Raj Bhala selected for Department of State speaker program

Law professor also honored in ’50 Kansans You Should Know’

A University of Kansas law professor will offer expertise on a variety of trade issues through the U.S. Speaker Program.

Professor Raj Bhala
Raj Bhala, Brenneisen Distinguished Professor

Raj Bhala, the Brenneisen Distinguished Professor at the KU School of Law, teaches international and comparative law courses, and is among the world’s foremost authorities in international trade law. He was asked to join the program because of his scholarship, teaching and experience in areas including international trade law, Islamic law, and India, and on cross-cutting, vital issues of law and policy concerning China. His insights from his work at the KU School of Law in International Law and Literature also may help advance our nation’s public diplomacy goals.

Sponsored by the U.S. Department of State Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs, the U.S. Speaker Program makes available distinguished expertise to overseas groups in partnership with American embassies around the world. As the U.S. Speaker Program’s Fact Sheet indicates, the program “recruits dynamic American experts to engage international audiences on topics of strategic importance to the United States.” 

“It is a great honor, and very humbling, to be asked by the State Department to provide impactful presentations to key audiences around the world on some of the major issues of our time,” Bhala said. “I look forward to this responsibility, serving as a two-way Ambassador between my fantastic students here at KU Law and those important audiences, and to gaining insights for my scholarly publications and sharing them overseas.”

Presentations are both in-person and remote via tools such as Zoom, covering “topics of strategic importance to the United States,” according to the program’s fact sheet. Audiences include public and private sector officials, academics, students and the media.

The U.S. Speaker Program Department conducts approximately 650 programs annually consisting of workshops, lectures, seminars and consultations. These events not only help “share ideas and information,” but also “build and sustain relationships with foreign audiences,” according to the program description.

’50 Kansans You Should Know’

Raj was also recently honored as one of Ingram’s Magazine’s “50 Kansans You Should Know.” Now in its 10th year, “50 Kansans You Should Know” recognizes Kansas area residents “for their over-sized contributions to business success, civic engagement, philanthropic zeal and shared interest in moving their communities forward.”

Raj was recognized for a teaching style that “brings to his students a blend of insight, experience, rhetoric and oratory (laced with references to Shakespeare) that helps them break down barriers erected by cultures, religions, economic systems and political structures,” according to the article.

Bhala joined the KU Law faculty in 2003. He teaches courses including Advanced International Trade Law, International Law and Literature, and Islamic Law (Sharī‘a). Bhala is a senior advisor for Dentons U.S. LLP and writes a monthly “On Point” column for BloombergQuint (Mumbai). He is frequently asked by media outlets to share expertise on international trade law, with recent appearances in Fortune, PolitiFact, the Los Angeles Times and NPR’s Marketplace.

In 2017, Ingram’s Magazine selected his wife, Dr. Kara Tan Bhala, who earned her Ph.D. in philosophy at KU in 2009, as one of the “50 Kansans You Should Know,” making Raj and Kara among the first KU Law couples to receive the award.

— By Margaret Hair

Gaining practical experience through KU Law Legal Corps

Second-year law student Natasha Veenis

This summer, I had the great opportunity to intern for the Kansas Legal Services (KLS) in their Wichita, Kansas office. KLS is a non-profit organization that gives legal aid to the most vulnerable Kansans. Since you can only receive a court-appointed attorney for criminal cases, the KLS organization provides legal aid for a vast array of civil cases.

At KLS, I interned under Danielle Saunders and focused primarily on domestic, family, juvenile, adoption and social security legal issues. During my time at KLS, I was able to participate in the weekly Protection From Abuse (PFA) docket, attend virtual and in-person court hearings, draft and edit legal documents, communicate with clients, and strengthen my research and writing skills. In addition, toward the end of my internship my time was mainly spent on assisting with the upcoming 3-day trial in August. Preparation for trial involved drafting and sending interrogatories, creating deposition notebooks, attending depositions, issuing business record subpoenas, attending the mandatory settlement conference, attending the pretrial conference hearing, creating trial notebooks, creating demonstrative exhibits for trial, and attending the trial from start to finish. This trial not only gave me an opportunity to see civil procedure applied, but also gave me a firsthand look at issues of evidence and criminal procedure, classes I will take this coming fall. Overall, my internship was packed with lots of learning and applying my 1L legal knowledge and research skills towards cases.

Before this summer, I was not sure what type of law I wanted to practice. But this internship revealed to me that my passion rests in advocating for those who feel voiceless and striving to give them the justice they deserve. Particularly, I am interested in pursuing a career in family law with a focus on domestic and sexual assault victims because I loved working on cases where I felt I was really making a difference.

Lastly, this internship definitely taught me valuable professional skills and life lessons that will help me going forward. One of the professional skills being that organization is key to having a balanced work-life schedule. If you have an organized plan for each case, you are far less likely to feel overwhelmed with your cases. Another professional skill being that kindness towards clerks, attorneys, judges, and clients in this profession can make a world of difference and will never be forgotten. One life lesson gained is to celebrate the small victories, because in the end they all contribute to the big victories!

— By 2L Natasha Veenis

KU Law student participates in 1L LCLD Scholars Program

Rising 2L Natalie Nelson participated in the 1L LCLD Scholars program this summer.

Natalie Nelson participated in the Leadership Council on Legal Diversity (LCLD)’s annual Scholars Program this summer. The program is designed to expand the number of opportunities available to diverse first-year law students.

Nelson was the first in her family to go to law school. Upon graduation, Nelson looks forward to becoming a first-generation female attorney.

Students from over 100 law schools across the nation participate in the program and work with attorneys from Fortune 500 legal departments and Am Law 350 law firms.

“I chose to apply for the 1L LCLD Scholars program because I believed in the vision of the LCLD network and felt that, if given the opportunity, it would have a significant impact on my future career,” Nelson said.

LCLD scholars participate in a summer internship and attend a Scholars Summit event. Nelson was a summer associate at Stinson LLP in Kansas City, Missouri.

“I have been working with truly incredible people and have enjoyed every second of it,” Nelson said. “I am not sure I could ask for more.”

Due to COVID-19, the in-person 1L LCLD Scholars Summit in Atlanta was canceled. Instead, four virtual meetings about career development were held throughout the summer. The program adapted by hosting smaller Zoom sessions and creating a LinkedIn page for students to continue to network with one another and the supporting organizations.

Rising 2L Natalie Nelson participates in KU Law’s Legal Career Options Day event in 2019. Photo by Andy White/KU Marketing Communications.

Through the 1L LCLD Scholars program, Nelson has gained valuable legal experiences.

“I hope to continue learning how to communicate and network with others, especially in an online environment,” Nelson said.

Nelson said that the most rewarding part of the program was meeting like-minded law students, attorneys and staff.

“It is amazing how much you learn just by creating a space for conversation and being willing to have a growth mindset,” Nelson said. “Although this sounds simple, and perhaps cliché, it really has been rewarding even just listening.”

Nelson is originally from Highland Village, Texas. She earned an undergraduate degree in medical humanities from Baylor University in Waco, Texas.

At KU Law, Nelson is the vice president of the Sports Law Society and a member of the Federal Bar Association. In the fall, she will be a Shook, Hardy & Bacon Scholar and teaching assistant for lawyering skills classes.

Nelson ultimately plans to use her law degree to pursue a career in transactional law, but she is keeping her mind open to new opportunities that might come her way.

— By Ashley Golledge

Judge retires after 27 years on the bench

Judge Steve Leben, L’82, retired after a 27-year judicial career. Photo courtesy of Judge Steve Leben.

Kansas Court of Appeals Judge Steve Leben, L’82, retired his judicial robes and gavel on June 26.

Leben’s judicial career spanned 27 years. Most recently, he served as a judge on the Kansas Court of Appeals for the past 13 years. Previously, he was a district judge at the Johnson County District Court for 14 years.

Prior to his judicial career, Leben worked in private practice for 11 years.

“I didn’t really plan to be a judge, but that was the primary part of my career,” Leben said. “I wouldn’t want to change that for anything.”

In addition to his time on the bench, Leben has taught at the University of Kansas School of Law as an adjunct faculty member since 2007. At KU Law, he has taught Legislation & Statutory Interpretation for 13 years and taught Evidence for three years.

“I’ve taught part-time at KU since 2007,” Leben said. “I’ve enjoyed that thoroughly.”

Leben is originally from El Dorado, Kansas. He graduated from the University of Kansas with a degree in journalism in 1978 and with a Juris Doctor in 1982.

Judge Steve Leben received the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence from the National Center for State Courts in 2014 for his work on improving fairness in U.S. courts. Leben (right) is pictured with his wife, Dr. Ann Warner, and U.S. Supreme Court Chief Justice John G. Roberts, Jr. Photo courtesy of Judge Steve Leben.

Judicial fairness

Throughout his judicial career, Leben used his platform to help promote judicial fairness throughout the country. He co-authored a white paper on procedural fairness for the American Judges Association in 2007 with Minnesota trial judge Kevin Burke. The pair have made presentations in 20 states to more than 2,500 state and federal judges.

He received the William H. Rehnquist Award for Judicial Excellence from the National Center for State Courts in 2014 for his work on improving fairness in U.S. courts. Leben also co-founded proceduralfairness.org, a website devoted to procedural fairness in courts.

“I think that work has been significant in helping judges focus on something that can really improve the experience that people have with their justice system,” Leben said.

He also edited a national quarterly publication for judges, Court Review, for 20 years.

“Court Review let me shape the national agenda of what other judges were thinking about,” Leben said. “I helped focus judges nationally on making sure people feel fairly treated as they go through the court system.”

Judge Steve Leben received the Robert K. “Weary” Award from the Kansas Bar Foundation in 2019. Leben co-founded a CLE program called Ethics For Good in 2000 with Mark Hinderks, L’82, and former KU Law Professor Stan Davis. Photo courtesy of the Kansas Bar Foundation.

Professional service, scholarship

Leben served as president of the American Judges Association from 2006 to 2007 and has held several roles in the Kansas Bar Association and American Bar Association. Leben has taught more than 100 accredited Continuing Legal Education (CLE) programs.

Twenty-one years ago, Leben co-founded a CLE program called Ethics For Good with Mark Hinderks, L’82, and former KU Law Professor Stan Davis. They received the Robert K. “Weary” Award in 2019, which recognizes lawyers or law firms for exemplary service and commitment to the goals of the Kansas Bar Foundation. The program has raised more than $750,000 in donations to various nonprofit organizations.

Leben has received many national service awards throughout his career, including the Distinguished Service Award from the National Center for State Courts in 2003. From the American Judges Association, he received the Harold V. Froehlich Award for Judicial Courage in 2016 and the Chief Justice Richard W. Holmes Award of Merit in 2017.

He has also published 15 law review articles in the areas of procedural justice, administrative law, civil procedure, family law and evidence. His scholarly publications have been cited by state and federal courts in Kansas and in more than 75 law journal articles by other authors.

Judge Steve Leben speaks with students at a KU Law event in 2019. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

Plans for the future

After 27 years on the bench, Leben is ready to start the next chapter of his life. In the fall, he will teach full-time at the University of Missouri-Kansas City School of Law as a visiting professor. Leben will teach Criminal Law, Appellate Advocacy and Legislation.

“I am very much excited about doing teaching full-time,” Leben said. “I don’t believe I would have the opportunity to teach full-time at any law school if I hadn’t had the opportunity to hone my teaching skills at KU. I am very grateful to Dean [Stephen] Mazza and his predecessors for giving me that chance.”

In addition to his appointment at UMKC Law, Leben intends to continue teaching a summer Evidence class at KU Law for the foreseeable future.

— By Ashley Golledge

KU Law alumna dedicates career to public service, advocacy

Emily Warr, L’14
Photo by Joy Asico / Asico Photo.

Since graduating from KU Law in 2014, Emily Warr has dedicated her legal career to public service and advocacy. Warr has provided legal representation for low-income clients as a public defender, worked as a contract attorney on a large hospital settlement and helped develop innovative projects in public interest law.

She spent her first year out of law school working as an independent contract attorney at MultiCare Health System in Tacoma, Washington. She simultaneously worked as an overflow and conflicts attorney at the Mason County Public Defender’s Office in Mason County, Washington. Then, she spent two years as a public defender at the Yakima County Department of Assigned Counsel in Yakima County, Washington.

After three years of working in public defense, Warr moved cross-country in 2018 to become a portfolio manager at Equal Justice Works in Washington, D.C. At Equal Justice Works, Warr managed Fellows working in public interest law on topics, such as immigration, indigenous peoples’ rights, prison reform, prisoners’ rights and environmental justice. She also helped grow the Fellowship program and expanded the Midwest fundraising base.

Most recently, Warr enrolled as a doctorate student in the Post-Baccalaureate Doctor of Nursing Program at Columbia University in New York. She began studies in psychiatric mental health in June 2020.

Warr’s time as a public defender inspired her to reflect on the criminal system, return to school and pursue a career as a nurse practitioner in psychiatric mental health.

“I really loved being a public defender, and it was a lot of the issues that I care the most about represented in the criminal system,” Warr said. “Part of my caseload was working on mental health and substance use cases in civil courts and criminal courts. I was on the psychiatric unit a lot, which made me think about becoming a nurse practitioner in psychiatric mental health.”

Upon her completion of the 2.5 year program at Columbia University, Warr hopes to start restorative justice practices as alternatives to incarceration. She hopes to establish Yakima, Washington as one of many places around the country turning to restorative justice as an alternative to prosecution and possible imprisonment.

Warr – who is a Washington native – has a special connection to the city of Yakima. She was born there and has family that still live there. She grew up nearby in Puyallup.

“There are some places doing restorative justice practices in New York and in Washington, D.C., but I don’t know if there are any in Yakima,” she said. “If I could start them in Yakima, I would. I feel like I know I can dedicate my time there.”

Warr earned an undergraduate degree in sociology from Seattle Pacific University in 2009. While in college, Warr sparked a passion for public service and advocacy.

“I came out as a lesbian when I was in undergrad. I was at a university that was not very accepting of that,” Warr said. “A small group of us came out during our time there, banded together and created our own group that the campus would not approve of. I feel like that impacted my desire to be an advocate going forward.”

A few years after undergrad, Warr decided to pursue a law degree at KU because, “it felt like a place where I could get really good experience in areas that I wanted to work in.” While at KU Law, Warr was the president of Law Students for Reproductive Justice. She was also president of OUTLaws & Allies, a student organization for LGBTQ students and their allies that seeks to educate the community at large about the issues and concerns specific to the LGBTQ community.

“There were multiple things that I knew I was interested in doing as an attorney around reproductive justice and LGBTQ rights,” Warr said. “I felt like Kansas was really an epicenter of some of the things that were going on in this country, especially at that time in reproductive rights.”

From the KU Law faculty and administration, Warr cultivated her interest and love of public interest law. “The faculty and staff at KU made all the difference,” she said.

Professor Emeritus Sandra McKenzie, who retired in 2015, was a dedicated and highly regarded teacher. Warr said McKenzie was known for her accessibility to students and open-door policy.

“She was a big advocate for OUTLaws & Allies and always had us over for Thanksgiving. She showed us how to be an advocate, whether you’re practicing in public interest or not,” Warr said. “She was wonderful and very supportive.”

Assistant Dean for Academic and Student Affairs Leah Terranova was also impactful to Warr’s time in Green Hall.

“Leah was a really big public interest advocate. She tried to help me navigate finding internships and connected me with people,” Warr said. “She was very helpful and got me to think outside the box.”

— By Ashley Golledge

Graduate Profile: Brett Sitts, L’20

Brett Sitts
Brett Sitts, L’20

Active student took on law school with an open mind

For students considering law school, Brett Sitts has this advice: “Keep an open mind and stay true to yourself.”

That’s how Sitts, who graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law in May, tackled his time in Green Hall.

One of his favorite experiences at KU Law was clerking for the Paul E. Wilson Project for Innocence & Post-Conviction Remedies. Sitts doesn’t plan to practice criminal law, but he gained valuable writing and speaking skills from supervising attorney Alice Craig, and “learned so much from the experience,” he said.

“I was grateful to have an exceptional partner in Terra Brockman – we made a lot of progress in our cases,” Sitts said. “We worked well together and the experience taught the ever important idea that two minds are better than one.”

Sitts, who is from McPherson, earned his undergraduate degree in communication studies and political science from Kansas State University. As the first person in his family to attend a graduate program, Sitts wanted to go to a law school that was supportive of first-generation professionals.

“Law school is hard in general for anyone no matter the circumstances, but having no prior knowledge in my family about what to except was frightening,” he said. “I felt at ease when I visited KU Law – I knew the law school would believe in me and help me grow throughout my three years.”

Sitts was active in several student organizations during his time at KU Law. With the Student Bar Association, he served as class president for his 1L and 3L classes, and executive board treasurer during his 2L year. He also competed in the Texas Young Lawyer Association’s National Mock Trial Competition; participated in the International Law Society; and was student appointee to the law school’s Academic Affairs Committee.

Through simulation courses and clinics, Sitts built a skill set that prepared him for his first job out of law school.

“During my 2L and 3L years I learned how to: draft contracts, take depositions, litigate a full trial, draft pleadings, and negotiate a multi-million dollar sale. Learning these skills in a low-stakes environment is invaluable,” he said.

Brett Sitts participates in a Deposition Skills simulation course with Jasmin Townsend.
Brett Sitts, left, L’20, and Jasmin Townsend, L’20, participate in the Deposition Skills simulation course in January 2020. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

From the KU Law faculty, Sitts gained practical skills and career advice. Professor Lumen Mulligan helped Sitts transform his writing abilities and understand contract law and the Uniform Commercial Code. Mulligan also offered advice, “whether it be law school-related or not,” Sitts said. Taking Dean Stephen Mazza’s course on Federal Income Taxation was also impactful.

“The class is arguably the hardest class I have ever taken in my life, but I know the IRS code now thanks to Dean Mazza. I recommend everyone take it because let’s be honest, tax is involved with everything,” Sitts said. “Additionally, Dean Mazza was always willing to make a call to someone when I was looking for employment. He was always there for me, and I really appreciate it.”

After taking the Kansas bar exam in July, Sitts plans to start work at Hite, Fanning, and Honeyman LLP in Wichita as an associate attorney.

— By Margaret Hair

This post is the eighth is a series highlighting just a few of the exceptional members of the Class of 2020. Check out previous stories about Denise Dantzler, Cara Beck, Terra Brockman, Harrison Rosenthal, Sasha Raab, Tara Mollhagen Shepherd and TJ Blake.

Graduate Profile: TJ Blake, L’20

TJ Blake
TJ Blake, L’20

Student succeeds with engagement outside the classroom

TJ Blake took a tireless approach to law school.

From spending late nights preparing for moot court competitions to serving as managing editor for the Kansas Law Review, Blake found success in engaging in activities outside the classroom.

“Law school is exhausting – but it’s also incredibly rewarding,” said Blake, who graduated from the University of Kansas School of Law in May.

The effort paid off – he and competition partner Andi Leuszler, L’20, won the KU Law In-House Moot Court Competition at the end of their second year, earning them a chance to compete on the school’s national moot court team.

“It was so satisfying to know that the late nights that Andi and I had spent obsessively preparing had been worth it,” Blake said. “The competition was obviously a success, but more than that, it was so fulfilling to take a step back and realize I’d made a lifelong friend in the process.”

TJ Blake presents an argument in the KU Law courtroom
TJ Blake presents an argument during the 2019 In-House Moot Court Competition Final Round. Photo by Andy White/KU Marketing Communications.

Originally from Hutchinson, Blake earned his undergraduate degrees at KU in political science and strategic communications in 2017.

When he decided to make the leap to law school, he took a self-assessment of his career goals and personal priorities. Blake and his husband, Tucker, are both Kansas natives, and knew “there’s no place like home,” Blake said. Still, he needed to make sure KU Law would fit his professional needs.

“After seeking advice from personal mentors, speaking with alumni about their experiences, and spending a day observing the academically competitive, yet friendly, environment of Green Hall, it became clear that KU Law had the resources and community to facilitate my success,” Blake said. “After that point, the decision was simple.”

Blake valued the team of professors who helped him succeed through law school. He credits professors Laura Hines and Lumen Mulligan for pushing him to continuously improve. Clinical Professor Elizabeth Cateforis – who worked with Blake as a team coach for national moot court competitions – “ended up being one of the most valuable life coaches I could have ever asked for,” he said.

“One of the best aspects of KU Law is the diversity of strengths in the faculty team. Because law school challenges you in a way that most people haven’t experienced before, you need a team of professors to help provide resources for your success,” Blake said.

In addition to participating in the National Criminal Procedure Tournament and the Hunton Andrews Kurth Moot Court National Championship in the past year, Blake published an article for the Kansas Law Review, titled “In Their Words: Critically Analyzing the Admission of ‘Me Too’ Testimony in Kansas.” He was also a member of OUTLaws & Allies, and participated in Traffic Court and Moot Court Council.

After taking the bar exam, Blake will join the Kansas City, Missouri law firm Bryan Cave Leighton Paiser, where he was a summer associate for the past two years.

He advises future law students to go into the experience as a blank slate.

“What you know – or think you know – about the law is about to completely change. Don’t be hard on yourself if/when you don’t find immediate success; law school comes to everyone at different speeds,” he said. “Challenge yourself to ask questions, pursue answers, and accept that ‘it depends,’ is almost always the end result. Enjoy being in an environment that celebrates hard work, competition, and continual academic development.”

“At times, this might feel like the longest three years of your life – but at the end, I think you’ll be glad you pushed through.”

— By Margaret Hair

This post is the seventh is a series highlighting just a few of the exceptional members of the Class of 2020. Check out previous stories about Denise Dantzler, Cara Beck, Terra Brockman, Harrison Rosenthal, Sasha Raab and Tara Mollhagen Shepherd, and stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.

Graduate Profile: Tara Mollhagen Shepherd, L’20

Tara A. Mollhagen Shepherd, L’20

Exemplary student to pursue career in business and tax law

Tara A. Mollhagen Shepherd, L’20, plans to use what she learned in the classroom at the University of Kansas School of Law to succeed at a career in business and tax law.

“I’m excited to start a career in business and tax law because those areas leverage my prior work experience and education with my new education and experiences at KU Law,” Mollhagen Shepherd said.

Through practical courses such as Deals and Contract Drafting, Mollhagen Shepherd will be able to translate the business and tax law skills and knowledge she learned into her practice.

“My favorite classes were the practical courses that utilized the substantive materials from traditional courses to tie into practice,” Mollhagen Shepherd said. “The combination of the two allow me to, for example, know the significance of provisions in a contract and know how to communicate the changes I made to a precedent to my supervising attorney.”

Mollhagen Shepherd fondly recalls workshopping ideas and theories with study partners during her time in Green Hall. She said that she met fantastic people at KU Law who opened her mind to new ways to analyze problems.

“I had confidants that I would spend hours agonizing over topics and substantive materials with, and my favorite moments are the moments where the information clicks with the study buddy or with me because we were sharing together,” Mollhagen Shepherd said.

During her law school journey, Mollhagen Shepherd found value in the relationships she formed with her peers and professors.

“The community is the best part of KU Law — the gems you meet both in the faculty and student body,” she said.

Mollhagen Shepherd gained legal experience through participation in a variety of student organizations at KU Law. She served as president of the Business and Tax Law Society; volunteer and co-coordinator of the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Clinic (VITA); and staff editor and business manager of the Kansas Journal of Law and Public Policy.

“VITA allows students to help the community by assisting low income individuals file their tax returns,” Mollhagen Shepherd said. “With COVID-19 this year, tax returns were vital to helping some of our patrons navigate through the pandemic with both refunds and updating their information for the relief payments.”

Tara Mollhagen Shepherd, L’20, was a runner-up in the elite invitation-only “The Closer” National Transactional Law Competition on January 16-19, 2020. Photo by Eric Guel Photography.

Mollhagen Shepherd was a runner-up in the elite invitation-only “The Closer” National Transactional Law Competition at Baylor Law School on January 16-19, 2020. At the competition, participants competed solo, rather in the teams usually seen in student transactional law contests. Mollhagen Shepherd competed against students from 11 law schools nationwide, which were selected for this year’s competition. Volunteer coach Bill Quick accompanied her at the competition in Waco, Texas, and reported she distinguished herself in terms of skill, knowledge, professionalism and collegiality.

For demonstrating excellence in the practice of corporation and securities law throughout the past three years, Mollhagen Shepherd was recently awarded the Robert E. Edmond Prize in Corporation and Securities Law.

Originally from Wichita, Mollhagen Shepherd graduated from Wichita State University magna cum laude in 2014 with undergraduate degrees in business administration and accounting. She has also been a member of the Kansas and American Societies of Certified Public Accountants since 2009.

Mollhagen Shepherd spent three years working as a senior associate at BKD, LLP CPAs and Advisors in Wichita after graduating from Wichita State. In this role, Mollhagen Shepherd managed accounts, prepared tax returns and trained new tax preparers on software.

During law school, she gained practical, hands-on experience through a Judicial Field Placement with the Hon. Robert D. Berger at the District of Kansas’ Bankruptcy Court and an Elder Law Field Placement with Kansas Legal Services. She also did a summer internship at Bever Dye LC in 2018 and served as a summer law clerk in Washington, D.C. at the Internal Revenue Service’s Office of Chief Counsel in 2019.

After studying for the bar exam this summer, Mollhagen Shepherd will begin her legal career at Bever Dye LC in Wichita. Bever Dye is a business and tax law firm.

“Tax law constantly changes to meet the needs of our nation and its people. I find the diverse public policy initiatives we manage to get into the tax code fascinating,” she said. “I look forward to seeing our country develop.”

— By Ashley Golledge

This post is the sixth is a series highlighting just a few of the exceptional members of the Class of 2020. Check out stories about Denise DantzlerCara BeckTerra Brockman, Harrison Rosenthal and Sasha Raab. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.

Graduate Profile: Sasha Raab, L’20

Sasha Raab, L’20

Nontraditional student balances law school, being a mom

When Sasha Raab sat for the Law School Admission Test (LSAT), her daughter Edith was six weeks old. Now, Raab is wrapping up her law school career in the top 10% of her class and Edith is 3 years old.

Raab was able to balance law school and parenting a young child with the help of her family nearby and her law school support system.

“The best part of going to law school at KU was the people, from the fellow students and professors to the administration. Everyone is always so kind, encouraging and involved,” Raab said. “I have enjoyed making lifelong friends.”

The juggling act between being a mother and law student is a demanding job, but Raab still found time to get involved.

Raab was president of Jewish Legal Society, Head Dean’s Fellow and executive comment editor for the Kansas Law Review. Raab dedicated herself to her work. She went above and beyond in each of these roles to contribute to the experience of her peers in Green Hall.

While serving as president of Jewish Legal Society, Raab helped organize a panel on anti-Semitism. The panel was a Blue Out event, which urged students to stand in solidarity against hatred by wearing blue.

“My favorite part about serving as president of Jewish Legal Society was bringing people together to discuss important topics,” Raab said. “It was a timely and worthwhile discussion. I was proud to be a part of a team that worked hard to make it happen quickly as a response to the Pittsburgh synagogue shooting.”

During her time in Green Hall, she has also provided free legal assistance to the community through participation in the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals Renewal Clinic and helped prepare tax returns through the Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. Additionally, Raab represented KU at the Interscholastic Transactional Law Competition in Durham, North Carolina in March.

Sasha and Edith Raab participate in a Dean’s Fellows event at the KU Natural History Museum. Photo by Ashley Golledge.

Raab’s favorite law school memory was attending a Dean’s Fellows event the night before fall orientation.

“The first year, my friend Joy Merklen brought her daughter too and we let them have a play date at the Spencer Museum of Art while we met our small section,” Raab said. “The next two years I attended as a Dean’s Fellow and continued to bring Edith with me. I loved meeting all the new faces and making that connection with the entering class.”

Raab is originally from Stilwell, Kansas. She received an associate’s degree from Johnson County Community College in 2013. She graduated summa cum laude from Park University in 2015 with a bachelor’s degree in business administration and management. Then, she spent two years in the workforce before coming to law school.

“At the time, I was an administrative assistant for the legal department at Cerner Corporation and one of the executives I supported was a KU Law alumnus. He reached out to Dean Stephen Mazza on my behalf, and I heard from Dean Mazza almost immediately,” Raab said. “This made such a great impression on me.”

Raab enjoyed the opportunity to take experiential learning courses and gain practical know-how before pursuing a career in business law.

“I have enjoyed all the classes at KU Law, but of course I tend to gravitate towards more transactional, business and tax law topics,” she said. “After taking Business Associations, I felt even more passionate about my choice to practice business law and then I took every class I could that related to transactional, business and tax law.”

Raab advises prospective law students to find their intellectual passions.

“While in law school, find opportunities to improve your writing, researching, and advocacy skills,” Raab said. “Take advantage of anything that strikes your passion for the law and challenges you in new ways.”

Raab’s countless hours of hard work and sacrifice paid off. Raab received the Law Class of 1949 Award for Leadership, which is given annually to the student who, in the opinion of the faculty, contributed most significantly to the overall experience of the students in Green Hall.

After graduation, she will practice business law as an associate at Payne and Jones, Chartered in Overland Park.

“I am excited to pursue a career in business law because I get to combine my undergraduate studies and legal studies to help entrepreneurs achieve their goals,” Raab said.

— By Ashley Golledge

This post is the fifth is a series highlighting just a few of the exceptional members of the Class of 2020. Check out stories about Denise Dantzler, Cara Beck, Terra Brockman and Harrison Rosenthal. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.

Graduate Profile: Harrison Rosenthal, L’20

Harrison Rosenthal
Harrison Rosenthal, L’20

Dual-degree student pursues law, journalism and well-being

On the way to earning KU degrees in law and journalism, recent graduate Harrison Rosenthal made well-being a priority.

In 2018, he founded the Mindfulness in Law Society of the University of Kansas, a student organization that aims to improve law students’ well-being through mindful practice. He also served as the student representative to the Kansas Task Force for Lawyer Well-Being, an effort by the Kansas Supreme Court that focuses on law student and attorney wellness. In that role, he created a wellness survey that will be distributed across the state to help collect information and further the mission of well-being in the bar.

“Law school is an interesting experience,” Rosenthal said. “The key to success is (1) finding what makes you happy and (2) pursuing that thing. Life is too short not to do what you love.”

Rosenthal graduates this month with a Juris Doctor from the University of Kansas School of Law. He will complete his doctoral degree from KU’s William Allen White School of Journalism & Mass Communications in May 2021.

Originally from Overland Park, Rosenthal earned his undergraduate degree in journalism from KU in 2017. He decided to attend KU Law because of the school’s joint degree program in law and journalism.

“KU is among a handful of American universities offering joint communication-law degree programs through independent schools of journalism and law,” Rosenthal said. “The opportunity to pursue graduate and post-graduate education with expert faculty, and lead the vanguard into an important and dynamic field, made KU an obvious choice for my legal education.”

While pursuing his degrees, Rosenthal completed several internships and clerkships, and has published several pieces. He interned for the American Civil Liberties Union of Kansas. He clerked for the Seventh and Tenth Judicial Districts of Kansas and for the Kansas Court of Appeals.

His paper “Viewpoint Conditioning: Social Media Use, Political Self-Efficacy, and First Amendment Perceptions” was accepted for presentation this spring at a conference hosted by the Association for Education in Journalism and Mass Communication (AEJMC). Rosenthal also serves as an officer for the AEJMC Law & Policy Division, where he writes a regular column. He has a book chapter titled “(Non)existent Laws of Workplace Cyberbullying: Limitations of Legal Redress in a Digitized Market” in press with IGI Global.

Rosenthal’s most enduring law school memory is of the KU Law community’s response to tragedy. In October 2018, the Jewish Legal Society organized a Blue Out event in response to a shooting at a Pittsburgh synagogue. The group urged students to stand in solidarity against hatred by wearing blue, and hosted a lunchtime panel discussion with academics and leaders from the Lawrence and Kansas City Jewish communities. Rosenthal served as vice president of the Jewish Legal Society.

“The outpouring of support was inspiring. The entire law school, from student leaders to administrators, came together to support a deeply personal and important cause. This is both my favorite law school memory and a thing of aspiration for the organized bar,” Rosenthal said. 

Several professors and administrators impacted Rosenthal during his time at KU Law, he said.

“By minimizing power differentials and treating pupils as future colleagues, the best teachers empower students with agency and autonomy such that students become excited to pursue their passions,” Rosenthal said.

After graduation, Rosenthal plans to focus on passing the bar exam, finishing his doctoral dissertation and finding a job he’s passionate about.

— By Margaret Hair

This post is the fourth is a series highlighting just a few of the exceptional members of the Class of 2020. Check out previous stories about Denise Dantzler, Cara Beck and Terra Brockman, and stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.