Hands-On Learning: Richard Weber, Medical-Legal Partnership Field Placement

Richard Weber

This past summer, Richard Weber participated in Medical Legal Aid at the University of Kansas Health System at KU Medical Center in Kansas City through the Field Placement Program. The experience gave him the opportunity to put what he learned in his first year at the University of Kansas School of Law into action with clients on several different types of legal issues including citizenship, housing, and employment discrimination.

The KU School of Law Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) is a collaboration between the KU School of Law and two health systems: The University of Kansas Health System at KU Medical Center in Kansas City, and LMH Health in Lawrence. Under the supervision of experienced MLP attorneys, students assist in providing free transactional legal assistance to low-income patients and their families.

“The Medical-Legal Partnership Field Placement allowed me to get out of the books and apply what I’ve learned to help real people in real situations. I was exposed to a variety of different legal areas and people, giving me a healthy dose of what I might expect upon graduation,” Weber said.

Weber shared his experience with the Change to Medical-Legal Partnership Field Placement for a Q&A.

Would you describe the type of work you did through the field placement?

What didn’t I do in this field placement? I talked to clients about legal issues they were facing, tried to suss out any potential problems or critical details, drafted petitions, proposed judgments, conducted research, and observed in court.

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

You talk with potential clients every day, so whether you mean to or not, you learn how to interact with people who are going through some of the worst moments of their lives. I’ve always been decent at ‘customer service,’ but this experience sharpened my ability to not only listen and let others feel heard but not let the emotions of the situation cloud my judgment and job. There may be an urge to tell them, ‘everything will be fine’ or ‘we can help you with this’ but in reality, you need to be aware that might not be the case and learn how to navigate and set expectations.

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

This experience has stressed what a difference two letters at the end of my name can make (J.D.). There is a great opportunity to take that title and help navigate someone through what can be a painfully unfair, biased system. I should never take for granted what I’m learning and that I get the opportunity to practice law.

What has been your favorite part of working with this field placement?

Two things: The first was the first time I ever got to say, ‘Anything you say to me is covered under attorney-client confidentiality.’ It made the last year of exams worth it in one sentence. And second, my bosses. Lindsey Collins and Brook Nasseri are the best mentors/bosses a law student could ask for. They challenge you, but at the same time create a safe space where you’re able to learn from your mistakes. Their passion for their clients and work is infectious. They’re fantastic humans and more than worth the drive from Lawrence to KC five days a week.

What would you say to law students considering enrolling in this field placement?

You owe the highest duty and responsibilities to your clients. Your supervising attorneys have your back, but these are real stakes and start to let you experience the pressures and triumphs to come in your law career.

This post is the fifth 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

— By Sarah Pickel

Hands-On Learning Q&A: Joan Lee, Mock Trial

Joan Lee is a 3L that chose to get involved in Mock Trial in Fall 2021—the beginning of her second year at KU Law. Since then, Lee has learned more about representing a client, gained confidence in public speaking and acquired a baseline for courtroom etiquette as she participated in both in-house and national competitions. The experience has helped solidify her decision to pursue a career in litigation.

Joan Lee
Joan Lee

KU Law offers both an in-house Mock Trial Competition as well as a Mock Trial Council which represents the school in national competitions. The course is open to first and second-year students. Mock Trial Council is selected from students who do exceptionally well in the in-house program.

“The Mock Trial Program is a fun and challenging opportunity to learn how to become effective advocates in a low stake environment,” Lee said.

Lee shared her experience with Mock Trial for a Q&A.

What interested you in enrolling in this course?

I was never involved in mock trial or debate club during my undergraduate years, and I recognized early on that I needed to grow myself in this area. Furthermore, I wanted to improve my public speaking skills and learn how to present a case in the courtroom.

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

I am more confident speaking in front of crowds. I have learned how to approach issues in a creative manner and effectively communicate my client’s position to a judge/jury. In addition to that, I have also developed forecasting skills—thinking of all the possible scenarios and their future impacts—as I’ve brainstormed with my teammates on case strategy. I learned about proper courtroom etiquette. I have been able to improve upon making objections and providing responses using the Federal Rules of Evidence.

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

Participating in Mock Trial has solidified my decision to pursue a career in litigation. I am certain that the many valuable skills I have gained from this course will be transferred and utilized throughout my legal career.

What would you say to law students considering participating in the Mock Trial Program?

I highly encourage other law students to join the Mock Trial Program. The Mock Trial Program is a fun and challenging opportunity to learn how to become effective advocates in a low stake environment.

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

Read previous Q&A features with:

— By Sarah Pickel

Building community at KU Law

The KU Law Class of 2025 has arrived at Green Hall and after a five-day orientation “boot-camp,” classes are underway.

The past couple of years of orientation events have been online, outside or split up, but now students are back in person for their introduction to KU Law. At 137 strong, the Class of 2025 is one of the largest in the past several years. To help the new students get acquainted with Kansas and the city of Lawrence, KU Law has arranged several community-building activities.

“We’ve discovered over the last several years that the coronavirus had become an obstacle to community-building within the law school. And with in-person events put on hold, some of our most valued traditions had fallen by the wayside. Our hope is to give our students, particularly the entering students, an opportunity to build connections so that they can be supportive of one another,” Dean Stephen Mazza said.

Faculty and staff at KU Law picked out some of their favorite local places and pastimes. From live music to hikes, art gallery visits, shopping, picnics and more, students could sign up for the activities that they were interested in.

“This presented a great opportunity to host small gatherings centered around faculty and staff favorites, and to welcome and introduce our new students to lovely Lawrence, Kansas,” said Leah Terranova, associate dean for academic and student affairs.

“In addition to introducing the 1Ls to one another – and addressing those first-day jitters – it offered us all a chance to rebuild our sense of community, which has been challenging during the pandemic,” Terranova said.

One of the crowd favorites was a tour of “Larryville’s Best Cheap Eats” with Dean Mazza. Along the way, a group of students visited reasonably priced Lawrence favorites such as Burrito King, Taco Zone and Munchers Bakery.

A Group of Students and Dean Mazza at Munchers Bakery

“What better way to build community than to show students where to grab the best burrito in town (Burrito King is my choice) and the best donut (I’m a fan of Munchers but not that picky when it comes to a donut),” Mazza said.

The welcome activities spread throughout orientation and the first couple of days of classes. People had the opportunity to go out and enjoy live music at a winery, compete in a corn-hole tournament, visit the Lawrence farmer’s market and enjoy a cup of coffee.

“It was a wonderful way to set the tone and invite students to find healthy balance and joy in their law student experience,” Terranova said. “Our faculty did a great job modeling for new law students how to decompress in nature, seek out art and fulfillment and remember that there is more to their law school experience than just school.”

By Sarah Pickel

Hands-On Learning Q&A: Kristen Andrews, Field Placement Program

Externship with Kansas Athletics aligns coursework with professional interests

During two semesters working as a legal intern for Kansas Athletics, third-year law student Kristen Andrews learned to think outside the box when answering legal questions.

Andrews completed an externship with KU Athletics through the Field Placement Program at the University of Kansas School of Law. Students in the program work under the supervision of a practicing attorney.

Kristen Andrews
Kristen Andrews

“The Field Placement Program provides students with an excellent opportunity to align their coursework with their professional interests,” Andrews said.

Andrews shared her experience with the Field Placement Program for a Q&A.

What type of work did you do through the Field Placement Program?

I spent my time in the Field Placement Program working as a legal intern at Kansas Athletics. At Kansas Athletics, I completed legal research on a wide range of topics, wrote memoranda and reviewed contracts.

Are there skills you developed or improved through the Field Placement Program?

During my time interning with Kansas Athletics, I improved my legal research and writing skills. But perhaps more importantly, I improved my ability to navigate unfamiliar and convoluted areas of law and to think outside the box when answering legal questions.

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

My field placement with Kansas Athletics will impact both my remaining time in law school and the start of my career in numerous ways. For example, it has helped me identify the skills I will need to be an effective practitioner and the classes that will aid my development in those areas. Furthermore, it has helped me explore my areas of interest within the broader sports law field, focus my short and long-term goals, and form meaningful relationships with people who will soon be my professional peers.

What has been your favorite part of working with the Field Placement Program?

The highlight of my field placement with Kansas Athletics was having the opportunity to learn about legal practice from my supervisor, Megan Walawender. She showed me how to approach complex legal questions, work effectively with colleagues, and adapt to shifting legal landscapes. Her example has been an indispensable part of my legal development.  

What would you say to law students considering enrolling in the Field Placement Program?

I would say: Go for it! The Field Placement Program provides students with an excellent opportunity to align their coursework with their professional interests. If they are looking to develop practical skills, explore potential career paths, or develop professional relationships, then this is the class for them!

— By Margaret Hair

This post is the third 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:

Hands-On Learning Q&A: Lauren Stahl, Transactional Law Competition

National transactional law competition offers exposure to deal work, drafting

By participating in a national transactional law competition, third-year law student Lauren Stahl gained an understanding of deal work and improved her drafting abilities.

Stahl competed in the UCLA Transactional Law Competition in February, as part of a team of four students representing the buyer side of a mock business transaction. Stahl’s team placed third overall for teams representing the buyer side.

“I felt prepared going into my summer internship and comfortable doing drafting assignments as well as understanding what was going on during client calls,” Stahl said. “I cannot think of a better experiential course that prepares students for transactional practice.”

Lauren Stahl
Lauren Stahl

The UCLA contest was one of several national competitions to welcome students from the University of Kansas School of Law this spring. KU Law teams also participated in the Wayne State Jaffe Transactional Law Competition and the invitation-only The Closer, hosted by Baylor Law School. The Polsinelli Transactional Law Center at KU supports student participation in national transactional law competitions.

Stahl shared her experience with the Transactional Law Competition for a Q&A.

What interested you in enrolling in the competition course?

I wanted more exposure to deal work and drafting after my experience at my summer internship and other transactional courses. 

Are there skills you developed or improved through this experience?

My knowledge of key terms, provisions and concepts grew tremendously. I also became a better drafter, negotiator, and communicator.

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

Overall, the practical experience of the competition not only prepared me for my internship this summer but also for other transactional classes at KU. This experience gives students a basic understanding of what deal work and transactional practice looks like. With this experience under my belt, I felt prepared for all my assignments this summer and my future career.

What would you say to law students considering enrolling in the Transactional Law Competition course?

If you are interested in having a career in a transactional practice area, the Transactional Law Competition should be your first class to enroll in. This experience will allow you to develop skills and a baseline knowledge for deal work and any transaction.

— By Margaret Hair

This post is the second in a series highlighting hands-on learning opportunities at KU Law. Read a Q&A with 3L Peyton Weatherbie about the Elder Law Field Placement Program. Stay tuned for more student experiences in clinics, field placements and experiential learning programs.

Working on a felony jury trial as a law student

Rising 3L Kevin Salazar draws on Mock Trial, Traffic Court experience for work on real-world cases

Kevin Salazar at the Maricopa County Courthouse
Kevin Salazar is interning this summer at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Photo courtesy of Kevin Salazar.

Kevin Salazar is a rising third-year law student at the University of Kansas School of Law. This summer, he is interning as a law clerk in the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office. Salazar shared his experience working on a felony jury trial as a law student. By the end of the summer, he will have worked on three jury trials.

I was in a courtroom on the sixth floor of the Maricopa County Superior Courthouse. The judge called the case, the parties entered their appearances, and the jury entered the room. It was my 2L summer and I was about to give my opening statement in my first ever jury trial. I was excited and a little nervous about speaking with the jury. Questions like, “What are these jurors thinking and will they be receptive to what I have to say?” popped into my head.

Before the instant proceeding, a grand jury charged a man with two counts of aggravated driving under the influence, felony charges in Arizona. The accusations included the man almost hitting a pedestrian at a bus stop, crashing into a pole in a nearby parking lot, and having an already opened bottle of brandy in his hand when he opened his car door for responding officers. A toxicologist later calculated his retrograde blood alcohol concentration to be between 0.25 and 0.30 while driving the night of the incident.

Those series of events were why we were all in that courtroom that day. Despite the seriousness of the charges and facing several obstacles at trial, I had a wonderful experience trying that case.  I attribute my positive experience to the foundations I built at KU Law. It was in programs like Mock Trial with Professors Alice Craig and Meredith Schnug, the Paul E. Wilson Project of Innocence with Professor Jean Phillips, and the KU Traffic Court that I gained the skills I needed at trial. 

Kevin Salazar looks at exhibits with the prosecuting attorney during a trial, in a screencap from the live court feed.
Kevin Salazar looks at exhibits with the prosecuting attorney during a trial, in a screencap from the live court feed. Photo courtesy of Kevin Salazar.

In preparing for trial, I familiarized myself with all the facts of the case. This included reading every filing, reading all reports, reviewing the case history, and even asking about the particular personality of the assigned judge. The Project for Innocence drilled this exercise into my head so that it was a matter of muscle memory. This helped me identify evidentiary issues like the defendant’s statements after Miranda warnings, which we needed to redact or avoid discussion of at trial to present a fair case and avoid any chance of mistrial.

In preparing for direct of my officer witnesses, I thought about the proper way of asking those questions, how to admit our evidence through these witnesses, and anticipated possible incoming objections. When I competed in KU Mock Trial, Professor Craig made us regularly practice questioning witnesses, which made asking my real witnesses a lot easier. With this training, I was able to get testimony efficiently and enter crucial pieces of media like officer body-worn camera footage and crime scene photos into evidence. Mock Trial also helped me publish those exhibits to the jury in a way that better informed their decision.

In preparing for my opening statement, I thought critically about how to convey the narrative of the case to the jurors. My experience in Mock Trial and Traffic Court guided me through this process, too. In Traffic Court, I worked on public speaking in front of my peers and gained invaluable feedback about the forensics of my performance. In Mock Trial, professors taught me how to effectively tell a story and preview the law.

Kevin Salazar in front of the Maricopa County Courthouse.
Kevin Salazar in front of the Maricopa County Courthouse. Photo courtesy of Kevin Salazar.

Last, but certainly not least, my supervising attorneys, Deputy County Attorneys Stephanie Low and Ross Arellano-Edwards, helped me understand the specific local rules and customs for trial and explained to me the DUI-specific processes and terminology that were necessary to present a solid case. They also gave me constructive feedback I will take with me the next time I am in a courtroom.

Throughout the trial, I felt a range of emotions – including relief when the jury read its verdict. But the strongest feeling I experienced was a sense of understanding about how the law and justice work in the real world. Many loose pieces fell into place during this trial, and I hope they continue to do so.

— By Kevin Salazar, a rising 3L at KU Law