Learning how to network as a law student

“It’s all about who you know.”

Libby Rohr

I am certain at some point in your life you have come in contact with this old cliché. In a field as small as the law, getting to know other people is important. This happens through networking, a fancy name for building industry relationships and a reputation. Is it daunting, intimidating and awkward? Yes. But, for all the technical hype and talk about “making connections,” networking boils down to chatting with people about their work, their goals and their lives. It is a lot more about getting to know people and maintaining relationships in your industry than it is about the jargon or boxes to check.

With all of this in mind, here are a few tips to feel more comfortable, have successful conversations, and keep down your personal stress: 

  • Put your best shoes forward: You will learn more about the elusive art of “business casual” as you enter law school, but regardless of what you wear, I have found that feeling put together can go a long way with your confidence. Make sure you leave yourself enough time before an event to get ready without rushing. Brush your teeth, do your hair and put on makeup if you want to. You want to walk out that door feeling really solid about how you are presenting yourself. And, please, wear nice but COMFY shoes!
  • Know who you are and what you like, then talk: You can do this really well and still have NO IDEA what type of attorney you want to be. It is most important to think about what appeals to you about the law, what you like in a work environment, and the classes and areas of law you’re most drawn to. From there, you want to be able to identify as many “whys” for these things as possible. 
    • Once you have a sense of what is important to you, you’ll want to practice talking about it. Career Services can be a great resource in preparing an “elevator pitch” introduction for yourself. Mostly you need to be able to quickly identify what matters to you and offer a few things for another person to ask about or connect over. Be precise with your language so you can be clear and genuine. 
    • Think about it – saying, “I am not certain yet which area I want to go into, but I am drawn to commercial work, and I am loving my contracts class,” has a very different impact than, “I don’t know.”
  • Lawyers are people! They have families, were once in law school, and even have other interests! It is totally OK to ask for advice, ask follow-up questions and ask about their professional stories. Make sure you listen to their answers. It is always more important to connect to the person you’re speaking to than to get out every feature of your resume. 

If this is still foreign or intimidating – which it certainly was for me – KU Law gives you plenty of opportunities to practice networking at Green Hall and beyond. During your 1L year, nationally active and renowned defense firm Shook, Hardy & Bacon offers a networking event, where you can put on your best business casual outfits and get some practice. Various career events including Legal Career Options Day and 1L Mentorship Groups also aid in this endeavor. Practice, put yourself out there and eventually you will get the hang of it!

— By Libby Rohr, a 2L from Kansas City and a KU Law Student Ambassador

First KU Law student accepted as a DAPP Scholar

Gabby Garrison

Gabby Garrison, a first-year student at the University of Kansas School of Law, was recently accepted into the Diverse Attorney Pipeline Program (DAPP) as a scholar. She is the first Jayhawk to receive the honor.

Garrison is a first-generation college student and a non-traditional student. She attended Emporia State University where she received a Bachelor of Arts in English as well as minors in leadership and Spanish. She also worked as the assistant director of admissions for the University of Kansas Honors Program.

DAPP aims to diversify the legal profession by expanding opportunities for women of color, a group underrepresented in the legal field. DAPP provides its scholars with placement assistance, academic support, coaching, counseling, financial assistance, tutoring, workshops, professional development, mentorship and more.

“Being a DAPP Scholar will give me a strong academic foundation I can build on as I continue law school as well as academic tools I can use for future classes,” Garrison said. “It has already given me the confidence to meet with faculty and TAs as I have questions and accountability to iterate on my outlines and a general understanding of each class as I go.”

Garrison does not have any connections to the legal profession and is the first in her family to go to law school. DAPP has helped her bridge the gap by demystifying law school and pushing her to ask questions when she needs help.

The DAPP application process requires assessments of applicants’ undergraduate performance, career goals, plans to positively affect diversity in their law school and the legal field upon graduation, and an interview.

“I chose to apply because I wanted to be part of a national group of first-year women of color law students from different law schools. DAPP has an intensive academic program to ensure success in the first year of law school with the goal to place each scholar in a big law summer position for 1L summer,” Garrison said.

As Garrison continues to navigate her first year of law school, DAPP continues to provide. The program has an active network of women of color, including an advisory board of scholars and new attorneys. All the women have been in similar shoes and value diversity, especially in the eyes of the law.

“Diversity is important to me because our life experiences shape our perspective and approach to solving problems or answering questions,” Garrison said. “Our diverse experiences result in richer conversations that yield unique perspectives and different outcomes to legal questions. We are better students and will be better lawyers for listening and learning through the uncertainties and vulnerability of what considerations each of us makes when answering legal questions.”

Before coming to KU Law, Garrison worked at a healthcare IT company. The experience grew her interest in subjects such as law and technology, privacy, intellectual property, and mergers and acquisitions. Garrison is open-minded to many areas of law and continues to navigate her future. The DAPP Program will be there for her as she continues her law school career.

—By Sarah Pickel

LEAD Program at KU Law

When Makaela Stevens was just a senior in high school, she received an email advertising the Legal Education Accelerated Degree (LEAD) Program. LEAD offers students the opportunity to fast-track their education undergraduate and law school education. Students who apply and are accepted into the LEAD program can earn a bachelor’s degree and a Juris Doctor in six years instead of seven.

Makaela Stevens

The University of Kansas School of Law partners with universities in the state of Kansas, making the LEAD program available to students at the University of Kansas, Kansas State University and Wichita State University.

Stevens is now a second-year law student. She earned her bachelor’s degree from K-State before coming to KU Law as part of the LEAD program.

“The email I received explained that the program was available to me even though I was going to do my undergrad at K-State, and I could still come to KU Law,” Stevens explained. “That was before I was totally sure I wanted to go to law school and I was just tossing the idea around. It sounded like a pretty good deal if decided I did want to pursue law school.”

Stevens went on to apply and was accepted into the program. This provided her with resources and opportunities that she otherwise would not have had throughout her undergraduate career. The program got her more interested and confirmed her decision to study law.  

“It got me really involved once I got to K-State and was in the prelaw program. There were events throughout the year such as a mock law class and visits from KU law professors to ask questions. This was really important to me because, at K-State, they do not have a law school, so it was a great way to meet people and learn more,” Stevens said.

For Stevens, there were many benefits, but one of the biggest was the financial aspect. The LEAD program is non-binding, so she could have chosen a different path with no penalty. When she did decide to go through with the program, the benefit of saving money was huge.

“The financial aspect was really great. It saves a whole year of tuition. I was an English major, so it was relatively easy to squeeze all of my credits into my first three years. Not having to pay that extra year was so helpful,” Stevens said.

There were challenges to the LEAD program, but in Steven’s opinion, they were far outweighed by the benefits.

“For me, I had to work through almost a mental complex of being younger. I don’t think that being younger is a challenge. I think my undergrad major prepared me well, as well as the people I talked to and attorneys I worked with before coming to KU Law, but I had to tell myself that I could do it and I was supposed to be here,” Stevens said.

The LEAD program provides an opportunity to get an early introduction to law school. Stevens believes that it is a choice one will not regret. The program helped her make her decision and in the end, she was able to save money on tuition. For those who choose not to go to law school, the program provides enough exposure to ensure the choice is well-informed.

For more information on the LEAD program, visit the KU Law website.

—By Sarah Pickel

The Top Five places to cry at Green Hall

Law School is TOUGH. It can be overwhelming, exhausting, tiring, shattering and mind-boggling (Have I met my word requirement yet?). While we each have our own way of coping through this process, sometimes the answer is to cry. Crying will not suddenly solve all your problems, but it certainly does release some tasty endorphins.[1] Follow my friends and I on this journey as we discover the top five places to cry at Green Hall!

#5. In Your Car in The Central District Parking Garage[2]

This is a classic spot. The Central District Parking Garage provides an adequate distance from Green Hall and still provides the privacy of being in your own vehicle. Additionally, if you are craving a view, you can park on the top floor of the garage and get a good view of campus.

#4. Study Room 407

Student crying in Mary Ann Mize Dickinson Memorial Garden

Sometimes you need a planned cry. If that is the case, Room 407 is the room for you! Located on the fourth floor of the building, you are guaranteed to enjoy some peace and quiet around you. Additionally, you can book the room at the library front desk to guarantee your spot.

#3. Green Hall Garden

Located right outside of Green Hall, this small garden is the perfect area to be able to enjoy the outside weather while providing a little bit of privacy. With a few plants and the relaxing sound of running water, it is also a great place to eat lunch or answer phone calls.

#2. Wellness Room (212A)

Wow! What a room! The Wellness Room is equipped to provide students a small escape from the stress of law school. Equipped with a comfy couch, a small peaceful fountain, books, essential oils and a yoga ball chair, this room is ready for any emergency you may face.


KU offers a wide variety of programs and resources concerning mental health that often go under-utilized. My SSP provides 24/7 real time confidential support from professional counselors at no cost to you via text or phone call. My SSP also provides articles, assessments and podcasts concerning mental health. My experience at KU Law has shown me that that they do truly care about the mental wellbeing of their students, and I hope to see more people utilize this resource.

[1] Fun Fact: endorphins do not have a taste.

[2] Please ensure you have the proper parking permit to be in this garage.

— By Anshul Banga, 2L from Atlanta and a KU Law Student Ambassador

Hands-on Learning Q&A: Alex Valin, Tribal Judicial Support Clinic

The Tribal Judicial Support Clinic provided Alex Valin hands-on experience working with a sovereign Native Nation. Valin was introduced to an expansive and complex legal field. The opportunity solidified her interest in the area of law and desire to integrate it into her legal studies and future career.

Alex Valin

In the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic at University of Kansas School of Law, students work on research projects for tribal courts. Past projects include tribal code development, legal research, drafting legal memoranda and drafting judicial orders. Clinic students have opportunities to meet with tribal attorneys and judges at tribal headquarters.

Valin shared her experience with the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic at KU Law for a Q&A.

Can you describe what kind of work did while in the program?

During my time, we worked with the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation (Mayetta Kansas) on procedural guidelines for their healing to wellness court, a culturally informed diversion program for qualifying drug offenses.

Were there any specific skills that you developed or improved through this decision?

I learned about how tribal communities are developing best practices to address substance abuse by bringing together community-healing resources with the tribal justice process. Healing to wellness court is informed by a deep commitment to and a strong vision for rehabilitating offenders in a restorative justice process.

How do you think this experience will impact the rest of your time in law school?

The experience was just a small window into the expansive legal world of federal Indian law and tribal law and, for me, opened the door for a follow-up judicial field placement with the Prairie Band Potawatomi Nation. My experience working for a Native Nation continues to inform my interest in other areas of the law, specifically energy and environmental law, by providing an additional lens and layer of nuance with which I approach legal questions.

What has been your favorite part of participating in the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic?

The best part of the clinic was the opportunity to gain practical field work experience with the support of colleagues and faculty in a collaborative environment.

What would you say to law students considering working in the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic?

I encourage anyone interested in learning about the third sovereign to join the Tribal Judicial Support Clinic and gain first-hand legal experience working in Indian country.

This post is the eighth in a series highlighting hands-on learning opportunities at KU Law. Read previous Q&A features to find out more about individual students’ experiences in KU Law’s hands-on learning activities.

—By Sarah Pickel

Hands-On Learning Q&A: Kat Girod, Moot Court

Kat Girod has tested her oral argument skills in competition at the Duberstein Bankruptcy Moot Court Competition through the University of Kansas School of Law Moot Court program. She joined the program last spring and since then has developed her legal research and writing as well as oral argument skills. She plans to continue competing this year, as well as help with KU Law’s In-House Moot Court Competition this fall.

Kat Girod
Kat Girod

The program consistently ranks among the nation’s top 30. In 2022, KU Law’s Moot Court Program ranked 14th nationwide.

“Moot court allows me to do something I enjoy while sharpening skills I know I will use in practice,” Girod said.

Girod shared her experience with the Moot Court Program for a Q&A.

Can you generally describe moot court and what kind of work goes into it?

Moot Court simulates appellate-level advocacy. In the first stage, students write an argumentative brief advocating for one side of an issue. In the second stage, students present oral arguments. Most competitions require students to argue both sides of the issue at least once. Students face off against other teams in a bracket-style competition. To get ready for the competition, Moot Court teams practice oral arguments many, many times. Typically, teams serve as practice judges for each other. That way, everyone has a chance to practice in front of a “bench” of judges before the actual competition.

Are there specific skills you have developed or improved through this experience?

Through Moot Court, I improved my legal research, legal writing and oral argumentation skills. I also became more confident as an advocate through the experience. At the competition, practitioners, sitting judges, retired judges and law professors serve as the judges for the rounds of oral arguments. Standing up in front of them to deliver oral arguments was scary! But, after competing, I was proud of how we performed, thanks to the preparation my team and I did. 

How do you think this experience will impact the rest of your time in law school?

Moot Court allows me to do something I enjoy while sharpening skills I know I will use in practice. 

What has been your favorite part of participating in Moot Court?

I love being part of the Moot Court community and am excited to continue to connect with other students in the program. Also, Professor Stephen Ware serves as our coach. It has been really fun and such a privilege to work so closely with a professor, especially in one of his areas of expertise! Professor Ware also arranged practices for our team with bankruptcy attorneys from his network. I was very grateful to meet and learn from his network of colleagues.

What would you say to law students considering joining Moot Court?

Moot Court requires a lot of time and effort, but the experience is well worth it.  You grow as a student, as an advocate, and as a member of a team. 

This post is the seventh in a series highlighting hands-on learning opportunities at KU Law. Stay tuned for more student experiences in clinics, field placements and experiential learning programs.

Read previous Q&A features with:

Peyton Weatherbie, Elder Law Field Placement Program

Lauren Stahl, Transactional Law Competition

Kristen Andrews, Field Placement Program

Joan Lee, Mock Trial

Richard Weber, Medical-Legal Partnership

Dylan Dupre, Judicial Field Placement

—By Sarah Pickel