THE ROAD LESS TRAVELED Bar exam next hurdle in journey to firm ownership

Editor’s note: Zach Roberson and Carlos Hernandez are recent graduates of the University of Kansas School of Law. Following the bar exam and a short internship, they will be opening a law firm in Olathe, Kan. In a series of blog posts, they will record the steps they take as they move past graduation and the bar exam and toward their goal of starting their own firm.

Well, graduation has come and gone. I really enjoyed having my family here – they toured Northeast Kansas and Kansas City, and I think they finally understand why I want to stay here. Graduation was bittersweet, of course. It was fun to celebrate with classmates, but it was also sad knowing that our three-year law school journey has ended. However, I understand that commencement indicates a beginning, not an end, and I look forward to moving on with our firm.

There has been one major change since our last posting: Carlos and I will be moving forward with the firm without Dave. There wasn’t any sort of major falling out or anything, we simply had different visions for the firm. We view it as a positive thing. It’s better to resolve these disagreements now, while the firm is still in the planning stages, rather than later, after we have opened our doors and taken on clients. I can confidently say that my goals for the firm are closely aligned with Carlos’ goals, and I hope the end result is better service for our future clients.

To that end, Carlos will be taking the Missouri Bar Exam and I will take the Kansas Bar Exam. Originally, both of us planned to take the Kansas Bar, but we have talked with many area attorneys who suggested that we can best serve the area by becoming licensed to practice law on both sides of the Missouri River. After all, Northeast Kansas is part of a major metropolitan area, and clients frequently move within the area, often between Kansas and Missouri.

Although preparing for the bar exam has occupied most of our time, we have been able to continue moving forward with the firm as well. We have continued to network with area attorneys and community leaders, although the nature of our contacts has changed. Before graduation, we typically tried to schedule two sit-down lunch or office meetings per week. Now, time constraints have mostly limited us to making phone calls and sending emails to maintain the contacts we previously established. In a sense it is frustrating, because we would prefer to be out networking rather than studying, but such is the life of an aspiring lawyer.

Graduation was fun, and my family drove from Texas to see me graduate. I also gave them an extensive tour of Kansas City and the surrounding areas. Even though graduation was great, the Missouri Bar Exam was never far from my mind. Because Zach and I recognize how important it is that we do well on our bar exams, we both starting preparing on our own about a week before our bar prep classes started.

Despite the fact that preparing for the bar has taken up most of our attention, we were able to line up a post-bar internship that will allow us to gain experience representing clients, particularly in the area of immigration law. Last summer, I worked at Diocesan Migrant and Refugee Services (DMRS) in the trial/defense unit in El Paso, Texas. DMRS is a nonprofit organization that helps low income people navigate the immigration process. They offer their legal services for free or at a heavily discounted price, depending on each client’s needs. By interning at DMRS, Zach and I will be able to work together in several different immigration areas. In particular, we will be representing clients that are facing deportation, and representing clients that are applying for visas. In light of the violence in Mexico, there is also a strong possibility that we will represent clients that are seeking asylum.

We believe there are a lot of things we can learn from DMRS, and we hope to use what we learn in El Paso to help our clients here in Kansas and Missouri. I firmly believe that if you want to understand something, you need to learn it from the people that have been doing it for a while, even if it means that you have to work for free. It looks like we will be in El Paso from late August to the end of October. I am positive that it will be a great chance to gain experience while providing help to people who need it.