Hands-On Learning Q&A: Tyler Schembri, Criminal Prosecution Field Placement

Tyler Schembri, 3L

From nearly the beginning of his higher education journey, Tyler Schembri, 3L, knew that criminal prosecution was where he wanted to be. He graduated from the University of New Mexico with a degree in Criminology and, after graduation, was commissioned into the U.S. Army on active duty, where he was stationed at Fort Riley, Kansas. As part of his transition out of the Army, he was able to intern for the Riley County Attorney’s Office in Manhattan, Kansas, and it was there where his passion for criminal law began to grow.

The Criminal Prosecution Field Placement is one of KU Law’s oldest hands-on learning opportunities and is also one of the few placement programs in the nation that specializes in criminal prosecution. Students in the Criminal Prosecution Field Placement gain significant courtroom experience working side by side with prosecutors in federal, state and local offices in virtually all phases of the criminal justice process.

Schembri shared his experience working with the Nashville District Attorney’s Office in Tennessee during the summer before his 3L year.

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

I spent this past summer interning for the Nashville District Attorney’s Office in Tennessee. I spent every single day in court practicing with my Rule 7 permit under the supervision of a licensed attorney. I was primarily responsible for handling felony preliminary hearings, where I routinely conducted direct examinations of police officers and victims, cross-examinations of defense witnesses and closing arguments in front of a judge. I also had the opportunity to participate in numerous plea negotiations with defense attorneys. The work was fast paced, with more than 15-20 cases on our docket every day.

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

Absolutely. This program helped improve the necessary advocacy skills to be a successful attorney. Preparing for court every day strengthened my confidence to speak in front of others, my knowledge of the law and my ability to create strong relationships with defense attorneys, victims and police officers. One of the best parts about this program was learning from all the experienced prosecutors who showed me the ropes and were always willing to give me advice.

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

This program provided me with invaluable experience by giving insight into the inner workings of a courtroom which you cannot learn from the typical law school environment. There is no substitute for real-world experience. I can now draw on my time in the courtroom to help better myself for classes such as mock trial. I also use this experience to give advice to 1Ls and 2Ls who are considering enrolling in the field placement programs.

What has been your favorite part of working in your field placement?

My favorite part of working in the field placement program was being given the opportunity to make the Nashville community a safer place, helps the victims of criminal offenses, all while gaining real courtroom experience in an area of the law I am truly passionate about. My time with the criminal prosecution field placement has been one of my best memories so far during my time at KU Law.

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

I would recommend enrolling in the field placement if you are interested in becoming a litigator, improving on your advocacy skills, and helping protect your community.

-By Emma Herrman

Chief Justice, Justices and May it Please the (Moot) Court

Oyez, Oyez, Oyez! Reporting live from Green Hall Room 201 – it’s In-House Moot Court Competition week.

Karen Campbell, 2L

KU’s nationally ranked Moot Court program is more than just a trophy-stocked room on the 5th floor. It’s an opportunity to engage deeply with an important issue, work closely with a partner (shout out to Leah Stein, who has been keeping me sane for the past three months!) and see what an oral argument on the highest stage looks and feels like (spoiler alert: stressful). It’s also one of the most rewarding, hands-on experiences I’ve had in law school so far. Even if you have no interest in litigation, you should check it out!

There are two ways to qualify for KU’s Moot Court Council. This is a little complicated, so I’ll break it down:

  1. Students can qualify as 1Ls under the Shook, Hardy & Bacon Scholars Program, which awards membership (and a generous scholarship) to the best oral advocate from each 1L Lawyering Skills class. These advocates participate in at least one national competition throughout their 2L year and have the option to participate in Moot Court Council as 3Ls as well.
  2. Students can also qualify, as here, by participating in the In-House Moot Court Competition Class, offered for one credit hour each fall. The class itself is open to both 2Ls and 3Ls. As part of the class, each student writes a brief with a partner, practices arguing that brief in front of a Moot Court Council member, and prepares arguments on both sides of that brief for presentation at oral argument.

This week, 17 teams will compete in the Preliminary, Octofinal, Semifinal and Championship Rounds of the In-House Moot Court Competition. The stakes? A place on Moot Court Council next year. This entails:

  1. The chance to participate in (and maybe even travel to a cool location for) a National Moot Court Competition as a 3L.
  2. The chance to grade briefs, judge rounds and engage with 2Ls as a 3L Council member.
  3. First priority for a coveted seat in Professor Keller’s Writing for Law Practice class.
  4. The chance to be part of the number ten–ranked Moot Court program in the nation.
  5. If you’re lucky, a pretty sweet scholarship!

Congratulations and good luck to all Moot Court participants for fall 2023!

– Karen Campbell is a 2L KU Law Student Ambassador from Lawrence, Kansas

Calling all cat (or animal) lovers!

KU Law Ambassador explores new cat cafe in Lawrence

Desiree Duke, 3L

If you haven’t heard the news already, Lawrence had its very first cat cafe open in late July 2023. Located on Mass St., Espurresso Cat Cafe is the perfect place to get your coffee and cat fix in.

Espurresso Cat Cafe is partnered with the Lawrence Humane Society to help with the adoption of kittens and cats. All of the kittens and cats in the café are adoptable. If you aren’t in a position to adopt, the kittens and cats are always there for you to simply visit and love on. In order to avoid overwhelming the cat parlor, reservations are highly encouraged – it is $10 for 30 minutes and $15 for an hour. The cafe area is always free with no reservation necessary.

Of course, I cannot neglect to mention the other half of the cat cafe – the cafe! Espurreso Cat Cafe offers a variety of drinks and pastries. This ranges from lattes, chai tea, americanos, lavender lemonade, muffins, biscotti, scones and so much more. Plus, the cafe offers an array of alternative milks and vegan pastries. If you aren’t interested in getting too up close and personal with the cats but would like to watch from a distance with your coffee and pastry, there is wall-to-wall plexiglass with bar seating separating the café from the cat parlor which allows you to do so. This is also great option for those who want to admire the cats but are worried about potential allergies.

For those who are looking for that forever friend and are interested in adopting, the adoption fees are $125 for kittens and $60 for cats – this includes their spay/neuter, microchip and vaccinations. The adoption fee goes directly to Lawrence Humane Society to help cover medical and care expenses.

For those—like me—who love cats but just aren’t in a position to get one, Espurresso Cat Cafe has been the perfect addition to my little life. I can come in, sip my coffee surrounded by some fun, cuddly cats, and leave with some serotonin that I didn’t have before. The people are kind, the space is great, the coffee and pastries are yummy and it’s perfect for a law school study break (or study session if you can avoid the cat-parlor temptation)!

Espurresso Cat Cafe is located at 1014 Massachusetts St., Lawrence, KS 66044 (map and directions). Check out their website for more information: https://www.espurressocatcafe.com/

– Desiree Duke is a 3L KU Law Student Ambassador from Albuquerque, New Mexico

Best Places to Caffeinate Yourself when Staying Awake Feels Like a Chore

Uncovering the ultimate coffee havens for the sleep-deprived

Israel Nelson, 2L

It’s October. Which means, that for law students, assignments are quickly coming due, midterms are happening, and every single event for clubs is happening all at once. To top it all off, the weather is becoming drearier and all you probably want to do is curl up under a nice weighted blanket and sleep for three years.

Unfortunately, you’re in law school, which means you absolutely do not have time for naps and weighted blankets. So here are my personal favorite places in Lawrence to caffeinate yourself when you need to get through that next 60 pages of reading or your next brief.

S&S Artisan Pub & Coffee Shop

Located on Iowa, S&S is a cute little haunt with food, coffee, and even a full bar. You can order from an app on your phone, meaning if you don’t want to interact with anyone, you absolutely can! Come here during the day (or until 9 on Fridays and Saturdays) if you need to crank out some work. The best part about S&S is that it’s not on Mass Street, meaning it’s not frequented by undergrads, making it a bit quieter place to study. (map and directions)

La Prima Tazza

I’m a bit of a night owl, and so I tend to do my best work in the evenings and later at night. Enter La Prima Tazza. Located on Mass Street (like many of the others on this list), La Prima Tazza is open until 10:00 p.m. (10:30 on weekends). Their coffee is amazing – my favorite thing on the menu is the Mole Mocha, which is a spicy mocha! However, if coffee isn’t your caffeine of choice, they sell Matcha, Chai lattes, a variety of teas and even Red Bull! (map and directions)

Java Break

Probably the most popular (and most famous) coffee shop in Lawrence, Java Break is a unique space with booths, outdoor seating and writing all over the wall. The most unique feature, however, is a cereal bar, where you can customize a bowl of cereal to go with your caffeinated beverage! And if you’re not sure about what cereal and toppings you want to eat – there’s a handy cereal bar randomizer on their website for when making a decision seems like the last thing you want to use your brain power for! (map and directions)

J&S Coffee

Located on 6th Street, J&S is a perfect option if you are trying to get away from campus and explore other parts of Lawrence. With an opening time of 6:30, this place is perfect for all the early birds in town who want to get some studying done before class. The owners are super friendly towards students and even offer a student discount, so make sure to bring your KU ID! (map and directions)

The Bourgeois Pig

Alright, so The Bourgeois Pig frequently comes up as one of the best bars in Lawrence, but it’s important to remember it’s ALSO a coffee shop! It is my personal favorite on this list, as during the day and on the weekends, you get a good atmosphere of both graduate students studying next to people having a quick drink on their way home from work. They also have amazing outdoor seating, and well, if you happen to be up very late at night, they will serve you coffee until bar closing time at 2 a.m! (map and directions)

– Israel Nelson is a 2L KU Law Student Ambassador from Gastonia, North Carolina

Patrick Perkins joins KU Law faculty as associate professor

Patrick Perkins

Patrick Perkins has joined the KU Law faculty as an associate professor. He is teaching Business Organizations this fall which he cites as a natural extension of his time as a practicing attorney.

“I used to meet with clients all the time to educate them on important legal aspects of business,” said Perkins. “It’s great to now be training students to be able to go out and do the same thing. I do so with an eye to teaching the students what I wish I had known before entering practice.”

Teaching had always been at the back of Perkin’s mind, but it wasn’t his first career choice. After receiving his J.D. from the University of Michigan Law School in 2013, Perkins started his first job at a big law firm in Silicon Valley. Though his time working with small business owners and tech companies has shifted into a world of education, he continues to use what he learned in his scholarship.

“I spent the bulk of my time as an attorney representing entrepreneurs in early-stage companies,” said Perkins. “I found that being in that sort of environment and working shoulder to shoulder with entrepreneurs and tech founders was really invigorating. I’m hoping to use my scholarship to continue my advocacy for small businesses and start-ups.”

Prior to accepting the position at KU Law, Perkins was the Jeff and Cynthia Harris Clinical Fellow in the Entrepreneurial Business Law Clinic at The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. 

With the school year already well underway, Perkins is excited to be immersed in the KU and Lawrence environment.

“I’ve especially loved working with the students,” said Perkins. “They’ve helped to make the transition from clinical work to teaching relatively easy. They’re always eager to learn and laugh at my bad jokes at least some of the time. It’s been a great transition thus far and I’m excited to see what else Lawrence has to offer.”

By Emma Herrman

Hands-On Learning Q&A: Desiree Duke, Medical-Legal Partnership

Desiree Duke, 3L

Desiree Duke, 3L, is no stranger to the world of law and justice, thanks to her mother. Originally from Albuquerque, New Mexico, Duke worked as an assistant to a Legal Life Care Planner/Burn Injury Expert as part of her pre-law school work experience where her true passion for plaintiff personal injury and medical malpractice came to fruition. She then took part in the Medical-Legal Partnership to continue her work to become the best attorney and advocate for their clients.

The Medical-Legal Partnership is a collaboration between KU Law and two health systems: The University of Kansas Health System at KU Medical Center in Kansas City and Lawrence Memorial Hospital in Lawrence. MLP interns work with MLP attorneys to gain experience conducting intake interviews; developing case strategies; conducting legal research; and preparing legal pleadings, briefs and memoranda of support.

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

In the spring of my 2L year, I had the opportunity to work at the Medical-Legal Partnership (MLP) Field Placement Program at KU Medical Center in Kansas City. My time at the MLP consisted of various work including conducting legal research, writing memoranda and drafting legal documents.

However, the majority of my work was interviewing potential clients. I spoke to between five and ten potential clients each day at the MLP and conducted thorough interviews to gain an understanding of the situation they were seeking legal help for. From there, I would draft a detailed memorandum relaying the information to my managing attorneys for review.

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

I improved my interpersonal skills and communication. You speak to an array of people from all different walks of life at the MLP and it’s important to know how to read and accurately interpret what each person is saying to form an effective response back. Not one single person’s experience is the same, not every person is as comfortable speaking to you as the next and at the end of the day, these are real people telling you real, personal issues that they need help with. Knowing this, it was important and inevitable that my interpersonal skills improved to respond to each potential client as they need me to.

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

Although the experience didn’t necessarily change the course of my desired law career, it did shift my perspective while working with clients and legal issues. For example, the MLP works with a lot of clients who are dealing with legal issues related to landlord/tenant disputes, immigration, housing, employment, name changes, gender marker corrections, etc. Understanding these areas of the law and how they affect everyday people truly broadened how I look at those I’m working with and the tools I have if potentially needed. Being the best attorney and advocate for my clients means understanding everything I can about them and their needs – even if those needs expand beyond personal injury.

What has been your favorite part of working in your field placement?

The human connections you make every single day on the job. Speaking to potential clients every day means hearing real human stories and problems. I acknowledge the privilege in the position I held at the MLP to be the person that potential clients disclosed their troubles with, and I was truly humbled and honored.

I also made wonderful connections with the two individuals who run the Kansas City location: Lindsey Collins, managing attorney, and Brook Nasseri, staff attorney. They have such a passion for the work they do at the MLP and it was inspiring to watch that passion flourish while working beside them.

What would you say to law students considering enrolling in the medical-legal partnership?

I would encourage you to go in with an open mind, ready to learn something new every single day. I would also encourage you to get comfortable with the uncomfortable; the job can be mentally heavy and it’s important you prepare yourself for that. I stress that you are never afraid to ask questions – the only silly question is the one unasked. Lastly, I would say to truly listen to those that you are interviewing and to remember that they are human beings. Sometimes, just being an ear to empathize and grieve with can make all the difference.

– By Emma Herrman