Graduate Profile: Samantha Natera, L’21

Samantha Natera in law graduate regalia next to a Kansas Jayhawk statue
Third-year law student Samantha Natera. Photo courtesy of Samantha Natera.

Student dedicated to immigration, employment cases

Third-year law student Samantha Natera dedicated her summers during law school to working on immigration and employment cases.

Following her 1L year, Natera completed two internships focused on immigration law. She spent the first part of the summer interning at Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services, Inc., in her hometown of El Paso, Texas.

“We had the opportunity to help many people apply for asylum who were in detention centers,” Natera said. She came back to Lawrence later that summer to intern with Treviño Law Office, working on immigration cases.

In summer 2020, she worked remotely for Farmworker Legal Services, a Michigan-based organization that helps migrant and seasonal farmworkers to fight against employer injustice. Natera continues to work with the organization.

During her 2L year, Natera volunteered for a workshop, hosted by Legal Aid of Western Missouri, on nonimmigrant visas for victims of violent crimes. Student volunteers had the opportunity to assist with some cases and understand the basic concepts of helping clients with U and T visas.

“It was a good practical experience that helped me understand how being a lawyer can impact so many lives and see that there are many attorneys out there who care about the community,” Natera said.

Natera plans to take the Texas Bar Exam this summer. After that, she is open to opportunities, including returning to Kansas. Natera said she is excited to start her legal career and help people.

“I have enjoyed working with immigration and employment-related cases,” Natera said. “I am excited that I will be able to work on more cases like these and learn more every day about how I can make a positive impact in someone’s life.”

Natera grew up on the border of Ciudad Juárez, Mexico and El Paso, Texas. She earned her undergraduate degree in finance and international business from the University of Texas at El Paso.

When she was choosing a law school, Natera had narrowed her choices to two. She stopped by KU Law with her family for a visit but found the school was closed when they arrived. Professor Lou Mulligan answered the door and offered to show them the building.

“He gave me and my family a tour, and then I just knew that KU felt like a right choice for me,” Natera said.

At KU Law, Natera was president of the International Law Society and vice president of the Hispanic American Law Students Association. She worked as a student assistant in the Career Services Office and translated international recruiting materials for outreach to Spanish-speaking students.

Along with her J.D., Natera will earn the International Trade and Finance Certificate. Several of her favorite law school classes were part of the certificate program, including International Trade Law, International Commerce and Investment, Chinese Law, and Asylum and Refugee Law. As a student in the Mediation Clinic, Natera worked on a project to develop training materials for diplomats at the United Nations through a partnership with the United Nations Institute for Training and Research.

“Through all the amazing people working at KU I have had the opportunity to participate in clinics, internships, workshops, and have met wonderful people,” Natera said. “These experiences have been so helpful and have given me confidence on what will come next.”

— By Margaret Hair

This post is the sixth in a series highlighting a few of the exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2021. Check out previous stories about Aidan Graybill, Howard Mahan, Zachary Kelsay, Marisol Garcia and Leah Lewsader. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.

Graduate Profile: Leah Lewsader, L’21

Leah Lewsader
Third-year law student Leah Lewsader

Former educator pursuing a career in immigration law

Leah Lewsader started her career as an educator.

After earning her bachelor’s degree in elementary education from Loyola University Chicago, Lewsader spent six years teaching elementary school in Santiago, Chile, before enrolling in law school at the Gonzaga University Law School in Spokane, Washington. She transferred to KU Law in her second year.

When she graduates this month, Lewsader plans to support children in a different way in her work as an attorney. She will join an immigration law firm in North Kansas City, focusing on asylum and working with unaccompanied minors who cross the U.S. border.

“As a former educator, I am most excited about working with children again,” Lewsader said.

Originally from Carbondale, Illinois, Lewsader was excited for the chance to come to KU Law as a transfer student after her wife was offered a coaching job at KU.

“Being from the Midwest, I jumped at the opportunity to move to Kansas,” Lewsader said.

Lewsader found community at KU Law with the student organization OUTLaws & Allies.

“I really enjoyed being a part of OUTLaws because as a transfer student, it was an instant sense of community,” she said.

Leah Lewsader, right, with her wife and their two dogs. Photo courtesy of Leah Lewsader

Outside of Green Hall, she was involved in the legal community through the LGBT Bar and the Kansas Women Attorneys Association. The Kansas Bar Association recently awarded Lewsader its Capitol Federal Foundation Diversity Scholarship.

During law school, Lewsader interned with the KU Law Medical-Legal Partnership, served as a pro bono fellow with the Migrant Farmworkers Project for Legal Aid of Western Missouri, and was a policy fellow for a Missouri state senator. She will earn Pro Bono Distinction at graduation for completing more than 50 hours of unpaid legal service during her KU Law career.

Legal Aid Clinic was one of Lewsader’s favorite classes at KU Law, along with Social Justice Lawyering, taught by Adjunct Professor Sharon Brett.

“The Legal Aid Clinic is an incredible way to get hands-on experience and work directly with members of the Lawrence community,” Lewsader said. Clinic faculty Melanie Daily and Meredith Schnug center the client and promote social justice in every case, she said.

“Law school generally solidified the importance of kindness, compassion and relationships,” Lewsader said.

— By Margaret Hair

This post is the fifth in a series highlighting a few of the exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2021. Check out previous stories about Aidan Graybill, Howard Mahan, Zachary Kelsay and Marisol Garcia. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.

Graduate Profile: Marisol Garcia, L’21

Third-year law student Marisol Garcia

Student aspires to make a difference in hometown

After graduation, Marisol Garcia plans to utilize her legal education in her hometown of Wichita.

Garcia plans to start work at Martin Pringle Law Firm LLP as an associate attorney after taking the Kansas bar exam in July. Garcia was a summer associate at the firm for the past two summers.

“Community has always been important to me, and I want to incorporate that in my future legal career,” Garcia said. “I’m excited to build relationships with my future clients and other attorneys in my area.”

Garcia refined her writing and practical skills through practical courses at KU Law, such as Appellate Advocacy, LGBTQ Seminar and Criminal Practice in Kansas.

At KU, Garcia was a member of OUTLaws & Allies, Hispanic American Law Students Association and competed in the Wagner National Labor and Employment Law Moot Court Competition.

“I was immediately drawn to OUTLaws & Allies, and it had a positive impact on my experience during my time at KU Law,” Garcia said. “Our group is full of amazing members who want to use their law degrees to help the LGBTQ+ community wherever they are. It felt great to have a group that shared the same values and desire to help our communities and who were always there to lend a helping hand when you needed it.”

Garcia also served as the president of First-Generation Professionals, an organization designed to benefit KU Law students who are either first-generation college students or first-generation law students. This organization helps prepare first-generation professionals for entry into the legal field.

While at KU Law, Garcia formed a special connection with Professor Laura Hines. Garcia considers Hines’ first-year Civil Procedure class to be her favorite law school course.

“She was always engaging in class and was willing to help you in any way she could, especially when it came to exam time,” Garcia said. “I’ll miss the sound of the pop of her Diet Dr. Pepper cans!”

Garcia’s favorite law school tradition is Women in Law’s annual Pub Night event, which is an annual celebration and fundraiser that benefits The Willow Domestic Violence Shelter and Jana’s Campaign.

“It absolutely does not get better than Pub Night 2019. Can’t choose between the skit, the band and the company! All of the 2Ls and 3Ls were talking about how awesome and fun it was,” Garcia said. “I thought they were exaggerating, but they were completely right.”

Before coming to law school, Garcia interned at Joseph, Hollander & Craft in the firm’s Wichita office.

Garcia earned an undergraduate degree in history from Kansas State University in 2018. She earned a minor in leadership studies and was involved with K-State’s Mock Trial Team.

— By Ashley Golledge

This post is the fourth in a series highlighting a few of the exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2021. Check out previous stories about Aidan Graybill, Howard Mahan and Zachary Kelsay. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.

Graduate Profile: Zachary Kelsay, L’21

Moot court, mock trial shaped student’s KU Law experience

Zachary Kelsay
Third-year law student Zachary Kelsay

Zachary Kelsay, L’21, has been practicing advocacy skills in mock trial competitions since his undergraduate days. When moot court and mock trial contests moved online this year, Kelsay took on the new challenge.

“It was fun to learn a new way to litigate because none of the books on litigation provided guidance on how to advocate digitally,” he said.

Kelsay and first-year law student Emily Depew won the top prize at the 2021 National Native American Law Students Competition. In 2020, Kelsay and teammate Karen Fritts, L’21, won the first-place award for Best Overall Advocates and placed in the top three teams overall at the NNALSA competition. Professor Shawn Watts coached both teams.

“Karen and Emily are exceptionally skilled advocates, and it was exciting to work with both of them,” Kelsay said. “I learned a lot about the law while writing briefs and preparing for oral arguments. It made me confident that advocacy is the right career path for me.”

Kelsay also competed in the 2020 National All Star Bracket Challenge, a mock trial competition, with coaching from Professor Alice Craig. He was a member of KU Law’s Mock Trial Council and earned the Payne & Jones Award for Outstanding Oral Advocacy in spring 2019.

Learning how to advocate during remote competitions using KU Law’s dedicated Zoom room is Kelsay’s favorite law school memory. He thanked Kris Koenig, IT coordinator, and Crystal Mai, associate dean for administration, for helping competition teams get set up in the virtual space.

“After mock trial and moot court transitioned to an online format, they both worked hard behind the scenes to make our transition seamless,” Kelsay said.

Outside the courtroom – and Zoom room – Kelsay was active in several student organizations at KU Law. He served as a staff articles editor for the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy. He also participated in the Student Bar Association, Dean’s Fellows, Black Law Students Association, and the Shook, Hardy & Bacon Scholars Program.

Originally from Independence, Missouri, Kelsay came to KU Law through the Legal Education Accelerated Degree Program (LEAD). The program allows students to complete an undergraduate degree and a J.D. in six years, instead of seven. Kelsay earned bachelor’s degrees in global and international studies and history from the University of Kansas College of Liberal Arts & Sciences in 2018.

In the classroom, Kelsay said he appreciated Professor Jean Phillips’ Criminal Procedure course, “because she is such a kind person and makes every class exciting.”

“I have a much deeper appreciation for the Fourth Amendment, the Constitution and criminal justice reform after taking her class,” Kelsay said. Dean Stephen Mazza’s course on Federal Income Taxation also made an impact, preparing Kelsay to interpret IRS regulations and help people understand tax law.

After graduation, Kelsay plans to move to Washington, D.C.

“I am excited about using my legal skills to advocate for policy change and support community-level development,” Kelsay said.

— By Margaret Hair

This post is the third in a series highlighting a few of the exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2021. Check out previous stories about Aidan Graybill and Howard Mahan. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.

Graduate Profile: Howard Mahan, L’21

Third-year law student Howard Mahan

Banner carrier is headed to Kansas Supreme Court clerkship after graduation

Third-year law student Howard Mahan is at the top of his class at the University of Kansas School of Law this year. He was ranked first in his class of 99 at the end of the fall 2020 semester.

Mahan, L’21, was chosen as the Class of 2021’s banner carrier for KU Law. Mahan was selected by the law faculty for this honor because of his exemplification of student excellence.

“It’s really an honor I didn’t expect, especially knowing how devoted and hardworking the rest of the 3L class is,” Mahan said.

At KU Law, Mahan was a comments editor for the Kansas Law Review and a research assistant to Professor Stephen Ware and Associate Dean Uma Outka. During his 1L year, he earned the Payne & Jones Lawyering Program Award and CALI Awards for receiving the highest grade in the class for Civil Procedure, Lawyering Skills I & II, Criminal Law and Torts.

Mahan devotes his non-class time to playing guitar in several bands, including Howard Mahan and Friends, Big Red Horse (Wichita), The Blades (Salina), The House Rockers (Kansas City), and as an alternate guitarist for Randy McAllister and the Scrappiest Band in the Motherland (South Dakota). He also plays guitar for the Moody Bluebooks, a rock band made up of KU Law faculty, staff and students.

“That’s honestly been really helpful to me to have an entirely separate outlet from something happening on campus — especially in the wake of the pandemic,” Mahan said.

Mahan values the law faculty who helped him succeed throughout law school.

“I’ve had several classes and professors that I really respected and learned a lot from,” Mahan said. “Whether it’s jamming with the Moody Bluebooks in Professor Thomas Stacy’s basement (pre-coronavirus) or talking to Professor Ware and Professor Shawn Watts about how law school really works — I’ve had a lot of really positive experiences with my professors.”

Mahan is originally from Fredonia, Kansas. He earned a B.A. in business management in 2016 and an MBA in 2018, both from the Kansas Wesleyan University.

He was drawn to KU Law for many reasons, including his desire to stay in his home state and the school’s connections to local law firms.

“I’m a Kansan, so KU was the natural choice,” Mahan said. “There were a lot of factors at play. I wanted to stay in the area, so I really thought it was the best school with the best scholarship package for me and the best connections to firms in the area.”

After graduation, Mahan will be doing a one-year judicial clerkship for Kansas Supreme Court Justice Caleb Stegall, L’00, in Topeka.

“I’m excited to work for Justice Stegall because it’s not really an area of law that I ever expected to be working in; however, I have a really great appreciation for the justice system and judges in particular,” Mahan said. “It’s a great opportunity to work in the court system and serve my home state at the same time.”

Once his clerkship is complete, he plans to practice in Polsinelli’s Kansas City office in the firm’s corporate department. Mahan was a summer associate at Polsinelli in 2019.

“I’m excited to work for Polsinelli because they seem like a really good firm,” Mahan said. “The corporate department aligns closely with my past educational experiences, and I think there is a lot of good that can potentially be done at any level of practice.”

— By Ashley Golledge

This post is the second in a series highlighting just a few of the exceptional members of the Class of 2021. Check out a previous story about Aidan Graybill, and stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.

Staying the course

Second-year law student Andrew Arbuckle

Life has a lot of moving parts. Sometimes those parts move incredibly fast. Other times moving parts are relatively slow. Every so often, they move in totally unexpected directions. It can be hard work to even keep up at times. This is especially true when the unique challenges that law school presents are added to the mix. There isn’t a uniform best strategy to adopt to succeed. Finding what works best for you is a highly personal determination. However, those who routinely achieve their goals, regardless of their chosen means, share one common element: consistency.

To be consistent means to fully commit yourself to a sustained effort of action over a period of time until the moment your objective is achieved. Law students’ primary objective is twofold – to learn the material and to get good grades. Time is precious – maintaining consistency requires planning ahead to determine the steps you’ll take. Develop a plan at the outset of each semester that details your objective, priorities and a schedule to follow. Sticking to your plan can increase efficiency and accountability while acting as a guidepost directing your efforts. As the semester marches on, the ever-mounting workload can make it hard to see the road ahead, but as you keep going, it gets clearer. Stay the course as the fog of readings and assignments dissipates.

Planning and keeping your eyes on the prize are important, but what makes consistency the key to success is the grit it requires. Fully committing doesn’t mean spending every waking second and every bit of energy grinding in the library. Not that there aren’t times where that’s necessary, but doing so throughout the course of law school would be unsustainable and unnecessary. Don’t try it. Rather, it means always showing up, always giving your best effort and honoring your commitments in the face of all misfortune life throws at you. Some days it’ll be easier to pull the sled than others. Regardless of the bandwidth you’re bringing to the table on any given day, just by showing up, you’re confirming what you really want. Showing up familiarizes you with what you’re working toward. Familiarity breeds confidence. When you’re familiar with something, it’s easier to engage with. The easier something is to engage with, the easier it is to forge ahead even on your worst days. Simply, the more you do something, the better you get at doing it.

Not mentioning the human elements of consistency would be a colossal oversight. Remaining consistent in law school can heartily test your patience and question your self-efficacy. Staying patient over the long haul isn’t easy. Modern technology allows us to forego patience almos entirely in many respects. Law school, however, requires a great amount of patience – as does anything fulfilling, really. Managing your expectations about the time the learning process takes before realizing progress, is paramount. Beginning is always the hardest because it’s easy to feel like you’re just spinning your wheels. But if you stick to it, before you know it, you’ll recognize breakthroughs and be glad you took the time to do it right. Trust the process.

Stumbling is unavoidable in law school and is nothing to dwell on. Easier said than done. Self-efficacy, or in other words, your belief in your abilities to accomplish what you do set out to do, plays an especially major role in nailing down daily responsibilities. Floundering a cold call or receiving scathing feedback on a brief that you were proud of can sting, but you can’t let those little things make you doubt yourself. Everyone comes up short every now and then. Shortcomings merely reveal where you can improve, not that you’re incapable. Putting such a positive spin on what’s more easily viewed as a negative event makes getting up and dusting yourself off all the easier. Though that can be especially challenging depending on the circumstances, it’s never impossible. Consistently reassuring yourself that you’re capable when confronted with setbacks will, over time, build resiliency, the characteristic that empowers people to overcome difficult situations. Speak it into existence.

There are many ways to be a successful law student, but all roads to success are paved on a foundation of consistency. By committing to achieving a goal, always showing up, always giving your best effort, and never doubting your ability to succeed, you are developing character traits that attract a fulfilling life. Above all else, you owe it to yourself.

— By Andrew Arbuckle, a 2L from Mulvane, Kansas and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

Graduate Profile: Aidan Graybill, L’21

Third-year law student Aidan Graybill

Exemplary student to pursue career in tribal law

Aidan Graybill, L’21, decided to become a lawyer to pursue her dream of advocating for Indian tribes. Three years later, Graybill is turning her dream into reality.

Graybill’s legal ambitions brought her to the University of Kansas School of Law, where she studied tribal law and federal Indian law. Graybill is a member of the Wyandot Nation of Kansas, which is based in Kansas City, Kansas.

In May, Graybill will graduate with a J.D. from KU Law and a M.A. in Indigenous studies from KU’s College of Liberal Arts and Sciences. After taking the bar this summer, Graybill will serve as a fellow for a tribal government she designed with the tribe to make a positive impact on the community. Graybill is also currently serving on the executive council and constitution committee for her tribe, and will continue to do so after graduation.

“I’m excited to see where my experiences take me, and I am looking forward to finally using my education to help whatever communities are in need of what I am able to provide to them,” Graybill said.

During the 2020-21 academic year, Graybill served on the National Native American Law Students Association Board as the Area 3 representative and co-chair of the organization’s advocacy committee.

“Serving on the NNALSA board was a hugely transformative experience,” Graybill said. “I was able to make connections with other Native law students across the U.S. and network with other Native lawyers on a national level, which I feel will definitely help me transition out of law school and into my professional career.”

Graybill had the opportunity recently to participate in an event hosted by the Smithsonian’s National Museum of the American Indian. She was interviewed alongside Kansas House Rep. Christina Haswood for the event “Youth in Action: Native Women Making Change,” which was held in March.

“We were both interviewed by the National Museum of the American Indian about our participation as young Native women in the law and in state government, and the roles we play in order to serve our communities and society at large,” Graybill said.

While in law school, she was actively involved with the Tribal Law & Government Center. Graybill earned the Tribal Lawyer Certificate, participated in the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic, served as president of KU’s Native American Law Students Association and competed in the National Native American Law Students Association (NNALSA) moot court competition twice.

“Through the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic, I was able to observe the work a general counsel for a tribe does, which was some of the best real-world experience I could have received,” Graybill said. “It really solidified for me that the area of law I was pursuing was right for me.”

Through the school’s Criminal Prosecution Field Placement Program, Graybill interned for the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation’s tribal prosecutor in Mayetta, Kansas.

“I worked for a tribal prosecutor and was able to observe court hearings and interact with the tribal court administrators and judges,” Graybill said. “It was just such an incredible community to be a part of even just briefly. The support I got through clinical programs has really carried me through law school because it reminded me of why I came here.”

Graybill also served as president of the Mindfulness in Law Society, ABA representative for the Student Bar Association, and treasurer for Women in Law. She was also a member of the Dean’s Diversity Leadership Council, Public Interest Law Society and American Constitution Society.

Graybill said the experiential learning opportunities at KU Law have prepared her to enter the workforce.

“I was able to expedite the process of a lot of things I learned in my classes by having to put them into practice. For example, I learned quickly that memos we had weeks to do in lawyering classes were usually due in a day or two,” Graybill said. “Because I’ve written so many memos while earning experiential credit, those things come quicker and easier to me now and I am able to better serve my supervising attorneys.”

Graybill – who is from Scottsdale, Arizona – earned an undergraduate degree in anthropology from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln in 2017. She also earned minors in political science and biology.

She is the third person in her family to earn a degree at the University of Kansas. Her grandfather, Harry Owen Ogg, graduated from KU in 1957. Her mother, Jolie Ogg Graybill, graduated in 1987.

— By Ashley Golledge

This post is the first in a series highlighting a few of the exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2021. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.

Law professor leads discussions hosted by Council on Foreign Relations

A University of Kansas law professor has led discussions on international trade recently for the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). The discussions, open to CFR members, covered issues including the new U.S. administration’s trade agenda, the future of trade after Brexit, and Islamic law.

Professor Raj Bhala
Raj Bhala, Brenneisen Distinguished Professor

Raj Bhala, the Brenneisen Distinguished Professor at the University of Kansas School of Law, teaches international and comparative law courses and is among the world’s foremost authorities in international trade law. He is the only Council on Foreign Relations member at the University of Kansas.

On Feb. 24, Bhala served as moderator and discussion leader for “Anticipating Biden’s Trade Agenda.” Bhala addressed topics including World Trade Organization Appellate Body reform; the Sino-American trade war; and the importance of reaching agreements on subsidies for certain goods.

On Jan. 28, Bhala facilitated “The Path Forward Post-Brexit.” Bhala previously led a CFR discussion on Islamic law in connection with his textbook, Understanding Islamic Law.

The Council on Foreign Relations is an independent, nonpartisan membership organization, think tank, and publisher focusing on foreign policy choices facing the United States and other countries.

Bhala also delivered the keynote address at the International Conference on Emerging Trends in International Trade Law. The event on April 9-10 was hosted by the CMR University School of Legal Studies in Bangalore, India. Bhala served as the chief guest for the conference. His keynote was titled, “International Trade Law Challenges for the Indo-Pacific Region.” A recording of the conference is available on YouTube.

— By Margaret Hair

Change your perspective

First-year law student Jamie Treto

Law school can be daunting. The dreaded cold calls, the heavy reading and the sleepless nights are often big topics when considering law school. When the school organized a meet-up at my small section professor’s house a few days before the first day of 1L year, I took the opportunity and asked a 3L in attendance, “Is it true? Is it that bad?” In truth, I don’t remember what she told me. Now that I am almost finished with my 1L year, I think the appropriate question to have asked is, “How do I make my law school experience better?”

Now there are obvious answers to this question. Make friends, spend time outside of the law school and find an outside network of support. While these are great suggestions, one mentor made a suggestion I had never thought about. She told me to change my perspective. 

As incoming 1Ls, we often get so caught up in the rumors and fears of law school that we forget why we came here in the first place. For some of us, it’s our unwavering passion for social justice or prison reform. For others, it’s our love of learning and the quench for knowledge. Whatever your “why” is, hold onto it and remind yourself of it when things get tough. As my mentor said to me, “Stop viewing law school as a chore and view it as a hobby.” Those 13 words have changed my law school experience substantially. This whole time, I had taught my brain to view the law as that very difficult, hard to comprehend monster that kept me up late at night. When before law school, it was a subject I used to enjoy reading about in my free time and would spend hours researching. 

Changing my perspective on assignments and classes made a significant difference. Walking into the second semester, I stopped viewing readings as long and strenuous and started seeing them almost as a new episode of my favorite crime show. What crazy story am I going to read about in tort law? Isn’t it crazy that people have rights to the air above their property? I was so focused on perfecting my study plan that I forgot just how much I enjoyed reading the law and hearing about real-life cases.

So, I urge you to never look at the law as a chore. Do not let the fears of law school consume you. Instead, remember why you came here in the first place. When you stop viewing readings as a chore, it becomes surprising how quickly you read and how much more time you have to enjoy other hobbies and interests. Most importantly, take your time and enjoy the experience. For many of us, this is likely the last time we will get to explore our intellectual interests and be surrounded by like-minded individuals with similar interests.

— Jamie Treto is a 1L from Garden City and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

My journey to KU Law

Photo by Ashley Golledge.

When you attend 1L Orientation, the first question almost everyone you meet will ask is “Why did you choose to attend KU Law?” To be honest, when I was first asked this question, I did not have a good answer. My first answer, “It was cheaper than other schools and would not leave me with life-long debt” did not strike the right tone and resulted in a few odd looks. Many people I met during orientation lived in the Kansas City area for the majority of their lives and were curious why someone from Ohio would move across the country for law school. So, my first answer failed to satisfy most people’s curiosity and caused more questions given I moved during a once-in-a-century pandemic.

After completing 1L Orientation, I decided I needed to think about why I chose to move to Kansas and more importantly why I was at KU Law. So, I spent that last weekend of freedom before classes started, thinking about why I made this leap of faith and chose to move to an area where I had no friends or family. Initially, I thought about all of the metrics that law schools publish, employment outcomes, graduating debt load, and out-of-state opportunities.

None of these answers felt genuine and were not a factor when I chose to apply to KU Law. Instead, I started to try and remember a conversation I had with a former professor of mine when I was an undergrad. All of those years ago I was considering attending law school but was not sure about it. I knew it was expensive and time-consuming and was not sure I wanted to go to law school right after undergrad. A passing comment she made came rushing back. “You know I’ve had you in a lot of classes and I noticed you perform better in a smaller setting. Just something to think about going forward.”

She hit the mark since I was a kid, I performed better in smaller class settings and I was fortunate that I picked a school that offers smaller class sizes and smaller small sections. So I now had a possible answer that people would understand, but thinking about the journey I was undertaking made me continue to evaluate how I ended up at KU Law.

The smaller class size argument I realized extended to cities as well. I have lived all over the country from Los Angeles to Atlanta, but I realized I felt the most comfortable when I lived in cities of medium to smaller size. After exploring the Kansas City Metro area, I realized that like KU Law it was a medium-sized city with many of the attractions of larger cities without feeling overwhelming. That feeling perfectly encapsulates how I feel about KU Law. It is small enough, so I do not feel overwhelmed but has all of the attractions of larger law schools. So, I might not have KU Law with the “right” reasons in mind, but I was fortunately lucky that it meets my needs. A smaller law school that does not make me feel like I am missing out on any opportunities.

— Donald Pinckney is a 1L from Toledo, Ohio and a KU Law Student Ambassador.