Welcoming law library presence celebrates retirement

Jeff Montgomery retiring after 46 years

Photo courtesy of Jeff Montgomery.

After 46 years at KU Law, Jeff Montgomery is retiring.

The circulation and serials department manager for the Wheat Law Library started working with the law school as a graduate student, shelving books in “old” Green Hall – now known as Lippincott – in 1976. He joined the law library staff full-time in 1981.

Since then, he has built relationships with the thousands of students who have passed through the law library.

“That’s been my mission all these years. I know where they’re coming from and I know how stressful it is and how miserable it can be, so I’ve always tried to make this a stress-free zone,” he said. From renewing books for students to printing something a student needed, Montgomery’s philosophy has been to make students’ experiences as smooth as possible.

“I just tried to treat them like I would like to have been treated,” he said.

Knowing everyone’s name is part of that approach. The law library keeps photo sheets of the current and recent law classes behind the circulation desk. Going back to the early 1990s, Montgomery has made a special effort to review seating charts and photo sheets to learn each student’s name.

“I have always felt like learning somebody’s name was a form of respect,” he said. “I just thought that was a nice thing to do for them, so they weren’t just a number. I think they appreciated that.”

For the past three decades, Montgomery has organized the Barber Emerson Bluebook Relays. The raucous KU Law tradition tests first-year students’ legal citation skills. Teams from each Lawyering Skills section race through Wheat Law Library to locate and record references as quickly — and accurately — as possible. Montgomery plans it all and keeps score.

The Student Bar Association honored Montgomery at an event in April, presenting him with a poster signed by current students. Current and past law faculty, staff and alumni gathered for a retirement reception at Green Hall in May. 

In retirement, Montgomery is looking forward to well-earned time to relax.

— By Margaret Hair

Graduate Profile: Trey Duran L’22

Student champion for diversity and inclusion to become victims’ advocate

Trey Duran will graduate from the University of Kansas School of Law this month, and they look forward to using their legal knowledge to give back to the people of Kansas.

Trey Duran
Trey Duran, L’22

“I am excited about contributing back to the public and using the skills I gained at KU Law to help people with their legal problems,” Duran said.

After taking the bar exam, Duran will become a Victims of Crime Act (VOCA) attorney with the Topeka office of Kansas Legal Services.

“During my 2L summer, I was a legal intern with the Wichita office of Kansas Legal Services. I worked with Greg Gietzen, L’20, who was a VOCA attorney at the time and represented people who were trying to get protection from abuse orders,” Duran said. “Using my education to help other people was always my goal.”

Duran spent most of their life in Kansas, growing up in El Dorado and completing their undergraduate degree in political science at KU. As an undergraduate, Duran held several roles with the KU Student Senate, including serving as the senate’s director of diversity and inclusion. When the time came to look for law schools, there was a clear path to Green Hall.

“After my undergraduate education at KU, I felt very connected to Lawrence,” Duran said. “I knew that I wanted to practice law in the state of Kansas.”

At KU Law, Duran was the 2L representative for the Hispanic American Law Student Association (HALSA) and was later elevated to president. Duran continued to work with KU’s campus government, serving as a law student senator during their 1L year. They were also a legal intern for the Legal Aid Clinic and an articles editor for the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy.

“The pandemic caused most extracurricular activities to reduce their activities. However, Journal was able to continue its full activities remotely, and I gained invaluable critical thinking, writing and research skills from that experience,” Duran said. “I worked with great teams, and I am proud of the publication we produced.”

As president of HALSA, Duran played a vital role in the planning and execution of the 2022 Diversity in Law Banquet, sharing the responsibility with the HALSA executive board – Jamie Treto, Amanda McElfresh, Joanna Alvarez and Lauren Stahl.

“It was the first time most HALSA members gathered together since early 2020,” Duran said. “It allowed us to celebrate the accomplishments of KU Law alumni, like the Honorable Mary Murguia, who recently became the first Latina to ever serve as the chief judge of a federal appellate court.”

As they reflect on their time at KU Law, Duran recalls fond memories with their 1L small section leader Professor Laura Hines.

Duran’s 1L small section led by Professor Laura Hines

“During her Civil Procedure class, my small section had a lot of fun together while learning,” Duran said. “My favorite memory is when my small section members brought a toaster, frozen waffles, syrup, paper plates and utensils, and we had a waffle party during a Civil Procedure class.”

Duran has enjoyed their time at KU Law and feels ready for the next opportunity.

“KU Law prepared me in both classrooms and courtrooms,” Duran said. “I studied and worked with a community of very passionate and intelligent classmates and faculty.”

-By Sydney Halas

This post is the sixth in a series highlighting a few of the exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2022. Check out previous stories about Olivia BlackParker BednasekCortez Downey, Ashlyn Shultz and Dahnika Short. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.

Graduate Profile: Dahnika Short, L’22

Background in health care inspired student to attend law school

A passion for health care ultimately inspired non-traditional law student Dahnika Short to attend the University of Kansas School of Law.

After graduation, she will continue her journey through a clerkship with Hon. Toby Crouse, L’00, of the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas.

Short’s road to KU Law looked different than most of her peers. She earned her first undergraduate degree in life sciences from Kansas State University in 2011. Short then went on to earn a nursing degree from the KU School of Nursing in 2015 before deciding to attend law school a few years later.

Dahnika Short
Dahnika Short, L’22

“I had a great career as a nurse,” said Short. “Health care is something I am still very passionate about.”

After earning her first undergraduate degree, Short served as a health education volunteer in the Peace Corps, working in Moldova. She helped provide seminars to locals on topics such as HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, STI prevention and domestic violence.

 “That experience only strengthened my desire to be in the medical field,” Short said.

After returning from the Peace Corps, Short moved back to Kansas City to begin her education in nursing. Halfway through training, she realized she did not want to work in the traditional hospital setting.

“I was much more interested in the bigger picture. How do people access health care? What are the barriers? How do race and socioeconomic status play a role? What about access to healthy foods and education?” Short said.

Still, Short thought she should experience working life as a nurse. She found employment at a small clinic, where she could discuss “holistic wellness and barriers to accessing health care with her patients.” But law school never left her mind.

After seriously considering how law school could deepen her knowledge about policies that impact health care, Short knuckled down and began studying for the LSAT. After performing well on the entry exam, she knew now was the time to tackle law school or regret it forever.

“I chose KU Law because it felt like home,” said Short. “When touring, I instantly felt welcomed by everyone. I was also impressed by the alumni connections.”

Even as a busy mother, Short stayed active with extracurriculars during her time at Green Hall as a Dean’s Fellow, member of the Dean’s Diversity Leadership Council and even helped develop a new student organization – the Non-Traditional Law Students Association.

Shorts says her most impactful law school extracurricular was as a comment editor for the Kansas Law Review.

“While it was a lot of work, I enjoyed bonding with and working alongside incredibly smart and kind people,” Short said.

She was not just motivated by her peers during law school. Short also found inspiration and support within her professors, three of which stood out.

She enjoyed learning from Professor Tom Stacy over the course of four classes throughout law school.

“Professor Stacy brings a thought-provoking, in-depth perspective to criminal law – my favorite area. He really made me think of the why behind criminal law,” said Short.

Short praises Professor Kyle Velte for her ability to reach students.

“Professor Velte did an excellent job of breaking down complex topics (hello, hearsay) and truly cares about her students,” said Short.

The Legal Aid Clinic brought Short together with another favorite – Professor Melanie Daily.

“She was an excellent mentor – incredibly well versed and knowledgeable in the law with equal amounts of empathy for her clients,” said Short. “Professor Daily also deeply cares about and is supportive of her students.”

Short feels ready to start her new career after three years of preparation and the support of many Jayhawk lawyers.

“I’m so glad I went to law school,” said Short. “It was a long road to get here, but it was totally worth it.”

Armed with her new education, Short looks forward to the future.

“I am most excited to challenge myself, to be an advocate and to work to ensure that systems operate more equitably,” Short said.

-By Sydney Halas

This post is the fifth in a series highlighting a few of the exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2022. Check out previous stories about Olivia BlackParker Bednasek, Cortez Downey and Ashlyn Shultz. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.

Graduate Profile: Ashlyn Shultz, L’22

Mentoring first-year students was a standout experience for KU Law banner carrier

Photo courtesy of Ashlyn Shultz.

The first year of law school is full of challenges. For Ashlyn Shultz, learning how to overcome those challenges – and passing that knowledge on to her fellow students – has been a defining law school experience.

“My 1L year was tough – as everyone’s is – so I relished the opportunity to help fellow law students navigate those difficulties,” Shultz said.

Shultz was a teaching assistant with the Lawyering Skills program during her 3L year, and she worked as a peer tutor for part of her 2L year.

“I was bolstered by a love for the Bluebook – which unfortunately is not a common sentiment. Along the way, I discovered a love for teaching and corny jokes,” she said.

The Open and Shultz Case team poses in Green Hall with their Bluebook Relays trophy.
“Open and Shultz Case” – the team Shultz coached for the 2021 Bluebook Relays – won the first-place trophy. Photo by Andy White / KU Marketing.

Shultz remembers being one of “a bunch of wide-eyed yet terrified 1Ls” in her small section Torts class, taught by Professor Laura Hines. One day during a lunch-hour event, her section learned about the law school’s grading curve right before they headed to Torts.

“We, of course, were a bit jarred by what we had just learned, so Professor Hines was kind enough to take the time and explain that the curve is there to help everyone,” Shultz said. “This was only the first of many times our small section was able to have heart-to-heart chats with Professor Hines; she was always the one to remind us that we could get through law school.”

As one of the top students in the Class of 2022, Shultz will be the school’s banner carrier at the KU Law Hooding Ceremony during Commencement Weekend. In addition to her mentorship roles, Shultz has worked as a staff editor and articles editor for the Kansas Law Review and was a member of the Christian Legal Society.

Shultz is part of the first group of KU Law students to graduate through the LEAD (Legal Education Accelerated Degree) Program at Kansas State University. Students in the program complete their undergraduate degrees during their first year of law school, earning both an undergraduate and a law degree in six years. KU Law also has LEAD partnerships with the KU College of Liberal Arts & Sciences and Wichita State University.

During her time at Kansas State, Shultz had the chance to attend get-togethers with fellow LEAD students from her own campus and KU. When she got to Green Hall, there were friendly faces to greet her.

“I knew I wanted to practice in Kansas, but I wasn’t sure where I wanted to go to law school – or undergrad, actually,” Shultz said. “I heard through the grapevine about the LEAD program starting at K-State my incoming year. I was so excited, I went home and immediately applied to K-State. The rest from there is history!”

Originally from Manhattan, Kansas, Shultz majored in political science and philosophy at Kansas State.

After her graduation from KU Law, Shultz will return to Manhattan to work at Arthur-Green, LLP, where she hopes to help clients with estate planning.

“There’s nothing like seeing the concern in someone’s eyes melt as they sign their finished trust documents and find themselves with some security for the future. I hope my work can take that concern off clients’ shoulders,” Shultz said.

— By Margaret Hair

This post is the fourth in a series highlighting a few of the exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2022. Check out previous stories about Olivia Black, Parker Bednasek and Cortez Downey. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.

Graduate Profile: Cortez Downey, L’22

Student leader pursuing a passion for privacy law

Cortez Downey in graduation regalia
Photo courtesy of Cortez Downey.

During his second year at KU Law, Cortez Downey took a course in Privacy Law. The class, taught by Professor Najarian Peters, set Downey on a career path.

“Professor Peters introduced me to the complex, fascinating, and ever-changing world of privacy law, and it has become a passion of mine,” Downey said.

After graduating this month, Downey plans to join a large law firm in Houston as a data privacy and cybersecurity attorney. In addition to taking courses in privacy and cybersecurity law, Downey founded the KU Privacy & Cybersecurity Society, a student organization that promotes current legal issues in the field. He also attended the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) Global Summit in Washington, D.C. in April.

“KU Law prepared me for the workforce by offering several classes in my field of interest – privacy and security,” Downey said. “Also, I found it beneficial that some of my courses were taught by adjunct faculty currently working in their respective subject area. This positioned them to incorporate some of their day-to-day into the learning, which I found valuable.”

This semester, Downey joined nine classmates in Washington, D.C. as part of the 6th Semester in D.C. Program. Students in the program spend their final semester of law school working in field placements and taking classes in the nation’s capital. The experience of being in D.C. during the historic confirmation of Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson to the United States Supreme Court was especially impactful, Downey said.

“Being in a new and exciting city – particularly one with so many lawyers – was a great way to meet people and expand my network,” Downey said. “Being in D.C. during Justice Jackson’s confirmation and being able to attend the International Association of Privacy Professionals (IAPP) Global Summit were amazing experiences.”

Downey has been an active student leader at KU Law, working with organizations including the Black Law Students Association, Student Ambassadors and Dean’s Diversity Leadership Council. As president of the Black Law Students Association, Downey facilitated self-care, wellness education and meditation sessions for fellow students, and led efforts to raise over $4,000 for local charities during the annual Food & Textured Hair Care Drive. Downey has been co-president of the law school’s Student Ambassadors for two years, planning recruiting events and mentoring incoming students.

In 2021, Downey received the Law Class of 1949 Award for Leadership for the 2L class. The award is given annually to students who, in the opinion of the faculty, contributed most significantly to the overall experience of students in Green Hall. During three years at KU Law, Downey built a record of service and scholarship that completing legal internships through the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic and Mediation Clinic.

His favorite law school memories are of celebrating local teams with his classmates – from the Kansas City Chiefs’ Super Bowl win during his first year to “watching the Jayhawks win the NCAA championship at a local KU alumni hangout in D.C.,” Downey said.

Originally from Edmond, Oklahoma, Downey earned his undergraduate degrees in biology and Spanish from Oklahoma State University. He worked for four years with the Houston Independent School District as a high school teacher and college & career advisor before enrolling at KU Law.

As he gets ready for his career in privacy and cybersecurity law, Downey is looking forward to a new type of advising role.

“I am excited about growing in my capacity as an attorney and mentoring other aspiring attorneys, particularly those interested in privacy and/or security,” he 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 2022. Check out previous stories about Olivia Black and Parker Bednasek. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.

Graduate Profile: Parker Bednasek, L’22

Law Review editor-in-chief was ‘raised to be a Jayhawk’

Law school has kept Parker Bednasek busy.

As editor-in-chief of the Kansas Law Review, Bednasek was responsible for representing the University of Kansas School of Law in legal academia.

“You also have a lot of interaction with professors at other law schools, so you want to be professional and leave a good impression,” Bednasek said.

While his experience leading the Law Review was a big responsibility, Bednasek also values the time he spent as a teaching assistant in the Lawyering Skills program and as a Shook Hardy & Bacon Scholar. Part of the law school’s Academic Resources Program, the Shook scholars lead study groups for first-year students. Bednasek was also a member of KU Law’s Moot Court Council.

Parker Bednasek
Parker Bednasek, L’22.

“Being a TA and an SHB scholar has meant a lot to me because it provided a mentorship opportunity with 1L students – which I really value,” Bednasek said.

Later this month, Bednasek will join fellow members of the KU Law Class of 2022 for graduation celebrations. They will gather at the school’s first in-person Hooding Ceremony since 2019, finishing a law school career that’s been full of unexpected challenges.

“I think the general experience of navigating law school during a pandemic has been really unique and has created challenges that are different than any other generation of law school students have faced,” Bednasek said.

Bednasek grew up in Charlotte, North Carolina. Both of his parents are from Kansas – “so they raised me to be a Jayhawk,” Bednasek said. KU was the only school he applied to for his undergraduate degrees in political science and history.

“After spending four years in Lawrence for undergrad, I fell in love with the town and university – and it became my home. When looking at law schools, I knew that I would receive a quality legal education at KU because of my undergrad experience and that I would have great employment opportunities after graduation,” Bednasek said.

During his time at KU Law, Bednasek completed two field placements, working for a Kansas district court judge and the Federal Public Defender’s Office. In the Trial Advocacy skills course, he had the chance to question witnesses and give opening and closing statements. He also participated in the Project for Innocence clinic, taught by Professor Jean Phillips.

“I was able to get experience in complex issues of state and federal criminal law with the help of a stellar attorney – Professor Phillips,” Bednasek said.

That experience helped prepare Bednasek for the workforce and the career opportunities ahead.  

“I am really excited about representing KU in the legal field and giving back to the school where I can,” Bednasek said. “Being able to help the next generation of KU lawyers is an opportunity that I would love to have in the future.”

— By Margaret Hair

This post is the second in a series highlighting a few of the exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2022. Check out a previous story about Olivia Black. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.

Higher ed law offers ‘a little bit of everything’

Marissa Hotujac, L’20, reflects on her two-year fellowship with KU General Counsel

As an attorney for a university, you get to work on a little bit of everything, says Marissa Hotujac, L’20.

That includes “litigation, contracts, athletics, labor and employment, policies, First Amendment issues, student and Greek life matters, and so much more,” Hotujac said. “There’s always something new to learn and it’s challenging, which I enjoy.”

Marissa Hotujac
Marissa Hotujac, L’20. Photo courtesy of Husch Blackwell.

During a two-year fellowship with the University of Kansas Office of the General Counsel, Hotujac got the chance to work on a wide variety of legal issues that intersect with higher education law. Hotujac completed the 2020-2022 term of the Husch Blackwell Higher Education Law Fellowship at KU in March. She recently joined Husch Blackwell’s Kansas City office as an associate in the law firm’s higher education practice group.

With the general counsel’s office, Hotujac worked on projects related to the university’s response to COVID-19, contracts with international agencies, and athletics matters. She also had the chance to represent KU as the lead attorney in several internal disciplinary hearings.

“It was rewarding to see matters I’ve been involved with get implemented across campus – whether it was research I conducted on an issue or a company, editing university-wide policies, or advice that I gave to a client employed at KU,” Hotujac said.

Regular assignments included reviewing and negotiating contracts; conducting legal research and drafting memos; writing motions, briefs and other litigation documents; reviewing university policies; and advising clients.

Hotujac started full-time with the KU general counsel’s office in June 2020, as part of the pilot term for what officially became the Husch Blackwell Higher Education Law Fellowship in 2022, said Lori Haaga, director of legal administration for the Office of the General Counsel.

Fellows in the program get support from the office while they study for the bar exam. Then, they’re immersed alongside the office’s team of attorneys, Haaga said. Once admitted to the Kansas Bar, the fellow practices as a licensed attorney for the university. They gain membership to the National Association of College and University Attorneys, along with access to conferences, webinars and continuing legal education offerings. Husch Blackwell also provides development opportunities, and the fellow becomes a participating member of the firm’s higher education practice group, Haaga said.

Hotujac interned with the KU General Counsel’s Office during the fall of her 3L year. When colleagues told her about the fellowship and encouraged her to apply, Hotujac took the leap.

“It’s relatively uncommon for a university general counsel’s office to employ recent law school graduates,” she said. “So, I was interested in applying for the fellowship because I thought it was an incredible opportunity to break into the higher education law field and to gain first-hand experience working in a university setting.”

Hotujac accepted the fellowship right out of law school and hit the ground running, said Brian A. White, general counsel for KU.

“Marissa epitomizes the essence and intent behind the creation of the fellowship,” White said. “Throughout her term, Marissa demonstrated exceptional character, significant leadership qualities and a keen intellect for legal issues facing higher education. Marissa’s future career practicing in higher education is bright and we look forward to following her wherever that road may lead.”

Originally from Overland Park, Hotujac earned her undergraduate degree in communication from Truman State University in 2016. At KU Law, she was a staff article editor with the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy. Hotujac also participated in the 6th Semester in D.C. Program, which allows students to spend their final semester of law school in Washington, D.C.

“I had an externship with the Department of Justice, and I think spending my last semester working on real cases all day, every day helped prepare me for the professional world,” Hotujac said.

For law students interested in pursuing a similar fellowship or a career in higher education law, Hotujac advises taking a variety of courses, focusing on legal research and writing skills, and gaining practical experience through offerings such as the Deposition Skills Workshop or 6th Semester in D.C.

“Branch out and try to make yourself a well-rounded candidate. You never know where it will lead you,” Hotujac said. Applications for the 2024-2026 Husch Blackwell Higher Education Law Fellowship open in fall 2023, with the two-year fellowship term starting in June 2024.

— By Margaret Hair

Graduate Profile: Olivia Black, L’22

Student leader reflects on 6th Semester Program, hands-on experiences at KU Law

For her final semester of law school, Olivia Black joined nine classmates in Washington, D.C. for the 6th Semester in D.C. Program. Developing friendships with her cohort and connecting with KU Law alumni in the D.C. area has created some of Black’s favorite law school memories, she said.

“The 6th Semester in D.C. program is an amazing program. I worked at the National Association of Attorneys General, and worked on forthcoming important issues. I gained knowledge about cryptocurrency and sports betting legalization during my internship and hope to carry it into my legal practice,” Black said. “More students should take advantage of the program.”

Photo courtesy of Olivia Black.

Black’s 6th Semester experience caps off a law school career that has included time representing KU Law in national business law competitions, leading student organizations and mentoring peers. Black will graduate in May with her J.D. and Certificate in Business and Commercial Law.

Originally from Wichita, Black earned her undergraduate degree in health science from Wichita State University. She chose KU Law because it was close to home and had smaller class sizes – and KU basketball.

At Green Hall, Black was a student leader involved in the Black Law Students Association, OUTLaws & Allies and the Dean’s Fellows. She was a co-head Dean’s Fellow this year, providing mentorship, academic support and guidance to first-year students.

Black competed in two national transactional law competitions through the Polsinelli Transactional Law Center, including The Closer, an invitation-only competition hosted by Baylor Law. As a second-year student, Black and two teammates participated in the UCLA School of Law Transactional Law Competition, winning a first-place award for Best Draft and second-place awards for Best Negotiation and Best Overall. Adjunct instructor and Polsinelli shareholder Bill Quick coached both competitions, along with professors Lua Yuille and Kelley Sears.

“I sat under Bill’s guidance for two years, and during that time, he taught me invaluable negotiating and transactional legal skills. Thanks, Bill!” Black said.

Hands-on experiences including the Medical-Legal Partnership Field Placement and the Judicial Field Placement “prepared me for the workforce,” Black said. She interned with Judge Rhonda Mason of the Johnson County District Court, learning several writing strategies which “contributed to my legal analysis and writing,” she said.

“I participated in the Medical-Legal Partnership with Miss Juliann Morland DaVee. We worked closely with clients at Lawrence Memorial Hospital to address legal issues caused by societal shortcomings. She even assigned me several clients’ cases as if I were a young associate,” Black said.

After graduation, Black will join the law firm Hite, Fanning & Honeyman in her hometown.

“I am excited to return to Wichita and make a positive impact using my legal skills in the Wichita community,” Black said. “Before COVID-19, I had no plans to return to Wichita; now, I am excited to return to my beloved city and build my legal practice.”

— By Margaret Hair

This post is the first in a series highlighting a few of the exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2022. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.

Law school is NOT your life

Law school is your life – this is what I was told on my first day of orientation. Throughout my summer and for part of my fall semester, law school was my life, but it would not always be.

In my 1L fall semester, I lost two of my closest family members over the course of five weeks. Halfway across the country from my family and hometown, I was devastated. In October, I went to my Tata’s funeral and felt like I was choosing between my family and law school. I felt guilty for not staying in Texas longer to be with my family to honor his memory, and I felt guilty for not studying more. In November, my Tio unexpectedly died of a heart attack — a week before finals. I was forced to miss his funeral due to finals but was able to spend some time grieving with my family and helping with funeral arrangements.

Olivia Almirudis Schneider with her late Tata and her Abuelita at her college graduation
Olivia Almirudis Schneider with her late Tata and her Abuelita at her college graduation.

It was at this moment of great loss I realized that law school is NOT my life. In the midst of the pressures and stressors of law school, I started to see myself as just a law student or a number on a class rank. But I intentionally shifted my mentality to see law school as part of my life that I celebrate and cherish, and I stopped seeing it as my all-consuming identity.

When we start thinking of ourselves as a number instead of as a whole person, we lose sight of what truly matters in life. My late Tata often reminded me, “Always remember, wherever you are, that you are an Almirudis.” I want to pass on this wisdom to every single law student: always remember who you are and don’t let law school change you to be someone you’re not. You can do that by remembering the three Cs: culture, character and challenge.

1. Remember your culture.

Olivia Almirudis Schneider and her husband
Olivia Almirudis Schneider’s husband is an active supporter in her journey to becoming an attorney.

As the daughter of an immigrant, I stand on the shoulders of generations of beautiful, hard-working people who fought and sacrificed to make my dream possible. My Abuelita would have never imagined that her granddaughter would be able to study to be an attorney. Never forget that your privilege is another’s dream.

2. Remember your personal character.

With my faith background and Hispanic upbringing, my cultural context and values look different than many of my classmates, but this is a beautiful thing. Professor Levy often says that the law is one big, beautiful tapestry that should be cherished, and the same is true for law school classmates. We are one big, beautiful tapestry of people with differing belief systems that need to be highlighted and cherished. Stay true to yourself and don’t change for anyone.

3. Remember to challenge everything you hear.

Olivia Almirudis Schneider's dogs
Olivia Almirudis Schneider‘s pups make adorable company while she studies.

Everyone’s law school experience is different. Throughout orientations, meetings and conversations, you will hear a variety of ranging opinions on classes, classmates, professors and law school in general. Choose to see the best in everyone and try to keep an open mind. I was told that law school would be the three most miserable years of my life, and for me, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

So, make sure that law school is not your life. Choose, every single day, to remember your culture, and stay true to your character and challenge yourself to live your best law school life.

By Olivia Almirudis Schneider, a 1L from San Antonio, Texas and KU Law Student Ambassador

Mentorship Matters

At times, your 1L year can be overwhelming. As such, advice from those who have experienced it is invaluable. Mentorship opportunities have made my first year of law school much smoother and more fulfilling. I want to share five mentorship opportunities to take advantage of during your 1L year:

Karlie Bischoff
Karlie Bischoff, 1L Student Ambassador

1.            Official mentorship

At the beginning of my fall semester, the Career Services Office matched interested students with mentor attorneys from the community. I received three mentors and have enjoyed learning about their careers and daily work lives in their respective fields. All three taught me about careers that I did not even know existed, allowing me to further explore my own future. Additionally, they have introduced me to other attorneys in the community that share similar interests.

2.            KU faculty

One thing that continually impresses me is my professors’ availability and willingness to meet outside of class to discuss course material, answer questions and share career advice. Professors and other faculty have helped tremendously in providing guidance on career options, extracurricular involvement, course offerings and general methods to succeed in law school.

3.            Older students

Formally and informally, 2Ls and 3Ls are a great resource for learning about class preparation and summer internship options. My 1L small section has two Dean’s Fellows, Sarah and Jacob, who give us advice, motivate us and answer our questions that we don’t want to ask anybody else. Both peers have helped greatly in teaching me about exam preparation, outlining and managing study time effectively.

4.            Informal mentorship

Some of the best guidance that I have received in law school has been through attorneys who I met outside of law school through previous jobs, family friends and mutual connections. At the end of my first semester of law school, my Lawyering Skills professor challenged each of us to reach out to an attorney who we know over winter break and ask them to meet for coffee. I accepted that challenge and met with a couple of attorneys in Kansas City. It was a helpful experience both in learning about career opportunities and growing my network.

5.            My classmates

Finally, I learned an incredible amount from my classmates during my first year of law school. Each of us came to KU Law with unique backgrounds and perspectives, and we all have something to contribute and teach each other. A large portion of my time is spent with my small section, so being surrounded by encouraging, supportive and interesting peers has been a crucial part of staying afloat during my first year of law school.

-By Karlie Bischoff, a 1L from Kansas City and KU Law Student Ambassador