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

Hands-On Learning Q&A: Peyton Weatherbie, Elder Law Field Placement

Working with Kansas Legal Services offers experience in a broad range of legal issues

From her first day as an elder law extern with Kansas Legal Services, third-year law student Peyton Weatherbie had the chance to interact with applicants and build her legal skill set.

Weatherbie participated in the externship as part of the Elder Law Field Placement Program at the University of Kansas School of Law in fall 2021 and spring 2022.

Peyton Weatherbie
Peyton Weatherbie

“I got to work on so many different legal issues. I worked on estate planning issues, housing issues, elder divorce, collections, and everything in between,” Weatherbie said. “The Elder Law Field Placement has something for everyone regardless of legal interests.”

Weatherbie shared her experience with the Elder Law Field Placement for a Q&A.

What type of work did you do through the field placement?

From the first day, you interact with applicants, gathering information about their legal issues, and relaying the issue with your supervising attorney. From there, you will build advice or a solution for the applicant and then relay it back to them in a clear way.

You will get to draft documents like powers of attorney, living wills, transfer on death deeds, last wills and testaments, valid settlement agreements, and anything in between. You will attend client meetings, document signings, Protection from Abuse proceedings, and so much more. You will also get to participate in community outreach events for seniors where you will prepare estate documents on the spot. You may also get the chance to work on improving documents that will be sent to applicants and clients. 

I got to work on so many different legal issues. I worked on estate planning issues, housing issues, elder divorce, collections, and everything in between. The Elder Law Field Placement has something for everyone regardless of legal interests. 

Are there skills you developed or improved working with the Elder Law Field Placement?

I really developed my communication skills during my time in the Elder Law Field Placement. To be completely honest, I hated talking on the phone. It would make me so nervous, but I got over that within my first day at Kansas Legal Services. I also developed the ability to think quickly and anticipate issues. I learned what questions to ask and how to ask them. I also learned how to confidently relay information confidently, concisely and simply. I further developed my legal reasoning skills and my drafting abilities. Overall, I gained a newfound confidence in my legal ability.

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 already impacted my legal career in so many ways. I don’t even think twice about calling or emailing a client. I feel comfortable discussing legal issues, and my impressions of said issues with the attorneys around me. I have learned to think quickly and respond clearly when I am asked legal questions or presented with other problems. I have become a more confident budding attorney. I think through my first year I lost a lot of perspective on what being a lawyer really means; through the field placement, the law gained purpose again.

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

Some of my favorite parts include the feeling I got when I could help a client through their legal issue or set up someone’s estate so they could have peace of mind that they would be well taken care of at all stages of life.

I also enjoyed working with the supervising attorneys at Kansas Legal Services. I learned so much from working with them, and I am so appreciative of all the hands-on work they set up for us. Overall, my favorite part of the field placement was the perspective I gained about the practice of law.

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

Take the jump and do it. I would recommend this to anyone, regardless of interest, litigation or transactional. You will learn so much more than you will ever learn in a classroom about the practice of law. You will learn to think quick on your feet, manage a large and varying caseload, how to communicate efficiently and effectively, how to relay legal advice and ask clarifying questions. Most importantly, you will learn how to interact with people at their most vulnerable, in a compassionate, professional and intelligent way. You will learn how to laugh with clients, snag a tissue during a tough moment, talk people through the losses, and celebrate the legal victories.

If you want to learn, and I mean really learn what it takes to be a lawyer, spend just one semester in the Elder Law Field Placement at Kansas Legal Services.

— By Margaret Hair

This post is the first 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.

Graduate Profile: Leah Hodges, L’22

Student advocates for those with limited resources

Leah Hodges chose to attend law school because of her passion for people and providing support for those with limited resources.

Leah Hodges

After graduating this month, she will begin her role as a Missouri Justice Fellow with the Missouri Public Defender’s Office in St. Joseph. The two-year criminal defense fellowship places participants in underserved communities throughout Missouri, with a goal of making the criminal justice system more equitable for everyone.

Hodges earned her undergraduate degree in sociology from the University of Tennessee in Knoxville before attending KU Law.

“I came to KU Law because I have a passion for innocence work, and I wanted to participate in KU’s Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies,” she said.

Hodges not only enjoyed the work in the clinic but also developed an appreciation for the clinic’s supervising attorneys – Professor Elizabeth Cateforis, Professor Jean Phillips and Professor Alice Craig.

“They have taught me what it really means to listen to your client, to respect them and to fight for them zealously,” Hodges said. “I hope to one day be even half of the advocate that they are.”

Professor Cateforis had a profound impact on Hodges’ law school experience.

“She has supported me from the first day I met her and has taught me what it means to be a true advocate for your clients and to persevere no matter how challenging the road ahead may seem,” Hodges said. “I have taken every class she teaches here at the law school and have found such a wonderful friend in her.”

Hodges was involved in several extracurriculars during her time in Green Hall, including Women in Law, Public Interest Law Society, and First-Generation Professionals (FGP), where she served as president. As an FGP student having experienced difficulties to purchase law school textbooks herself, Hodges created the FGP Library at KU Law. Relying completely on donated textbooks and materials from generous alumni and older students, the FGP Library is a free resource to any FGP law students in Green Hall.

Leah Hodges and Erin Nisly
Leah Hodges and Erin Nisly label donated textbooks

“Being the president of FGP was an incredibly rewarding experience for me,” Hodges said. “I was determined to do everything I could in the time I had to show FGP students that we belong here, and we are valued in the legal community.”

Hodges plans to continue her mission of advocating for those with fewer resources as a Missouri Justice Fellow.

“Often times, as a public defender, clients are coming to you on one of the worst days of their lives. I want them to know that despite what their situation may be, they still deserve respect and the best representation I can possibly provide,” Hodges said. “I am excited to be able to have a career where each day I can work toward criminal justice reform by advocating for those who have been marginalized in our society.”

As a first-generation professional, Hodges looks forward to connecting with and supporting her clients through an empathetic lens.

“I may not know what it’s like to walk in my clients’ shoes, but I want them to know that I do know what it’s like to not have the same financial resources as others,” Hodges said. “I want my future clients to know that just because someone is living in poverty does not mean that they do not deserve fair and competent legal ​representation and access to justice.”

-By Sydney Halas

This is the final post in a series highlighting a few of the exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2022. Check out previous stories about Olivia BlackParker BednasekCortez DowneyAshlyn ShultzDahnika ShortTrey Duran, Heddy Pierce-Armstrong and Lakisha Cooper.

Alumni gift creates labor law fund in honor of Professor Raymond Goetz

From the late Professor Raymond Goetz, William Bevan III learned that objectivity and understanding are essential to being a good labor lawyer.

“If you’re going to be really successful at it, you have to understand what’s motivating the people on the other side of the bargaining table or the other side of a labor dispute,” Bevan said.

Bevan, L’70, recently established a fund to help teach that approach to future generations of KU Law students. Bevan created the Raymond Goetz Labor and Employment Law Support Fund with a $25,000 gift to KU Endowment. The fund is intended to support programs related to labor and employment law. It will also create an award for third-year students studying labor or employment law.

Goetz started teaching labor and employment law courses at KU in 1967. He retired in 1987. Bevan said he and many classmates thought of Goetz as a demanding but fair teacher with a wide range of interests who students could always go talk to.

“He meant a great deal to me as a professor, as a teacher and as a mentor,” Bevan said.

When Bevan started teaching as an adjunct professor at the University of Pittsburgh in 1988, Goetz was his first call. He wanted to teach with the same Socratic method that Goetz had successfully used with Bevan and two decades worth of other KU Law graduates. 

The education in labor and employment law he received at KU enabled Bevan to achieve a series of career goals in labor law, from working at the National Labor Relations Board in a number of capacities to building a career in private practice, a career that’s still ongoing.

“I wanted to honor him, and I wanted to give back to the school for giving me the education that enabled me to have a really wonderful career,” Bevan said.

Make a gift to the Raymond Goetz Labor and Employment Law Support Fund

— By Margaret Hair

Graduate Profile: Lakisha Cooper, L’22

Educator plans to use J.D., Ph.D. to address inequity

Lakisha Cooper lives by the belief, “be the change you want to see in the world.”

Lakisha Cooper
Lakisha Cooper, L’22

She recently graduated from the University of Kansas with two degrees that will allow her to follow that belief on a greater scale.

Cooper, L’22, completed her law degree at the same time as a doctoral degree in educational leadership and policy studies. She worked for 12 years as a special education and secondary English teacher in the Kansas City Public Schools before coming to law school. During that time, Cooper saw the challenges schools face in providing an equitable and adequate education to all students, she said.

“As I prepared to work as an educational leader, it became increasingly clear that policies and procedures that were created to reduce educational disparities only work when monitored and enforced,” Cooper said. “The decision to pursue these degrees concurrently made sense because there is tremendous work to be done to protect the legal rights of students and public education.”

Originally from Shawnee Mission, Kansas, Cooper earned her bachelor’s degree from the KU School of Business. While she worked as a teacher, she completed a master’s degree in special education from Northwest Missouri State University and a master’s degree in educational leadership from Arkansas State University.

Cooper’s passion for education intersected with her interest in the law. That intersection is also a fundamental part of our democracy, she said.

“In 1894, Frederick Douglas explained, ‘To deny education to any people is one of the greatest crimes against human nature.’ Education equals liberty and is a fundamental part of full inclusion in a democratic society,” Cooper said.

Working toward inclusion and equity shaped Cooper’s law school experience. Serving on the leadership team of the Black Law Students Association was Cooper’s most impactful activity outside of the classroom, she said. Cooper was treasurer of BLSA during the 2020-2021 academic year.

“The summer of 2020 was among the most trying times in terms of race relations in the United States,” Cooper said. The deaths of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor at the hands of law enforcement amplified the need for the legal system to eliminate gaps in protection that allow for the disparate treatment of marginalized individuals, she said.

“As protests ignited across the country in reaction to the killing of George Floyd and many others, as a leadership team we met and discussed the importance of this moment in history to unite and say enough is enough,” Cooper said.

“The crafting of the statement by BLSA to address the death of George Floyd, and the ongoing discussions on diversity with law school leadership, alumni, and members of the Lawrence community over the course of that year was an important part of my development as a law student and future attorney,” she said. “Change is not easy but for change to occur one must be willing to evaluate with a critical eye, be thoughtful and reflective, and ensure everyone has a seat at the table because representation matters.”

Cooper also participated in the Sports Law Society and KU Privacy and Cybersecurity Society. She was a member of the Judge Hugh Means Inn of Court professional organization.

Two KU Law professors helped Cooper develop as a writer and researcher, as she worked with them on projects that aligned with her interests and skills. Professor Lua Yuille invited Cooper to join a daily summer writing workshop that allowed her to meet other women working in the law, collaborate, and learn writing strategies. Cooper also worked with Professor Najarian Peters, supporting research on privacy and Black homeschooling families.

“The training and mentoring I received from Professor Peters helped me develop as a researcher and reminded me of the importance of prioritizing self-care,” Cooper said.

Lakisha Cooper poses in graduation regalia with a Jayhawk statue outside the Lied Center of Kansas
Photo courtesy of Lakisha Cooper

Last summer, Cooper interned with the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Civil Rights through KU Law’s Field Placement Program. Her duties included conducting legal research and working on the compliance and monitoring of cases the office handled.

“This internship provided me with an opportunity to seamlessly blend my education experience with my legal training and the chance to learn from veteran colleagues,” Cooper said. “The mentorship that I continue to receive because of this experience is invaluable and will be a part of my future success as an attorney.”

After graduating, Cooper is excited to pursue work in a variety of spaces on projects she is passionate about.

“I plan to continue my research on Black girls and barriers to educational attainment,” Cooper said. “I want to use my degree to influence policies and laws to benefit those who are in most need of support and advocacy.”

— By Margaret Hair

This post is the eighth in a series highlighting a few of the exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2022. Check out previous stories about Olivia Black, Parker Bednasek, Cortez Downey, Ashlyn Shultz, Dahnika Short, Trey Duran and Heddy Pierce-Armstrong, Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.