Following his first year of law school, Blake Saffels took a field placement with the Missouri State Public Defender’s office in Kansas City, Missouri. The experience put him on a path that will continue after his graduation from the University of Kansas School of Law.
“It provided great practical experience from working with some excellent attorneys and from getting hands-on experience interacting with clients. That experience also reaffirmed my desire to go into criminal defense,” Saffels said.
In addition to the Field Placement Program, Saffels prepared for a career in criminal law by participating in the Judicial Field Placement Program, Expert Witness Skills Workshop and Deposition Skills Workshop.
Saffels will start his legal career as an associate attorney focusing on criminal defense at Berkowitz Oliver in Kansas City, Missouri.
“At some point in my career, I will hopefully get to witness the end of the death penalty, mass incarceration, and many of the other problems in our country’s criminal system,” Saffels said.
Professor Emeritus Ellen Sward was one of Saffels’ favorite instructors at KU Law. Sward “kept things fun with her unique sense of humor” and was committed to her students’ success, Saffels said.
“I would not necessarily say that her infamous 9-hour Civil Procedure final was my favorite experience ever. But both classes I took from Professor Sward were challenging without being overwhelming, and she made complex material easy to understand,” he said.
Saffels earned a nickname – “Justice Saffels” – during his first year of law school. Friends had joked that his objective and thoughtful speaking would make him a great judge. When a professor asked during class if he was related to Judge Saffels – Blake’s grandfather was a judge – the name stuck.
“I could not tell you why because I do not plan on trying to become a judge, but some friends decided to call me Justice Saffels almost exclusively for the next two and a half years,” Saffels said.
Originally from Overland Park, Saffels earned his undergraduate degree in accounting and finance from KU in 2013. He and his wife, Hillary, had their son, Emerson, one month into Saffels’ first semester of law school. Their daughter, Lillian, was born last summer.
— By Margaret Hair
This post is the eighth in a series highlighting a few of the exceptional members of KU Law’s Class of 2021. Check out previous stories about Aidan Graybill, Howard Mahan, Zachary Kelsay, Marisol Garcia, Leah Lewsader, Samantha Natera and Delaney Hiegert.