From Green Hall to City Hall

Mayor Quinton Lucas balances roles as law lecturer and Kansas City leader during pandemic

Photo by Fengxue Zhang / KCMO Mayor’s Office.

This spring, students at the University of Kansas School of Law had the unique opportunity to learn Local Government Law from the current mayor of a nearby metropolitan city. Quinton Lucas is the mayor of Kansas City, Missouri and a lecturer at KU Law. Lucas has served on the KU Law faculty since 2012.

“Getting to share your voice and your mission with people is one of the most amazing things you can ever do in life,” Lucas said. “I get the double honor of doing it both as mayor of an outstanding city, but also as a KU Law professor.”

Lucas’ class shifted from meeting in-person to online in March, but continued to have important conversations about what actions governments were taking in both Kansas City and across the nation. Lucas and his law students discussed topics such as when it is appropriate to declare a state of emergency, how to implement a stay-at-home order and when to begin easing out of an order.

“The pandemic is such an urgent and relevant example of local government’s responsibilities and limits during times of national crisis,” Lucas said. “The concepts I wanted my students to understand became applicable in real-time, and I think the students enjoyed talking through what has become an unprecedented and chaotic time in our nation’s history.” 

Lucas was sworn in as the 55th mayor of Kansas City on August 1, 2019. At 36, Lucas is the city’s youngest mayor in more than a century. He is third Black mayor in the city’s history after Sly James and Emanuel Cleaver. Before his tenure in city government, Lucas served at KU as one of the youngest tenure-track law professors in the country.

While a full-time faculty member at KU, Lucas taught Contracts, Securities Regulation and Federal Administrative Law. In his newer role as law lecturer, Lucas is still willing to assist KU Law students — both in the classroom and in the mayor’s office. Third-year law student Conner Swanton worked on Lucas’ campaign and has served as a policy fellow in Lucas’ office for the past year.

Third-year law student Delaney Hiegert served as a policy fellow in Lucas’ office last fall.

“I never imagined I would have had the opportunity to immerse myself in local government to this extent while in law school,” Hiegert said. “I think that KU Law students are lucky to have the ability to pursue those experiences, both in Mayor Lucas’ office and in his Local Government Law class. Having a KU lecturer hold a public office at this level helps to open students’ eyes to the possibilities of public service work that they may not have known existed.”

Lucas said he finds balance in his roles as mayor and law lecturer by bringing the same passion for community, change and progress to both City Hall and Green Hall. 

“We are lucky to have Quinton continue his relationship with the KU law school even though his plate is very full. He is a great law school citizen who is dedicated to his students and their success,” Dean Stephen Mazza said. “When he gets elected president, we’ll just have him teach remotely.”

Rising to the COVID-19 challenge

Eight months into his first year as mayor, Lucas rose to the challenge of leading a metropolitan city during a global pandemic.

In addition to being mayor of Kansas City, Quinton Lucas teaches Local Government Law at KU. He is pictured here in the Rice Room at Green Hall in February. Photo by Brooke Boyer / KU School of Journalism.

“My days changed from giving speeches in big ballrooms and meeting about development projects to meeting with first responders; looking at data; thinking about deaths; and trying to find ways to cure and solve violence in our community,” Lucas said.

Lucas has done impactful work to protect the health and safety of Kansas City residents as well as to help stop the spread of COVID-19. He drafted a stay at home order that ended up being a model for the entire metropolitan area; wrote ordinances relating both to violent crime and COVID-19; and collaborated with federal, state and local government officials.

Lucas said he keeps his law students in mind when making big decisions, such as pandemic-related school closures and event cancellations.

“I thought about the changes my students at KU were having in their lives, and the impact that these sorts of decisions may make,” Lucas said. “When I thought about events being canceled – which is something that we did – I thought about my KU Law students that might be engaged and planning a wedding, or my law students that want that joy of having a walk down the Hill with their parents.”

He is optimistic about both KU and Kansas City’s ability to navigate a global pandemic through adaptability and prioritization of public health.

“We’ll all get through this. We have a resilient community in a resilient region,” Lucas said. “We all know it’s a tough time, but this country and KU have been through a lot before.”

Kansas City roots

Lucas grew up on the east side of Kansas City. He rose from poverty and homelessness to become an Ivy League-educated lawyer and mayor leading a city of nearly 500,000 people.

Lucas said his background informs his work as mayor and understanding of the challenges that constituents face due to the pandemic.

“My job as mayor certainly became more demanding and urgent, but I decided that it was important to make time to have conversations with both my students and constituents about the power and limits of government,” Lucas said.

He earned an A.B. from Washington University in 2006 and a J.D. from Cornell University in 2009. After law school, he served as a law clerk to the Hon. Duane Benton of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit.

Judge Benton encouraged Lucas to pursue public service in Lucas’ home state of Missouri. Lucas worked in private practice for a few years and taught a Constitutional Law course at the Lansing Correctional Facility.

In 2012, he entered academia. He considers teaching to be, “in many ways my first love.”

“Like any professor who has come to KU Law, you get bit by that bug of education, academia, learning, and service to the people of Kansas and to our broader community in this region,” Lucas said. “I’ve enjoyed being part of it ever since.”

During his time as mayor and beyond, Lucas said he plans to keep shaping the minds of Jayhawk lawyers.

“I’ve been very proud of KU, and I’ve been lucky to be a part of the KU Law community,” Lucas said. “I’m 36 years old now. I hope I get to be 75 and walking into a KU classroom. I hope I have a chance to do this decades in the future.”

— By Ashley Golledge

This story originally appeared in the fall 2020 issue of the KU Law magazine.

Seven things I wish I knew before law school

Photo by Ashley Golledge

As a first–generation law student, my only knowledge on law school stemmed from movies and my favorite show, How to Get Away With Murder. I was hit with a strikingly different experience as soon as I walked into Green Hall. Law school is an unfamiliar and intimidating experience, especially when you don’t come from a family of lawyers. Here are seven things that I wish I knew before law school.

1. Network!

I never had a professional job before law school and didn’t know any lawyers. Once I started law school, everyone told me to build my network. I went to happy hours with firms, career fairs, professionalism meetings, and mock interviews – all of which were organized by KU and the Career Services Office. These events helped me build my network. I also learned that my classmates and professors would be my colleagues throughout and after law school. That being said, keep a good relationship with your peers and professors. These people will work with you in the future, refer clients to you, and maybe even help you get a job.

2. You will make friends.

You will find your people in law school. Your classmates will be the only people who truly understand what you are going through and the friendship you form will be essential to maintaining sanity in law school. KU has small sections, which means that I had all of my 1L classes with a group of 22 students. You’ll inevitably become close friends with people from your section. If you ever miss class or need help with anything, ask peers from your section.

3. It is okay to be confused.

There are numerous moments where you feel lost in law school. Moments where going into office hours makes you even more confused on a topic that you were already so lost on. I wish I knew that that was a totally normal and common experience during my 1L year. There were many moments where my imposter syndrome kicked in, and I felt like I was alone in my confusion. I came to realize that most of us were confused on the same topics.

4. Television shows are inaccurate.

This one seems obvious, but so many of my non–law school friends think my everyday life is like the shows and movies they watch. Law school is so different from glamorized television shows. Although the competition and personality depictions aren’t too far off from reality, law school in reality is a lot involves less cute outfits, less courtroom drama, and less students involved in covering up murder, haha.

5. Don’t compare yourself to others.

It is intuitive to compare yourself to classmates. I advise that you not compare yourself to any anyone. We come from different places, have different goals and have different personal lives. We have our own study habits, routines and things we know that work for us. It is essential to remind yourself that nobody knows you better than yourself. Focus on your goals and remind yourself that you know best how to succeed.

6. You will write a lot.

I didn’t expect to spend so much time writing in law school. I also didn’t expect to struggle with legal writing during my first semester. I was good at writing most of my life, but the transition to legal writing was tough. The CRAC / IRAC structure is something that is hard at first, but once you figure it out, it’s not too bad. Be patient and spend time improving your legal writing skills. One thing I hear from attorneys is that the best lawyers are ones that write exceptionally well.

7. Take time for yourself.

I remember feeling guilty for taking time off from school during my first semester of law school. This guilt kept me up at night, and I only dreamt about school–related things. I wish I spent more time on myself and away from school during my first year. It is important to stay focused and spend time on school, but it is just as important to spend time with your family and friends and to take mental breaks from school.

— By Sim Johal, a 2L from Springfield, Missouri and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

Students contribute pro bono hours to clemency project

Nine students at the University of Kansas School of Law are assisting with the ACLU of Kansas’ Clemency Project this semester. The project seeks to secure the release of Kansas prisoners who are medically vulnerable or have completed most of their sentence.

Sharon Brett, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Kansas, is supervising students’ pro bono work on the project. Brett is also an adjunct faculty member at KU Law, teaching Social Justice Lawyering this fall. She said the idea to involve KU Law students in the project was driven by student interest in the work and by the project’s goal to increase capacity.

Sharon Brett
Sharon Brett, senior staff attorney at the ACLU of Kansas and lecturer at KU Law, is supervising students’ pro bono work on the project. Photo courtesy of Sharon Brett.

“There was this very obvious, untapped person power at the law school of students who were incredibly interested in this area of the law, and in doing good work to help people who are really vulnerable right now in our state’s prisons,” Brett said.

Participating students contribute to individual applications for clemency or functional incapacitation release. So far this semester, KU Law students have helped complete 18 petitions.

The process starts with interviewing family members to gather information on the individual’s background and achievements, release plans, medical conditions and other details. After interviewing family members, students write up a narrative history – or “Reasons for Seeking Clemency” statement – that is attached to the individual’s clemency petition. Those petitions go to the Kansas Department of Corrections Prisoner Review Board before going on to Gov. Laura Kelly.

Students started remote work on the project in early September, following comprehensive training sessions with ACLU attorneys and staff. Each student is expected to complete at least 10 pro bono hours for the project, Brett said.

Third-year law student Sidney Billings said she jumped at the opportunity to get involved. Since September, she has worked on four petitions for the Clemency Project. Billings is also enrolled in Brett’s Social Justice Lawyering class.

Sidney Billings
3L Sidney Billings is one of nine KU students contributing pro bono work to the ACLU of Kansas Clemency Project this semester. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

“I wanted to get involved because my heart goes out to prisoners during this pandemic,” Billings said. “The pandemic has changed everyone’s lives, but for prisoners, it has made their world even smaller and more dangerous. I wanted to help in any way I could.”

Compiling an application can be time-consuming and require multiple follow-up conversations with an incarcerated individual’s family members, said Esmie Tseng, a legal assistant with the ACLU of Kansas who is overseeing student pro bono work on the project. Students collect information through phone and email conversations, then “put together a statement that really tells the story of the person who we’re applying for,” Tseng said.

Conducting extensive client interviews and writing narrative histories offers the participating students real-world legal experience, Brett said.

“The students are getting hands-on experience interviewing the families of people who are currently incarcerated, so it’s really amazing client interview experience for them,” Brett said.

Billings said she has developed her writing skills through the project. After collecting details from the client’s family, Billings writes a narrative that “describes the individual’s COVID experiences, fears, and progress in prison before the pandemic,” she said.

“Telling someone else’s experience is a unique kind of writing that I hadn’t been able to practice before in law school. At times it feels awkward and challenging, but I am grateful for the opportunity to work on this form of advocacy,” Billings said.

KU Law students completed more than 2,500 hours of pro bono service during the 2019-20 academic year. More information about the school’s Pro Bono Program is available at law.ku.edu/pro-bono-program.

— By Margaret Hair

How to survive law school in 2020

Photo by Ashley Golledge

A global pandemic and statewide shutdowns and contested elections, oh my!

In true 2020 fashion, this semester has been a whirlwind and brought with it lots of uncertainty. We have all made adjustments and if you are like me, still making some. So, I am sharing a short list of things that I have learned from mentors, professors, and friends that have helped me survive the semester in hopes they might be helpful to you as we all trek on into 2021.

Be aware of your mindset.

“Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t – you’re right.”

– Henry Ford

It is hard – especially nowadays – to have a good mentality when approaching law school curriculum, but I have found that consciously trying to have a good attitude has helped me work through it. This semester has been challenging in many ways but believing you can overcome and succeed in a time like this seems to be half the battle. I would also encourage you to give yourself grace in this moment and know that success can be defined as doing your best.

Use a planner.

Whether your class is fully online or in a hybrid format, chances are not every class will be run in the same way across different learning platforms. I have found that compiling all the information into one place is helpful. Be sure to mark meeting dates, due dates and important deadlines in your planner along with what platform is needed for each. I know this has helped me feel less overwhelmed at the beginning of the semester.

Time management

I have found this to be the most challenging adjustment to make this semester. Hello distractions! Some distractions are unavoidable, but I have found that limiting the distractions that are within my power helps me pay attention and helps my stress level, too.

Practice, practice, practice. And then practice again.  

Spending time on practice problems is an invaluable way to study. This is the best way to engage with the material, test your understanding and practice exam-taking strategies.

Do not lose sight of your “why.”

Most of us did not come to law school with a dream of merely completing law school. We have dreams of using our law degrees to advocate for those in need, to negotiate deals in the boardroom or to change public policy. I have found it helpful to return back to the reasons why I came to law school. It gives me motivation to keep going and also helps the obstacles that are in front of me not seem so daunting.

— By Lexi Christopher, a 2L from Denver and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

Finding balance in law school

Photo by Ashley Golledge

At each stage of life, we are tasked with the challenge of finding balance. As children, we are taught to balance time spent playing video games with time spent outside getting fresh air. In college, we must learn to balance time spent enjoying our friends’ company, with time spent in the library enjoying textbooks. In the professional world, there’s a struggle to balance time spent fulfilling work obligations with time spent tending to household duties.

For my entire life, I have been expected to find balance, and as far as I can recall, have done so relatively easily. Law school, however, presents new challenges that require almost expert deftness. Balancing staying up late to finish the next day’s reading, with going to bed early and getting a full night’s sleep. Balancing reducing anxiety by napping or going for a walk, with feeding anxiety by foregoing reading and outlining. Law school requires mastery of many balancing acts, but among the most nuanced, is finding balance between navigating the competitive nature of law school, with establishing and maintaining meaningful and authentic relationships with classmates/competitors.

We are told often how important it is to establish relationships with our classmates — the people who will one day be among the most important parts of our network. This seems counterintuitive given the fact that while in law school, we compete for scholarships, interviews, internships and grades. How much stronger could our networks be if just about every aspect of the law school experience wasn’t a quasi-zero-sum game?  

A recurring theme from my legal education so far, is that in any given situation, there is rarely (if ever) one, and only one, reasonable solution. How do you find balance in law school? It depends; what are your goals? For me, the goal is, of course, to always be as prepared for class as possible. This naturally involves being caught up on reading so as to enhance my understanding of the concepts and be able to meaningfully contribute to class discussion. Likewise, the goal is to be competitive in law school and the legal profession.

But more than one thing can be true at the same time — the goal is also to maintain effective selfcare routines, and ultimately, a sustainable lifestyle. Some days, that requires me to spend more time outdoors with my dog, than I do indoors briefing cases. Most days, that means I prioritize a full night’s sleep over checking more tasks off my to-do list. Every day, that means I rank nurturing meaningful relationships over clinging to unhealthy competition.

Finding balance in law school and in life isn’t easy. But identifying your goals; setting your priorities; and recognizing that there are many solutions to finding balance and many ways to succeed in law school, is a good place to start.

— By Cortez Downey, a 2L from Edmond, Oklahoma and a KU Law Student Ambassador.

Alumna advocates for veterans, military and their families

Kelly Circle, L’95

After a yearlong national search, Kelly Circle was selected to serve as the executive director of the American Legion Auxiliary (ALA) National Headquarters in Indianapolis. Circle, L’95, began her role in November 2019.

The ALA is one of the nation’s largest patriotic service organizations, which works to honor and support veterans, military and their families through programs, events and educational initiatives. The ALA celebrated its 100-year anniversary in 2019.

“As executive director, I want to help inspire every single unit member to do what they can to help veterans,” Circle said. “When we all work together, we can really make an impact to help our veterans, military and their families.”

Circle joined the Olathe, Kansas unit of the ALA in 2006 to honor the military service of her parents, who are both veterans. Circle’s parents met while serving in the U.S. Navy during the 1950’s.

“I’m proud to be an ALA member to honor my mother and her service to our country,” Circle said.

Circle’s husband, Russ; brother; and father-in-law are U.S. Army veterans. Russ Circle is also a member of the Sons of The American Legion.

Over the years, Circle has been involved with the ALA on a volunteer basis as a member of the Department of Kansas constitution and bylaws committee; second district vice president and president; and government staff at ALA Girls Nation, a weeklong civic training program for high school juniors.

As executive director, Circle oversees 43 employees at the ALA’s national headquarters; reviews legal documents; manages fiscal assets; works with the governing board and its chair; and builds external relationships.

“There are no two days that are the same,” Circle said. “It’s been great. I absolutely love it.”

More than 600,000 people are involved with the organization nationwide. The ALA has units in all 50 U.S. states, Puerto Rico and the District of Columbia.

Kelly Circle, L’95, serves as the executive director of the American Legion Auxiliary National Headquarters in Indianapolis.

Circle strives to increase ALA membership and awareness of the work the ALA does to benefit veterans.

“My goal is to increase membership and awareness of the American Legion Auxiliary and the American Legion Family,” Circle said. “I want to encourage post 9/11 veterans and families to get involved in the American Legion Family to serve veterans for the next 100 years.”

The ALA works with veterans and their families at local, state and national levels. Most notably, the ALA joins the American Legion to meet with Congressional representatives each year in Washington, D.C. to advocate for veterans’ rights and discuss legislation affecting veterans. The American Legion Family played a role in the G.I. Bill and lighting the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery.

“Veterans are willing to sacrifice their lives,” Circle said. “The least we can do is give them the benefits that we promised them and make sure they’re taken care of.”

Circle also looks forward to the opportunity to be more involved with the National Veterans Creative Arts Festival, which highlights performance art and artwork created by veterans. The festival is co-sponsored by the ALA and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

“To see the power of art and how it can help heal is amazing,” Circle said. “I think that’s pretty special and something we do with the V.A. that really makes an impact.”

In the past year, the ALA worked to adapt their operations to address some of the challenges brought on by COVID-19. Meetings, conventions and festivals shifted to a virtual format. ALA volunteers launched letter writing campaigns, sewed masks and organized drop-off food drives for veterans.

“Units have shown how creative, resilient, and resourceful they can be,” Circle said. “The ALA is set up for the next century of service in a way that I couldn’t have expected.”

Prior to taking on a full-time role with the ALA, Circle worked in the field of higher education for 25 years. Most recently, Circle was a dean of instruction at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colorado.

She received a B.A. in psychology from Northwest Missouri State University, a J.D. from the University of Kansas School of Law, and a Ph.D. in education from Saint Louis University.

“I use my law degree every single day in this job,” Circle said. “It has been an incredible asset in my professional career.”

— By Ashley Golledge

6th Semester in D.C. experience was ‘invaluable’ to professional career

Marissa Hotujac, L’20, poses for a picture in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Marissa Hotujac.

Participating in the 6th Semester in D.C. program turned out to be the best part of law school, and I hadn’t even considered doing it until my 3L year. Going into my final year at Green Hall, I wanted real-world experience in environmental law, but I wasn’t sure exactly how to do that. A short conversation with Professor Jennifer Schmidt pointed me in the direction of the Equal Justice Works (EJW) Conference and the 6th Semester program, which ultimately led to an amazing environmental law clerkship in Washington, D.C. 

Every fall (at least prior to COVID-19), KU Law sends a few lucky students to the EJW Conference in D.C. for a weekend of networking and interviewing with employers in public interest law. It is a great professional opportunity to interview with employers from all over the country, but it also allows those attending the opportunity to explore our nation’s capital (which for me was a glorious first full of museums and monuments).

Marissa Hotujac, L’20, participated in KU Law’s 6th Semester in Washington, D.C. Program in the spring of 2020. Photo courtesy of Marissa Hotujac.

I interviewed with several NGOs and government agencies in the environmental law field during the EJW Conference and secured a spring semester clerkship with the U.S. Department of Justice Environment and Natural Resources Division (DOJ ENRD).

After landing a stellar opportunity, the only thing really holding me back from D.C. was the cost. Like many large cities, Washington, D.C. is notorious for its high rent, which had me feeling apprehensive. As it turned out, an extremely generous alum offered to help me with housing. And the location was about as good as it gets – in beautiful DuPont circle, just steps away from the metro.

Once I got to D.C., I began my clerkship with the DOJ ENRD where I was placed in the Environmental Enforcement Section with about 20 other clerks. This section enforces the federal environmental laws of the U.S. by bringing civil actions against individuals and entities who are not in compliance with federal laws like the Clean Air Act.

My experience working in the ENRD can only be described as invaluable, and I gained skills there that I will carry with me throughout my professional career. There, I worked on complex environmental law issues with a team of knowledgeable DOJ attorneys. I participated in meetings with DOJ and EPA attorneys from all over the country (including the Kansas office), and I was able to present my legal research to them. I also gained practical experience drafting motions, memos, and briefs, all while receiving mentorship and guidance from DOJ attorneys along the way.

Marissa Hotujac, L’20, poses for a picture in front of the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C. Photo courtesy of Marissa Hotujac.

My clerkship and the experience I gained were certainly highlights of my semester in D.C., but it didn’t end there. Outside of work, I attended two Supreme Court oral arguments and spent my weekends exploring the city with other DOJ ENRD law clerks from the East Coast and West Coast law schools. Our adventures included day-long walks in Georgetown, museums and gallery marathons, relaxing under the monuments, picnics on the National Mall, and even hosting our own “law clerk prom” in D.C. since none of us could attend our schools’ law proms.

Spending my 6th semester in D.C. was one of the best decisions I made in law school. I would never have anticipated the professional and personal growth that I would experience during my time in D.C., and I will forever be grateful for the opportunity and the memories made. It was well worth taking the leap out of my comfort zone.

— By Marissa Hotujac, L’20

Melanie DeRousse takes on leadership role at Best Practices for Legal Education blog

Clinical Associate Professor Melanie DeRousse

Melanie DeRousse recently became editor of the Best Practices for Legal Education blog. DeRousse has been a blog author and commentator for several years. She is also a clinical associate professor and the director of the Legal Aid Clinic at KU Law.

Since 2007, the Best Practices for Legal Education blog has discussed, documented and recorded reforms in legal education. The blog, which is updated twice a week, serves as gathering place for discussion of ideas about how to best educate lawyers.

“I’ve always been interested in the recent energy around reforming legal education and bringing new ideas to the table,” DeRousse said. “I am continually intrugued by how we teach and train lawyers for the market they are now entering and the clients that they need to serve.”

DeRousse began her new role in July. She co-edits the blog with Davida Finger, a clinical professor and associate dean at Loyola New Orleans College of Law. DeRousse and Finger took over leadership of the blog from former editor and founder, Mary Lynch.

The blog grew out of the work of the Clinical Legal Education Association’s (CLEA) Best Practices Committee. DeRousse has served as co-chair of CLEA’s Best Practices Committee since 2018.

As an editor, DeRousse takes an active role with the blog’s 39 contributing authors by organizing a posting schedule, soliciting topics, communicating with authors, publishing blog posts, moderating comments, and ensuring deadlines are met.

“It gave me a chance to have a platform to encourage authors to think more deeply about issues and start writing about them as they relate to legal education,” DeRousse said.

DeRousse and Finger plan to highlight three content areas on the blog: teaching justice by doing justice work, pedagogical evolution and large-scale policy changes affecting teaching.

“As we move forward into this new era of leadership, Davida and I have talked about continuing to develop that robust discussion. Keeping it as an experimental space where we can discuss new ideas and vet them among colleagues who are also interested in those ideas,” DeRousse said. “We also want to push the blog in a direction where we talk about equity and inclusion in legal education.”

The Best Practices for Legal Education Blog is recognized as a voice in the national dialogue about legal education. The blog was named to the ABA Journal‘s Blawg 100 Hall of Fame in 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2018. It was ranked as the #1 legal education blog by FeedSpot in 2020.

“This blog is such a great opportunity for KU to be a national voice in the conversation about changes in legal education,” DeRousse said. “It’s a good fit for what KU is as an institution.”

DeRousse joined the KU Law faculty in 2015. The lawyering program at KU Law emphasizes experiential teaching methodologies, which piqued DeRousse’s interest in teaching at the university.

“KU has a really strong position on teaching and legal pedagogy,” DeRousse said. “We have really diverse methods of teaching, and my colleagues here strive for a level of inclusivity and engagement in their teaching.”

Prior to entering academia, DeRousse was an attorney at Legal Services of Eastern Missouri Inc., where she focused her civil practice on the legal needs of survivors of intimate partner violence. She also clerked for Hon. Kathianne Knaup Crane at the Missouri Court of Appeals, Eastern District.

— By Ashley Golledge

How to stay connected with your classmates in the era of social distancing

Photo by Ashley Golledge

Stephen King may have been an undercover law student at some point, and was talking about law students when he exclaimed, “If we don’t have each other, we go crazy with loneliness. When we do, we go crazy with togetherness.”

Before COVID-19, most of us law students spent the better part of our time together. Even on the weekends, we would get together to study. All this togetherness did make us cherished our brief moments alone. However, it has now been over seven months since many of us have seen each other in Green Hall. I know I miss you all! You understand what I’m going through as a law student. My husband just doesn’t seem to care or participate in the grumbling when I randomly and frustratingly blurt out “BLUEBOOK.” A fellow classmate in the library would not need any explanation and just join in with his own protest. I miss that!

With many of us only taking classes online and group meetings being held virtually, we have to be purposeful to connect with one another. It’s not just important for us as students (we all need that person we can text during class to ask a “stupid” question), but these peer relationships are meaningful as we embark on our careers. Our peers will be people we call on for references, advice and support for years to come.

To help combat the isolation and loneliness, as well as help facilitate the meaningful building of relationships, the various student groups have worked hard to create opportunities for us to interact together outside of our classes. If you have yet to get involved with a student group, I highly recommend checking some of them out soon. Many are just now having their first meetings and even if you’re not an official member, they will all welcome you to join their events.

I am honored to be president of KU Women in Law. We have already had deep meaningful discussions about our role as women in racial reconciliation, in politics and voting as we commemorate 100 years of the 19th Amendment. Our meetings do not look like they have in the past, but that’s OK. Even with being completely online, the group has been able to think outside the box with various activities, including teaming up with the Association of Women Lawyers of Kansas City to help match our members with a legal mentor in the KC area! I’m thankful that I have personally gotten to know some of my peers on a deeper and more meaningful level.

If you are not sure what groups or events are available, make sure to check your class’s Facebook page, Dean Crystal Mai’s announcements, or ask those in your section what they are involved in. You can also reach out to Dean Leah Terranova. There really is a student group that fit every kind of interest waiting for you! Because if we’re going through this crazy time, we should at least do so together!

— By Kendra Stacey, a 2L from Kansas City, Kansas and a KU Law Student Ambassador

KU Law welcomes largest class of LEAD students this fall

A group of LEAD students tour the Kansas Supreme Court building in April 2019.

The University of Kansas School of Law welcomed 15 students from the LEAD Program this fall, making it the largest class of LEAD students since the program launched in 2013.

The Legal Education Accelerated Degree (LEAD) Program gives students an expedited opportunity to earn both a B.A. and a J.D. degree in six years, instead of seven.

“We believe KU Law to have the largest, or second largest, 3+3 program in the country,” said Lumen Mulligan, LEAD program director and professor of law. “LEAD students accounted for nearly 15% of our 1L enrollment in fall 2020.”

The program is designed to prepare students for law school and a legal career. As undergraduates, LEAD students have the opportunity to learn about law school, law-related internships and legal practice; build relationships with law professors and practicing attorneys; and participate in off-campus activities, such as a tour of the Kansas Supreme Court building and discussion with a justice of the court.

Sixty percent of the 15-person class of LEAD students are Kansas residents. The remaining 40% arrive at KU Law from five states across the country.

The LEAD program at KU started in 2013. The University of Kansas School of Law and the College of Liberal Arts & Sciences collaborated on the degree track to provide an opportunity for high-ability students to maximize their coursework at KU.

The size of the program has grown over time. There are 125 undergraduate students at KU currently enrolled in the LEAD program. The program is offered at the University of Kansas and Kansas State University.

Sarah Wood, a first-year law student from Tulsa, Oklahoma, said she was grateful to be a part of the LEAD Program because it helped guide her goals from the very beginning of her college experience.

“Choosing to go to law school and all that comes with it can be an extremely stressful time, but with the guidance I received from KU, I felt fully supported each step of the way,” Wood said. “After my first full month of law school, I am more appreciative than ever to the LEAD Program and all that it offers.”

— By Ashley Golledge