Updated on April 22, 2021
Law school can be daunting. The dreaded cold calls, the heavy reading and the sleepless nights are often big topics when considering law school. When the school organized a meet-up at my small section professor’s house a few days before the first day of 1L year, I took the opportunity and asked a 3L in attendance, “Is it true? Is it that bad?” In truth, I don’t remember what she told me. Now that I am almost finished with my 1L year, I think the appropriate question to have asked is, “How do I make my law school experience better?”
Now there are obvious answers to this question. Make friends, spend time outside of the law school and find an outside network of support. While these are great suggestions, one mentor made a suggestion I had never thought about. She told me to change my perspective.
As incoming 1Ls, we often get so caught up in the rumors and fears of law school that we forget why we came here in the first place. For some of us, it’s our unwavering passion for social justice or prison reform. For others, it’s our love of learning and the quench for knowledge. Whatever your “why” is, hold onto it and remind yourself of it when things get tough. As my mentor said to me, “Stop viewing law school as a chore and view it as a hobby.” Those 13 words have changed my law school experience substantially. This whole time, I had taught my brain to view the law as that very difficult, hard to comprehend monster that kept me up late at night. When before law school, it was a subject I used to enjoy reading about in my free time and would spend hours researching.
Changing my perspective on assignments and classes made a significant difference. Walking into the second semester, I stopped viewing readings as long and strenuous and started seeing them almost as a new episode of my favorite crime show. What crazy story am I going to read about in tort law? Isn’t it crazy that people have rights to the air above their property? I was so focused on perfecting my study plan that I forgot just how much I enjoyed reading the law and hearing about real-life cases.
So, I urge you to never look at the law as a chore. Do not let the fears of law school consume you. Instead, remember why you came here in the first place. When you stop viewing readings as a chore, it becomes surprising how quickly you read and how much more time you have to enjoy other hobbies and interests. Most importantly, take your time and enjoy the experience. For many of us, this is likely the last time we will get to explore our intellectual interests and be surrounded by like-minded individuals with similar interests.
— Jamie Treto is a 1L from Garden City and a KU Law Student Ambassador.
When you attend 1L Orientation, the first question almost everyone you meet will ask is “Why did you choose to attend KU Law?” To be honest, when I was first asked this question, I did not have a good answer. My first answer, “It was cheaper than other schools and would not leave me with life-long debt” did not strike the right tone and resulted in a few odd looks. Many people I met during orientation lived in the Kansas City area for the majority of their lives and were curious why someone from Ohio would move across the country for law school. So, my first answer failed to satisfy most people’s curiosity and caused more questions given I moved during a once-in-a-century pandemic.
After completing 1L Orientation, I decided I needed to think about why I chose to move to Kansas and more importantly why I was at KU Law. So, I spent that last weekend of freedom before classes started, thinking about why I made this leap of faith and chose to move to an area where I had no friends or family. Initially, I thought about all of the metrics that law schools publish, employment outcomes, graduating debt load, and out-of-state opportunities.
None of these answers felt genuine and were not a factor when I chose to apply to KU Law. Instead, I started to try and remember a conversation I had with a former professor of mine when I was an undergrad. All of those years ago I was considering attending law school but was not sure about it. I knew it was expensive and time-consuming and was not sure I wanted to go to law school right after undergrad. A passing comment she made came rushing back. “You know I’ve had you in a lot of classes and I noticed you perform better in a smaller setting. Just something to think about going forward.”
She hit the mark since I was a kid, I performed better in smaller class settings and I was fortunate that I picked a school that offers smaller class sizes and smaller small sections. So I now had a possible answer that people would understand, but thinking about the journey I was undertaking made me continue to evaluate how I ended up at KU Law.
The smaller class size argument I realized extended to cities as well. I have lived all over the country from Los Angeles to Atlanta, but I realized I felt the most comfortable when I lived in cities of medium to smaller size. After exploring the Kansas City Metro area, I realized that like KU Law it was a medium-sized city with many of the attractions of larger cities without feeling overwhelming. That feeling perfectly encapsulates how I feel about KU Law. It is small enough, so I do not feel overwhelmed but has all of the attractions of larger law schools. So, I might not have KU Law with the “right” reasons in mind, but I was fortunately lucky that it meets my needs. A smaller law school that does not make me feel like I am missing out on any opportunities.
— Donald Pinckney is a 1L from Toledo, Ohio and a KU Law Student Ambassador.
Updated on March 26, 2021
Since 1963, students at the University of Kansas School of Law have had the opportunity to get firsthand experience of how the law works by serving as interns with federal and state judges.
Under the supervision of a judge, law clerk or staff attorney, Judicial Field Placement Program interns perform research, draft documents and observe courtroom proceedings to expand their knowledge of how our court systems operate.
Last summer, many internships and law firms shortened, canceled or shifted their summer programs due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
However, Clinical Professor Pam Keller said local judges took the initiative to adapt the program to a virtual format to provide internship opportunities to students during the COVID-19 pandemic. Keller has directed the Judicial Field Placement Program at KU Law since 2004.
“Judges really went out of their way to provide opportunities for law students to do online internships,” Keller said.
Twenty-five KU Law students participated in the Judicial Field Placement Program last summer – including 10 internships in Johnson County.
“Interning for a judge is one of the best working experiences a first- or second-year law student could have because it provides them with such a broad knowledge of how the legal system works and how lawyers practice,” Keller said. “Alumni judges who are willing to guide and mentor students are a huge asset to the law school.”
Johnson County District Court Judge Paul Gurney, L’82, said the program was adapted so that interns could work remotely. Interns observed online courtroom proceedings, practiced their legal research and writing skills, and virtually networked with attorneys.
Judge Gurney also seeks to expand the Judicial Field Placement Program at KU Law. Most judicial field placements happen during the summer months, but Judge Gurney hopes to expand the number of field placements available during the fall and spring semesters.
Judge Gurney’s daughter, Caroline Gurney, L’15, did an internship with Douglas County District Court Judge Michael J. Malone as part of the Judicial Field Placement Program.
“She told me about how beneficial of an experience that was,” Judge Gurney said. “That inspired the notion that we need to do all we can here in Johnson County to provide a similar opportunity, so I’m happy that we’ve been able to do so thus far.”
Omar Husain, L’20, said he gained invaluable hands-on experience and knowledge about how court systems operate through his clerkship with Judge Gurney while he was in law school.
“The Judicial Field Placement was my first exposure to the real practice of law, not just the study of law. For me, the program was a concentrated dose of experience that put my theoretical knowledge in to perspective,” Husain said. “The program has had a lasting effect because the lessons I learned and relationships I built during that summer set the course for how I want to direct my career as a professional.”
— By Ashley Golledge
Updated on June 28, 2021
Mellie, my 4-year-old golden retriever, has spent most of her life in paw school pursuing the prestigious Juris Dogtorate degree to become a full-time pawalegal. In these past few years, we’ve both learned a lot. Here were some of our biggest takeaways (that I have transcribed directly from Mellie, of course) from the journey that is law school:
Do what works for you
Everyone has their own study habits and techniques to tackle reading assignments or note-taking. Don’t be afraid to try something new until you find something that works for you. During 1L year, I realized that flowcharts and notecards are an effective study strategy for me. Try not to compare yourself to your peers, focus on what works for you. However, please note that Mellie’s attempt at learning via sleeping on top of notecards might not be the strongest strategy to employ.
Authenticity over everything
Be yourself! Sounds easy, right? This notion will get tested time and time again in law school due to its inherently competitive nature. All I can say is, I wouldn’t have had an amazing summer internship opportunity with the ACLU Capital Punishment Project if I wouldn’t have spent the interview passionately rambling about prison abolition. Focus on developing authenticity by discovering your value system and standing up for those beliefs; this will open far more doors than simply trying to fit in.
Find your people and support them
Law school is temporary, but the friends I’ve met along the way are forever. If there’s one thing I would do law school all over again for, it would be to meet my friends and mentors who have helped to shape my beliefs and values. Law school is exhausting; having friends help to ease that. My friends have been a shoulder to cry on and the sounding board to whom I vent my frustrations, as well as a source for anime recommendations and new hobbies to relieve stress like painting or roller skating. Finding mentors along the way has helped me keep my house plants alive, in addition to validating my feelings and clearing up career confusion. Mellie and I are so grateful for the support system we’ve gained in just three short years.
Take a break
Mellie recommends naps. Lots of naps.
Don’t be afraid to go on new adventures
This January, we moved to Washington, D.C. to participate in the Sixth Semester in D.C. program. It was scary to leave the Midwest for the first time and to venture out into the unknown. Doing so has brought me connections that will last a lifetime and a renewed sense to seek justice for marginalized communities, my communities. This experience has also been a reminder that nothing seems to truly go according to plan in this wild ride called life. You will experience many ups and many downs but will face each new challenge with the combined knowledge of lessons learned along the way. While we have enjoyed this chapter in D.C., we are excited to see what comes next!
Don’t take yourself too seriously
Life is too short to not do things that make your tail wag. Develop self-care tactics and make them part of your daily routine. In addition to naps, Mellie likes to go on long walks, roll in the dirt or snow, and sometimes will even doggy paddle her way to happiness. Mellie is constantly reminding me of the simple joys when the going gets ruff. Your law school journey does not have to consist of 18-hour days in the Wheat Law Library if you don’t want it to. At the end of the day, it’s all about balance. Make sure to pour the same amount of love and compassion into yourself as you are into this new journey.
— Bria Nelson is a 3L from Woodstock, Illinois and a KU Law Student Ambassador.
Updated on June 28, 2021
Let me just say, starting law school in the middle of a pandemic is a bit odd. Really, everything over the past year has been different, and sometimes really tough. But I do know that I am surviving, and sometimes even enjoying myself, because of my small section (Woo! Small Section 1!). As a 1L, everyone is placed in a small section that is made up of about twenty people. You will take all your first-year classes with the same group and one of the highlights since the fall has been getting to know the awesome people in my small section! Here a few of the best things (in my opinion) about small sections:
1. There is always someone to discuss the material with.
Chances are, at some point, you will be very confused about a topic in one of your classes. I’ve definitely felt that way. However, the great thing about small sections is that it’s likely someone in your section understands and can help explain the topic. And at some point, you will probably return the favor.
2. Small sections are built-in communities that understand what you are going through.
Sometimes law school is tough, especially the first year. Everything is new, and law school is a very different learning environment than undergrad. So, sometimes you just want to talk to someone who has the same professors, assignments, and is generally just going through the same experience. It can be great to vent sometimes with people who understand what you are going through.
3. Less worry about getting that cold call wrong in class.
One of the beauties of seeing the same people every day is that you get pretty comfortable with them. Because of that – messing up that cold call in Contracts or whatever class it may be – is less of a big deal because I know my section mates don’t think any less of me for it.
4. During the pandemic, small sections have been a great way to make friends because a lot of the typical social activities look different this year.
Like I said before, starting law school during a pandemic is odd. When I applied to KU Law, I couldn’t have imagined that a few months later we would be in the middle of a pandemic. I remember being nervous and unsure about what the school year would look like (or how I would make friends) given the necessary changes to keep everyone safe (student groups meet virtually only, for example). I was pleasantly surprised by how easy it was to get to know my section mates. Even though we are all in masks and sit six feet apart in class, we have found ways to get to know each other and enjoy the year!
— By Helen Phillips, a 1L from Overland Park and a KU Law Student Ambassador.
For much of my adult life, cooking for friends and family has been a sacred act for me. I fell in love with food when I moved to France in my early twenties. Every Wednesday and Saturday, there was a beautiful market near my apartment filled with heaping piles of fresh lettuces, olives, herbs and vegetables. In the autumn, chickens would be roasting over a fire with fingerling potatoes beneath catching and roasting in the chicken fat. It was an unforgettable sensory experience. When I returned to the United States, I fell in love with cooking while working on Lawrence farm owned by a middle-aged hippy from New Mexico. She made cooking simple, delicious, and most importantly, a communal experience. I truly believe that everyone can benefit from learning basic kitchen skills and cooking together. Not only will you become a healthier person, but you will also be happier.
The COVID-19 pandemic made in-person dinner parties impossible, so I knew I needed to find a creative way to continue cooking with my friends and family. The answer? Zoom. Throughout COVID-19, I hosted virtual dinner parties where everyone cooked the same dish in real-time and then enjoyed it together. This was hardly an original idea, but it was something I embraced and continue to do.
Samin Nosrat, the author of the book and Netflix series, “Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat”, created the ultimate communal cooking experience last year called The Big Lasagna. On May 3, 2020, Samin hosted a virtual dinner party live on Instagram featuring her recipe for The Big Lasagna, and people from around the world came together to cook this very adaptable and delicious dish. It was a neat experience to know I was cooking the same recipe and eating it together with people from Kansas City to Kuala Lampur.
My idea: Let’s do a KU Law edition of The Big Lasagna.
Since International Pi Day – which is on March 14 – is on the horizon and falls at the end of our respite week, I propose we do a KU Law edition of The Big Lasagna using David Lebovitz’s version of Jacques Pépin’s Apple Crunch Tart. A tart is close enough to a pie, right? I hope people who are able will post photos, questions, tips, etc., on their year’s KU Law Facebook page on or around International Pi Day.
I’m looking forward to seeing your creations and connecting with you through food!
- If you’re vegan or dairy-free, simply use vegan butter for the crust and to dot over the apples. You can also use melted vegan butter instead of egg wash for the top of the tart.
- I never use water in my pie crusts. Use vodka instead. I know it sounds crazy, but vodka creates a very crispy, crunchy crust. The reason for this is that the ethanol in vodka inhibits the production of gluten, which turns what would otherwise be a crunchy crust into a chewy one. There is nothing worse than a soggy or chewy pie crust.
- This recipe will work with a variety of fruits. Pears would be a logical substitute, but berries could work too. If you use fresh berries, I would toss in a few tablespoons of flour into the fruit mixture before you add it to the bottom crust to help control the juices. I would also skip dotting butter over the fruit before you add the top crust.
- If you cannot fathom making a pie crust – it’s not hard, believe me – you can get away with store-bought crust. Keep in mind, you will need two crusts for this recipe.
— By Doug Bartel, a 1L from Olathe and a KU Law Student Ambassador.
I’m in the last semester of my 3L year, and it just doesn’t feel real. I refuse to believe that it’s been almost three years since I sat at Green Hall watching one friend draw a cow on the board, another sit across from me wearing a lobster costume, and Professor Laura Hines drawing her famous rendition of the United States. When people used to ask me “why” I came to law school, I felt bad that my answer wasn’t the usual “I want to help people” response. Of course, that’s one aspect of anything I do, but it wasn’t necessarily why I came to law school. I came to law school simply because I wanted to continue my education.
That being said, I had to figure out what my “why” was to be able to get through law school because “continuing my education” was not going to cut it. I slowly began to create amazing friendships while having my loved ones cheering for me from afar. As I look back on all of the support I have had these past few years, above all is God. He has blessed me beyond words with some of the most loving friendships I have ever had. He got me through the darkest times, those moments where I had no strength to do anything other than lay in bed and cry because sure, law school is hard, but life in general can be confusing and difficult and painful.
So, my “why” is because of God’s amazing grace. Because He placed me here for my good and His glory. Because He didn’t place me in Lawrence, Kansas, just to go to law school. He orchestrated all of the wonderful people I encountered and all the relationships I built. He placed believers in my life to serve them and for them to show me how absolutely beautiful life can be when Christ is the center of their life. He entrusted me with the responsibility and ability to serve and show others who He is, through me – even if it was just a glimpse. God has used these past three years to strengthen my relationship with Him because He knew He was the only one that could get me through these three years, and frankly through the next three as well. If I ever forget “why,” I should continue to do the mundane, the difficult and the stressful everyday work… He’s “why.” Because through it all He continues to be kind and give me continual grace, and will present me with constant opportunities in life, and now in my career, to serve, love and share the Gospel with others.
All this to say “thank you,” to all of the friends I’ve met during my time here, and to the KU Law staff and administration. I’m so grateful you were part of God’s plan for me.
— By Valeria Carbajal, a 3L from El Paso, Texas and a KU Law Student Ambassador.
As a 3L in my final semester, it seems only appropriate that I use my time on this platform to get unabashedly sentimental about my law school experience. My dear friend, Ellen Bertels, has already taken the time to thank the many wonderful professors at KU Law who got us to this point, so I would like to thank a different but equally important group of people in the law school: the friends we made along the way.
It’s best to start with the before times. Before Zoom School of Law and an end to most social activities, law students had an active social calendar. Of course, we never let it interfere with our studies, but favorites such as TGITs (Thank God It’s Thursday), patio drinks at McClain’s, game nights, or trivia offered a good way to blow off steam after a long day trying to figure out the twenty-odd exceptions to the hearsay rule. It was during these times that I really got to know my classmates. Sure, in Green Hall, we all knew each other from our embarrassing cold call answers or from frantically reading in the informal commons five minutes before class, but outside of the law school we began to know and like each other as people. We grew to respect our differences and cherish the things we had in common. With a community of friends around me, the trials and tribulations of law school no longer seemed like life and death. Sure, I might have been stumped by several questions during my first oral argument, but my friends and I were still going to celebrate the experience with a beer.
You may be expecting me to say that everything changed with the pandemic. We’ve all read hundreds of stories now with that exact tagline. But the truth is, the things that mattered didn’t really change at all. Though we were forced to spend more time apart, I never lost touch with my friends. Whether it was through Zoom happy hours early in the pandemic, sly texts making fun of something during Zoom classes, or long walks on a nice day, I was still able to spend time with my dear friends. As it turns out, the people that got me through law school also got me through one of the worst years in recent memory.
It is because of this that I know I’ll never truly leave these people. Sure, we may be headed in different directions all over the country after graduation, but if we were able to stay connected during this pandemic, I know we can survive a bit of distance.
To all my dear friends in Green Hall, thank you. You made these last three years some of the best of my life.
— By Jake Schmidt, a 3L from Atchison and a KU Law Student Ambassador.
Updated on March 11, 2021
A new scholarship at the University of Kansas School of Law will support future students while honoring the memory of a KU Law alumnus. The Edward W. Dosh Memorial Scholarship is intended to support students from Kansas, particularly from Labette County and the southeastern part of the state, or graduates of Luther College in Decorah, Iowa.
The scholarship honors the late Edward W. “Ed” Dosh, L’77. Dosh was a longtime attorney in Parsons, Kansas. He started his legal career in the Labette County Attorney’s Office before opening the Law Office of Edward W. Dosh in 1979.
Dosh served as the city attorney for Chetopa, Kansas for several decades. He was active in the Kansas Bar Association and other legal organizations, including the Kansas Association of Criminal Defense Attorneys, where he was a founding member.
Helen R. Rice, Dosh’s significant other and longtime companion, established the scholarship with a financial gift to KU Endowment. Rice said southeastern Kansas was an adopted hometown for Dosh, who was originally from Minnesota. Dosh completed his undergraduate degree at Luther College.
Describing Dosh as “a character” who everyone knew, Rice recalled that the Labette County Courthouse closed on the day of Dosh’s memorial to allow county judges and many court employees to attend the service.
— By Margaret Hair
This time of year is always incredibly stressful to law students and law school applicants alike. Law school applicants are in the midst of finalizing applications, weighing offers and possibilities, and trying to figure out if their top choice schools will even be a good fit for them. Law students are in the midst of either finding summer internships or interviewing for post-grad employment. But before students apply for positions or schools, we all freshen up our legal resumes and work on our interviewing skills.
Unlike the vast majority of law students, I came into law school knowing exactly what I wanted to do after graduation. Don’t worry if you didn’t know or still don’t know what you want to do post-grad, that is perfectly fine too. Oddly enough, I have known for years that I wanted to be a labor attorney. However, when I was selecting a law school, I did not have a primary focus of finding a school that had a labor-specific program or emphasis. I had other ideas in mind when selecting which school that I wanted to attend. I selected the University of Kansas School of Law because I wanted to attend a school that had a good reputation, name recognition, and a welcoming environment of students and professors.
Halfway through my first year, when it came time to apply for summer employment, I had to shake the nagging thought that I would be competing for jobs with candidates that might have gone to schools that had labor-specific programs, clinics or journals. I wondered how my application would stack up against theirs. In the worst-case scenario, I wondered if I would ever be able to get experience in the field that I so clearly wanted to work in. Fortunately, I kept regular communication with the Career Services Office, and they helped guide me in ways to make my applications the most competitive – regardless of the potential downsides of coming from a school without a labor-specific program. The wonderful news was that I could control a few key things that I will share with you about my law school education that would ultimately help me find summer legal employment.
1. Target your curriculum
Following my first year of law school, I committed to taking as many courses related or adjacent to the labor field as possible. I did this knowing that I needed to show future employers that I truly was interested in a labor position. While selecting courses relevant to my desired future employment, I ensured that I would meet graduation requirements. By doing this, I stayed interested; up-to-date on current labor policies and operations; and kept on track for graduation. Having a targeted curriculum also helped harmonize my legal education with my future as a practicing labor attorney.
2. Cultivate your connections
Throughout my brief time at KU Law, I have told just about anybody who wanted to listen about my career goals. I continue to meet with various professors to stay the course I elected prior to attending law school. At networking events, I share my goals and utilize connections to fellow labor attorneys. I attend job fairs and conferences applicable to my future goal. And, most importantly, I always attempt to make a genuine, meaningful and lasting impression upon people.
3. Be intentional about extracurriculars
Being involved in extra-curricular activities is truly my favorite part of law school. I elect to involve myself in activities that I care about AND future employers will find valuable. By doing this, I find more enrichment in my education and my life in general. In fact, I have spent many job interviews being asked about my involvement. It is in these moments that I show employers my personality, they learn things that matter to me and we both find out if I would be a good fit in their culture.
As we all embark on the daunting task of finding employment or selecting law schools, I hope that these three tips help you just as much as they have helped me navigate my way through law school thus far. And don’t forget, Career Services’ virtual door is always open.
— By Heddy Pierce-Armstrong, a 2L from El Dorado and a KU Law Student Ambassador.