene said.

The charm of the Midwest proved not only to be beneficial for Lumene’s family but also for his overall law school experience. He reminisced on the kindness his professors showed him over a demanding three years.

“All of the professors were willing to help you out,” Lumene said. “Even if they were a professor that never had you as a student, they’re still super willing to help you understand what you’re working on.”

A professor that taught a crucial course for Lumene’s law education and future career is Crissa Cook. He has a special appreciation for her Patent Practice course.

“It’s practical if you want to go the patent route. It was a really good class that made a huge impact on my experience here,” Lumene said.

Lumene obtained more practical experience during his 2020 summer internship at Carter, DeLuca & Farrell LLP in New York, cultivating a solid understanding of the patent application process and patent prosecution.

Additionally, Lumene participated in Jessup International Moot Court, Student Intellectual Property Law Association, Black Law Students Association and Traffic Court during his time at KU Law.

For now, Lumene continues to learn from his mentors at Microsoft and is thankful for the company that encourages him to work hard but not miss out on his children growing up.

“My job allows me to spend time with my family and at the same time work and learn,” Lumene said. “It’s just a really good work-life balance.”

Lumene has one piece of advice for KU Law students in their future careers and in life.

“Humbly seek feedback, whether it’s from your partner or manager or whoever,” Lumene said. “And not just seeking it out and doing nothing about it, but actually implementing it. I think that could take you a long way.”

-By Sydney Halas

This post is the second in a series highlighting recent KU Law graduates. Check out the first story in this series about Diana Jarek.

My top five (non-law school) study spots

As a non-traditional student and soon-to-be first-generation attorney, transitioning to law school presented a host of new challenges. During the first semester of my 1L year, one of my biggest areas of growth involved “finding my lane.” Not only had I been working for a few years after undergrad, but I also didn’t have a very good idea of what a successful law school experience was supposed to look like. While there are ways to all but guarantee an unsuccessful law school experience, I fully believe there is no one right way to approach law school.

Early in my law school career, I would often look at what my peers were doing as a metric of whether I was doing enough. While observing your classmates can be a good way to gauge if you’re on the right track, I wouldn’t recommend taking what your peers say or do as law. Most law students have little to no idea what they’re really doing; some are just better at faking it than others.

Cortez Downey

Seeing classmates highlighting every other line in their casebooks or hearing them express how many hours they spent studying in the law school that week can make you question whether you’re getting enough done. But the truth is that productivity looks different for everyone. Similarly, everyone has a different idea of the perfect work environment. I’ve discovered that I’m most productive when I do my studying outside of the law school. I’ve found a few gems in Lawrence that have made preparing for class (and exams) a less anxiety-inducing experience. Here are my top five (non-law school) study spots:

1. Perkins Restaurant & Bakery

Pumpkin doughnut muffins

In undergrad, I liked studying at Perkins because it was open 24 hours, and since it was never too crowded, the staff never seemed to mind refilling your coffee if you stayed for hours at a time. The Perkins in Lawrence isn’t open 24 hours, but they offer free Wi-Fi and large booths with electric outlets. Plus, the staff is friendly and keeps the carafes coming. In the fall, their pumpkin donut muffins are unmatched. Friendly reminder to tip your wait staff. 🙂

2. Java Break

Java Break is a good spot for a variety of caffeinated beverages, and Wi-Fi is included with your purchase. They also offer some baked goods, paninis and even a cereal bar. There are a few booths that are nice for group study, but depending on the time you go, the prime booth seating can be limited. Parking can also sometimes be a challenge depending on the time of day.

Cereal bar

3. Watson Library

If I’m studying on campus or in the evening, I like to study at Watson because there’s nearby parking available after hours just down the hill across the street from the library. My favorite spot in Watson is on the fifth floor, where the International Collection is located. There are comfortable oversized lounge chairs and large tables for group study. The space is always very quiet, plus browsing the featured literature offers a nice study break.

4. Anschutz Library

If I’m studying on campus during the day or between classes, I prefer to study at Anschutz since it’s so close to Green Hall. In my experience, Anschutz is typically busier and noisier than Watson, but Anschutz also has a few more great study spots: in the basement, somewhere among the stacks, etc. The lighting in Anschutz seems a little brighter than the lighting in Watson (I prefer slightly dimmer lighting, which is why Watson ranks higher for me).

5. Lawrence Public Library

Studying in the Lawrence Public Library is a nice reminder that there’s a lot going on in Lawrence beyond the law school and the university. The public library features study rooms available for use and large tables for group work. Also, the lighting is bright, but not overly so. There’s usually parking available in the nearby parking garage.

Studying at the law school is a great option for some students, and studying at home works for others. What ultimately matters is that you find what works for you—there’s no one right way to be successful in law school.

By Cortez Downey, a 3L from Edmond, Oklahoma and a KU Law Student Ambassador

How not to go broke buying textbooks

I am not sure about you, but I always feel anxious to get back to school after a prolonged break. Although it is one of my life goals to become a person who can fully embrace the art of il dolce far niente, the anxiety devil that lives on my shoulder begins to poke my “feel guilty about relaxing” button with its pitchfork after only one day of binging movies. One of the ways I try to assuage these lack-of-productivity jitters is by shopping for my textbooks.

Buying textbooks is a simple way to feel productive while still giving yourself a needed break. But buying textbooks can also be a fraught and costly process, especially if you wait until the last minute. Below are some of my favorite places to score textbook deals, and while it is always better to start early, these tips and sites should work even if you are the procrastinating type.

Doug Bartel
  1. Check Facebook for upperclassmen selling books

Upperclassmen typically publish a list of books for sale on each class’s Facebook page a couple of weeks before the semester begins. I have found some of the best deals on these lists because the prices are set by your fellow law students who understand how financially burdensome buying textbooks can be. Tip: Don’t be afraid to make a post specifically asking for a book before the list is published.

  1. Honey extension

Honey is a Chrome extension that helps you find the best deals on the internet. For example, if you’re buying a textbook from Amazon, Honey might pop up a message to tell you that it found that same book for a much better deal on a different website. Honey also scours the internet for coupon codes and applies them so that you don’t have to. Thanks to Honey, I routinely receive discounts and free shipping. Honey doesn’t usually work on the websites of small businesses, but it will for any large online vendor.

  1. Public library

While the public library likely will not have the legal casebooks you need, I find the library helpful when a professor requires secondary sources. For example, in my Federal Indian Law course this semester, Professor Watts required us to read an expert’s book containing opinions about several cases we read. We only needed the book for a few class periods, so instead of purchasing the book, I rented it from the public library and saved $25.

  1. Ask professors if an older edition might work

Some professors are very flexible about which edition of the required textbook you may use. If a professor is flexible—you would know this by asking them directly and not relying on what you have heard from your friends—you could save hundreds of dollars. Although publishing companies will periodically release new editions of the casebooks, there are often very few substantive changes in the book.

  1. Knetbooks/Chegg/Amazon rental

If I plan to rent a book, I will rent it from one of these three sites. They have the best customer service and return policies. Tip: When searching their websites, use the ISBN, not the title.

  1. Thriftbooks

Thriftbooks deals epitomize the adage, “The early bird gets the worm.” Occasionally, you can find the casebook you need on Thriftbooks, but there will only be one or two copies available. In other words, you will compete with law students from across the country for those few copies. The prices on Thriftbooks are mindbogglingly low. I have never spent more than $30 on a book from this site. If you are unfamiliar with Thriftbooks, think Half Priced Books but all online and with a better search engine.

-By Doug Bartel, a 2L from Olathe and a KU Law Student Ambassador

Recent Graduate Spotlight: Diana Jarek provides access to justice for D.C. tenants

Diana Jarek has always known her “why” but has struggled to find her “how.”

After earning her undergraduate degrees in political science and government, and Middle Eastern studies from the University of Arkansas in 2013, Jarek entered the campaign world, organizing for a U.S. Senate race. She then switched paths and attended graduate school at Georgetown University to study conflict resolution and lived abroad in India. Wanting to be closer to her friends and family, she returned to the Midwest to attend KU Law.

Diana Jarek

Jarek, who graduated from KU Law in 2020, works in Washington D.C. as a housing law fellow at Bread for the City, a nonprofit organization providing essential medical, legal, and social services for community members living with low income.

“The common thread woven throughout my experiences is simply wanting to promote the common good and to make our society as good and kind as I can,” Jarek said. “I think in order to do that, I need to advocate for the people that society isn’t working for.”

Jarek accepted a public defense job right out of law school.

“But I graduated in May of 2020, about three months into the pandemic,” she said. “States didn’t have their bar exam situation figured out, so I got bumped from my out-of-state bar exam.”

Since Jarek was unable to take that bar exam, her plans to step into the public defense role were shot.

“I really had to hustle last minute to find a new job when COVID-19 threw things awry,” Jarek said.

She would have the network she built during her time at KU Law to thank for the opportunity to secure a job at the last minute. Jarek recalled the American Constitution Society bringing in a visiting attorney from ArchCity Defenders.

“I was just enamored with the speaker and really fell in love with the civil rights organization,” Jarek said.

Jarek worked as an intern at ArchCity Defenders in summer 2019 with 10 other interns from all over the country. When her plans fell through after graduation, she reached out to her network. A peer from that summer internship connected her with Bread for the City.

In her role, Jarek primarily works in eviction defense. These are typically nonpayment of rent cases.

“My work is funded by grants, so I can represent my clients without having to charge them,” Jarek said. “And I get to stand in on what really is one of the worst days of their lives. They’re losing their home, and they don’t know how this process works because the legal system is confusing – intentionally.”

She also works on various cases relating to affordable housing subsides available in D.C. With these cases, Jarek helps clients update and keep those vouchers.

“I’m really proud, and I feel confident in being good and just and right within my work,” Jarek said.

Jarek credits KU Law’s moot court and mock trial programs for helping to build that confidence, honing her litigation skills and learning how to carry herself in the courtroom.

Jarek also credits Meredith Wiggins, assistant director of career services and judicial clerkships at KU Law, for her confidence. Jarek encourages students to work with the CSO and Wiggins on their resumes and cover letters.

“She is a resume and cover letter extraordinaire,” Jarek said. “I’ve been in school forever, and she’s like no one I’ve ever seen.”

Jarek leaves KU Law students nearing the start of their careers with one last piece of advice.

“I feel a bit “Miss America-y” saying this, but remember why you’re there,” Jarek said. “I think there are a lot of really enticing and alluring big salaries that law school students and attorneys have available to them, but often that work isn’t work that is advancing us as a society.”

-By Sydney Halas

This post is the first in a series highlighting recent KU Law graduates. Check back for more stories about how KU Law graduates are starting their careers.

Living with the Bluebook: Three essential rules

Griffin Albaugh

As I discussed last year, while the Bluebook is, at its core, an Eldritch Abomination, there are certain tips and tricks we can use to turn the humble “Uniform System of Citation®” into something you can understand and appreciate. To build on that knowledge, I give you the Bluebook rules that every law student should know, regardless of whether they are looking to get a passing grade on their memo, write-on to a publication, or win the Billy Van Devanter Award for Best Junior Citer at the 2022 Bluebook World Championship. 

#1: Rule 18.6 – Films, Broadcasts and Noncommercial Video Materials Available Online

I must admit, my own experiences have likely colored my sense of which rules are important. Last summer, a senior partner at my firm requested that I get him the Bluebook citation for the world-famous episode of The Colgate Comedy Hour where Paul Bufano and Roy Donk performed a brass rendition of The Cisco Kid theme song. For hours, I toiled away trying to find the original broadcast information for the episode, and while I eventually found the citation, I disappointed myself and the partner with how long I took.

See, I believed, pursuant to the first paragraph of Rule 18.6, that failing to cite the original broadcast would render my citation incorrect and dishonor me for decades to come. Unbeknownst to me, however, Rule 18.6 includes the caveat that when films, broadcasts, or noncommercial video materials are available online, we can instead ignore the original broadcast and cite under Rule 18.2.2 to the web source.

Had I known this, I simply could have gone straight to YouTube, cited the web version of that fateful episode of The Colgate Comedy Hour, and still had the time to listen to the dulcet tones of Roy Donk’s flügelhorn before I submitted my assignment. 

#2: Rule 15.8(c)(iv) – Shakespeare

It should come as no surprise that the works of William Shakespeare have their own special citation style in the Bluebook. After all, the words and wisdom of his plays are a fixture of Modern American Jurisprudence (I still read Learned Hand’s Second Circuit opinion in A.L.A. Schechter Poultry Corp. v. United States monthly to revisit his use of Mercutio’s death in Romeo and Juliet as an allegory for Congressional encroachment upon state police powers). Familiarity with these works is inextricably linked to success in our profession, so we must also be familiar with how to cite them.

For an example of a proper Shakespearean citation, let’s look to Sir Andrew Aguecheek’s famous line from Twelfth Night—”I am a great eater of beef and I believe that does harm to my wit.” Pursuant to Rule 15.8(c)(iv), we must cite in large and small caps the former of which is used for Shakespeare’s name and the specific play, and the latter of which is used to cite for the act, scene, and line. As such, the proper citation for the aforementioned quote is: William Shakespeare, Twelfth Night, act 1, sc. 3, l. 43. 

As an aside, it’s important to note that the Bluebook does not specify any particular rules for citation of non-Shakespearean plays. Though academics are split on why this is, I am of the mind that it’s because the individuals responsible for the Bluebook forewent learning about new forms of creative expression following their satisfactory completion of ninth-grade language arts (see generally Orin S. Kerr, A Theory of Law, 16 Green Bag 2d 111 (2012).

#3: Rule 20.2.4(b)(i) – Chinese Language Romanization

As many of us have likely noticed, Sino-American relations have been somewhat strained recently. That is all the more reason to ensure that we are familiar with how to properly convert hanzi (Chinese characters) into Roman script. Though you all likely spent a good chunk of time during your first few weeks of Lawyering Skills mastering the rules governing romanization, the sociopolitical stakes of an erroneous conversion warrant a deeper dive.

Though adherence to Rule 20.2.4(b)(i) may seem daunting at a glance, I’ve built a step-by-step guide to ensure that you do not run afoul of this essential rule:

  • Begin by dusting off your favorite Pinyin romanization guide
  • Triple check that your romanization guide adheres to the international standard, Hanyu Pinyin Fang’an
  • Use your romanization guide to convert the Chinese language citation into Roman script
  • Remove any and all tone marks, as they are unfamiliar and scary
  • Do not use the Roman character “v” as a substitution for the pinyin “ü”
  • Following romanization, ensure that the “d” in “de” is lower-case, provided that the “de” is possessive
  • Alter any word divisions that do not comply with the examples provided in Rule 20.2.4(b)(i)
  • When applicable, in hanzi, insert the author’s name, the material’s title, and the case name within parentheses
  • Ensure that the completed citation complies with the Bluebook’s rules governing information inclusion and order

By following these simple steps, you can avoid befalling the same fate as an attorney from Beaver County, Pennsylvania, whose disastrous attempt at romanizing “背靠背脸对脸” (the beloved Chinese film Back to Back, Face to Face) caused him to lose his chance at becoming a state judge. While the Kansas legislature may not have as much of a passion for proper bluebooking as Pennsylvania’s, make no mistake – knowing these rules is imperative.

-By Griffin Albaugh, a 3L from Lawrence and a KU Law Student Ambassador

Why Lawrence is the best place to live while going to law school

While exploring law school options, you will hear a lot about the towns the law schools reside in. In fact, you have likely already heard some things about Lawrence, Kansas. You probably heard the cost of living is affordable, and the commute from Kansas City is doable. I want to fill you in on the things that you don’t always hear about when considering a move to Lawrence to attend KU Law. The “best kept secrets” if you will!

Savannah Lucas

1. Lawrence has a TON of grocery stores

This one is really important to me. As a gluten-free-gal who loves to cook, I sometimes find myself going to more than one grocery store to get everything I need. Thankfully, Lawrence has a ton of options, ranging from health conscious and local to highly affordable.

If you don’t believe me about the number of grocery stores: there are FOUR Dillion’s in this town, a Hy-Vee, the Merc Co-op, Sprouts, Natural Grocers, Aldi, Checkers, Target and Walmart. Not to mention the Tuesday and Saturday Farmers’ Markets and four international grocers. Whatever your grocery shopping needs, we likely have a grocery option to meet them.

2. Plenty of outdoor space to blow off steam when not studying

If I am not in class or studying, you will likely find me on a run or bike ride in Lawrence. Not only is the area surrounding campus highly walkable/bikeable, but the city also boasts a ton of trails and parks. I love running the Levee Trail across the river and the trails at Rock Chalk Park.

If you have a furry friend, the dog park near Clinton Lake is a popular spot. Professor Laura J. Hines is a big advocate of getting fresh air as a study break, and you will find plenty of space to do so in Lawrence!

3. The Lawrence Arts Center and Lawrence Public Library

Downtown Lawrence has plenty of shopping and restaurants to check out in your free time, but if you want to lean into the arts community, check out the Lawrence Arts Center. The center hosts a variety of classes including ceramics and oil painting. If your version of blowing off steam involves creativity, this is the place for you! The center also features exhibits by local artists that are open to the public.

Lawrence Public Library

Downtown Lawrence is also home to the Lawrence Public Library (LPL). It is easy to check out or place books on hold using the LPL website. You can also use a smartphone app to check out audiobooks. I love this app because it allows me to listen to my latest read while running. The KU campus library system (including our own Wheat Law Library) are great study spaces, but I know I can find the latest Sally Rooney novel at the LPL!

4. The Lawrence Police Scanner Facebook Page

Stay safe in Lawrence AND entertained while you’re catching up on local events. If you don’t know what I am talking about, email me and I’ll invite you to the Facebook page!

-By Savannah Lucas, a 2L from Leavenworth and a KU Law Student Ambassador

Studying for your first law school exam

Taking a law school exam is a daunting task, but the lead-up is perhaps even more stressful than the actual exam. Everyone studies differently, but over the years, I’ve learned a few tips that can help prepare you for your very first law school exam or any law school exam. I’ll be focusing on the last week or two leading up to finals.

James Schmidt

First, use your time efficiently. By this, I mean have a set plan for studying for each exam. Since you know when your exams will be, set out a schedule for when you’ll study for each. Beyond setting a schedule, have a plan of how you are going to study.

My typical routine includes spending the first few days ensuring I haven’t missed anything in my outline. This includes discussing the material with classmates, looking through my notes and any materials the professor has provided. After I’ve ensured my outline is thorough, I do as many practice questions as possible to improve my issue spotting.

It’s important to remember that you don’t need to have information memorized for most law school exams. You need to be able to spot the issue. Once you’ve spotted the issue, your outline will carry you across the finish line.

Second, study with a classmate. When I’m studying, I find it very helpful to talk about complex concepts with a classmate. This way, instead of just spinning your wheels, you have the help of someone who may understand the concept better than you. I’d also recommend not hesitating to contact your professors to clear anything up that you have trouble understanding.

Finally, take a break! I typically limit my studying to 6-8 hours a day during finals. Go to a movie, go to the gym, go out to dinner with friends — do something to distract yourself from finals. Studying is important but resting your mind after studying for a few hours is equally as important.  Take plenty of breaks and do things you enjoy to lower your stress levels.

These are just a few of the things that I’ve done to survive law school exams. Everyone studies differently, but KU Law offers tons of resources to fit your style and help you understand the material. The professors are always willing to answer questions, and our library offers free study guides and quizzes for just about every subject area. Law school exams are stressful, but a few things have worked for me to make them a tad bit easier.

By James Schmidt, a 3L from Houston, Texas and a KU Law Student Ambassador

Procrastinate procrastinating, from a procrastinator

Last week was Law Student Mental Health Awareness Week, and it got me thinking about my mental health and how I’ve managed the stress of law school over the last two years.

A topic that came to mind as I was beginning the process of writing this blog post was procrastination. If you’re like me, you don’t struggle with procrastination. You’re actually very good at it!

3L KU Law Ambassador Lexi Christopher

We somehow find productive things to do rather than the tasks we know we should be doing. We’ll reorganize the pantry, we’ll go for a long run, we may even research the psychology behind procrastinating … while procrastinating.

It starts off fun, but as the deadline gets closer, the fun starts to dissipate and the panic begins to set in. You get mad at yourself for procrastinating, question why you do this to yourself every time, and swear you’ll never do it again.

So why do we do it? Are we really just lazy?

As it turns out, procrastinators aren’t lazy. However, that is one of the most common myths surrounding procrastination. Procrastination isn’t about avoiding work, but avoiding the negative feelings that beginning a task may conjure up, such as feelings of incompetency, insecurity, fear of failure, or anxiety. By putting that task aside, those negative emotions are put aside for just a little while longer.

But there’s hope! As finals are approaching and our time becomes more and more valuable, there are some tactics we can implement to help us procrastinate procrastinating and improve our mental health.

Start by being kinder to yourself about your past procrastination. Forgive yourself. Research shows that students who forgave themselves for their past procrastination in studying for exams are less likely to procrastinate in preparing for their next exam. Be aware of how you talk to yourself about your work ethic. Remember, you aren’t just lazy!

Next, begin to be strategic with how you spend your time. Make a plan for your week and schedule time to do the things that are most important. Coming up with a system for yourself will set you up for success instead of relying on what you know you “should” be doing for motivation.

Breaking down a task into smaller parts and setting individual deadlines will help a project feel less intimidating while giving you a sense of success in completing each small task. Be intentional in creating a healthy relationship with deadlines. Do your best to set realistic expectations for yourself but remember to forgive yourself when things don’t work out exactly as planned.

-By Lexi Christopher, a 3L from Denver and a KU Law Ambassador

My study break: Finding motivation in movies

Since beginning law school, several of my professors have referenced or played clips of movies in class that somehow related to the material we were discussing. Law school isn’t always about getting cold-called! 

In Contracts, Professor Platt played a clip from The Paper Chase when we talked about the famous “hairy hand” case. Professor Mulligan used A Civil Action to reference important rules in Civil Procedure we were learning. (It’s also an award-winning book. Though, I admit I haven’t found the time to read it yet). And on the first day of Evidence this summer, Professor Leben showed a clip from Fracture where a chilling Anthony Hopkins, accused of shooting his wife, says, “If I can’t introduce something in court as evidence … it doesn’t exist legally.” 

Since I had never seen any of these movies, I decided to use my study breaks this weekend to watch them. Here are some of my thoughts. Caution: spoilers ahead.  

First, The Paper Chase begins with the main character, Hart, being unprepared to answer a cold call on the first day of Contracts at Harvard Law. He admits he didn’t know he had an assignment, and the stern professor expresses his disappointment. Hart is so upset about this interaction he gets sick after class. Not a great way to start law school. 

Although cold-calling is a common occurrence in my classes, the professors at KU Law are not as intimidating as Hart’s. Instead, the professors at KU want everyone to learn and succeed and are always available to answer questions. Also, unlike the professor in the movie, the professors at KU try to get to know their students. 

My favorite scene came at the very end, when Hart received his grades in the mail (yes, in snail mail — it was 1973). Instead of opening them, he makes a paper airplane out of the envelope and sends it into the ocean. I liked this message because it can be easy to get sucked into believing your performance in law school defines you. But it doesn’t. Everyone here is so much more than their grades.  

In A Civil Action, John Travolta plays a hotshot personal injury lawyer who takes a case against a few large companies responsible for contaminating the water supply in a small Massachusetts town. Initially excited about the prospect of garnering a big paycheck out of a future settlement agreement, his motives change when he gets to know the families who have been affected by the contamination. 

Collage of: A Civil Action, Fracture and The Paper Chase movie posters.

At the end of the film, Travolta and his associates go their separate ways as he now realizes his motivations for being a lawyer no longer revolve around monetary gain. A Civil Action offers a lesson to prospective lawyers to always take time to reflect on their motivations. 

You might want to become a lawyer to make a lot of money, and that’s OK. You might also become a lawyer because you want to work for those who cannot reimburse you, and that’s also OK. But taking time to understand your motivations might help guide you into different areas of law.

Finally, in Fracture, a young prosecutor (Ryan Gosling) goes toe-to-toe with a wealthy businessman (Anthony Hopkins) arrested for attempting to murder his wife. What seems to initially be a foolproof conviction quickly turns sour as it becomes apparent that Hopkins has ingeniously plotted this murder to avoid being found guilty. Just when it seems that Hopkins has won, Gosling finds a new way to get Hopkins. 

What is there to take away from this movie? Don’t mess with lawyers. They know the law better than you.

-By Helen Phillips, a 2L from Overland Park and a KU Law Student Ambassador