‘Looking forward to seeing what type of good I can get up to with a J.D.’
For Delaney Hiegert, L’21, the most impactful experience during their three years at KU Law was all about helping others.
In fall 2019, Hiegert – along with classmate Ellen Bertels – gathered support from the Douglas County Legal Aid Society and LGTBQ+ activists across Kansas to launch the Gender Marker and Name Change Project. The GMNC Project, operating within the KU Legal Aid Clinic at Green Hall, provides pro bono legal representation for transgender and nonbinary individuals as they seek affirming gender marker and name changes in Kansas.
“Ellen and I had a pipe dream of helping transgender Kansans by providing pro bono representation and free resources for them as they sought gender-affirming legal identity document changes on their journey of living authentically,” Hiegert said.
In addition to providing representation and resources, Hiegert and Bertels made connections with attorneys across the state and began offering CLE trainings related to advocating for transgender clients.
The experiences they had co-founding and working with the Gender Marker and Name Change Project “will stick with me throughout my legal career,” Hiegert said.
“It was an amazing experience to be able to serve our trans community and help to ensure the legal profession is capable of equitably advocating for transgender and gender diverse people in Kansas,” they said.
Hiegert and Bertels recently received the national PSJD Pro Bono Publico Award, honoring their work launching the Gender Marker and Name Change Project. Presented by the National Association for Law Placement, the award recognizes law students whose commitment to law-related public service work contributes to a culture of pro bono service within their law school. Hiegert and Bertels recruited and trained classmates to volunteer with the project.
At KU’s Lavender Graduation & Pride Awards in April, Hiegert received the Be You at KU Student of the Year Award, and the GMNC Project earned the Best Program or Initiative Pride Award.
KU Law awarded Hiegert the Samuel Mellinger Scholarship, Leadership, and Service Award at graduation. The award is given to the student who has most distinguished themselves in the combined areas of scholarship, leadership and service.
During law school, Hiegert was on the leadership team of OUTLaws & Allies, and participated in the Dean’s Diversity Leadership Council, the American Constitution Society and the undergraduate ACLU of KU student organization. They were also on the board of the Kansas Journal of Law & Public Policy.
Favorite courses included Professor Kyle Velte’s course on Sexual Orientation and the Law.
“It was a great opportunity for me to engage with LGBTQ+ advocacy issues in the specific context of the law,” Hiegert said. “Plus, our final projects were podcasts related to an LGBTQ+ legal issue we were interested in, so I actually had a lot of fun creating it!”
This spring, Hiegert worked as a legal intern for the National Health Law Program through KU Law’s 6th Semester in D.C. program, which allows students to spend their last semester of law school taking classes and working in Washington, D.C.
“I was grateful to have the opportunity to learn about life as a full-time attorney prior to the start of my first post-graduation job,” Hiegert said.
Born and raised in Topeka, Hiegert earned their B.A. in communications studies – with minors in journalism and criminal justice – from Newman University in Wichita.
“I’m a Kansas kid at heart, so I was happy to have the opportunity to stay in my home state for law school,” they said.
Looking back on their time at KU Law, Hiegert said their favorite memories “are just all the little moments I had with my friends in Green Hall that got me through each semester.”
“Heely-ing in the basement through the tile hallway before each final; our first (and only) law prom; late-night study session snack runs; drag shows at the Jazzhaus; the Bluebook relays. There’s too many to choose one!” they said.
After graduation, Hiegert plans to sit for the July bar exam before starting a clerkship with Judge Jacy Hurst, L’07, of the Kansas Court of Appeals. Following their clerkship, Hiegert plans to pursue public interest fellowships or attorney positions focusing on LGBTQ+ justice issues and social justice issues.
“I’m looking forward to seeing what type of good I can get up to with a J.D.,” Hiegert said.
“I think that the skills I learned while at KU Law have prepared me to be a truly effective advocate for the causes that I am passionate about, and I am eager to put them to use!”
— By Margaret Hair
This post is the seventh 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 and Samantha Natera. Stay tuned for more profiles as we celebrate this year’s graduating class.