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.
“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.