Thursday, July 17, 2014
Tuesday, April 22, 2014
I’ll tell you right now, your first year of law school is a lot of reading and writing. Although reading and writing will be a large part of any attorney’s job, other skills like client communication, oral argumentation, and basic courtroom etiquette are equally essential. One of the coolest things I’ve experienced here at KU Law is the opportunity to get involved in low-stakes litigation as a first-year student.
With that lead in, let’s talk about something near and dear to my heart: Traffic Court. The University of Kansas is large, with a correspondingly large number of parking lots. When people get parking tickets on campus, they have the opportunity to appeal to the KU Court of Parking Appeals, which is staffed by none other than the students of KU Law. The first-year students get to serve as attorneys, and the second- and third-year students serve as judges.
One of the coolest things about Traffic Court is that in September of your first year of law school, you can be representing clients. Although the appeals are for parking tickets, I assure you, the clients are very real. They have a story, agenda, and stake in the outcome of your performance. Being a lawyer requires a “bedside manner” of sorts, and there is no substitute for experience. Being able to represent clients right out of the shoot makes you feel like a lawyer, act like a lawyer, and improve as a lawyer.
Once you have a client and understand his or her case, the next step is to begin to research arguments to support your client’s position. Traffic Court is unique in that it has a narrow body of case law created and followed exclusively by the KU Court of Parking Appeals. It is the responsibility of the attorneys to look at prior Traffic Court cases and make comparisons and distinctions with the ultimate aim of forming a coherent argument in favor of your client. As a practicing attorney this is exactly the kind of thing you will be doing on a regular basis. Getting familiar with the process early is immensely beneficial to you and your clients.
This is the fun part. Now that you’ve researched the relevant cases and formed an argument, its time to take it for a test drive. Traffic Court normally gives each side seven minutes for oral arguments with the defense attorney going first. My favorite part of oral argument is that it very rapidly turns into a discussion. The justices are interested in probing the limits of your argument, clarifying your facts, and testing the practical application of your legal theory. They do this by interrupting you with questions. As frustrating as this can be, it is once again an example of something you will have to do in practice.
At the conclusion of your arguments, the justices critique the attorneys for both sides. They suggest alternative arguments, way to improve your presentation, and pointers on courtroom etiquette. I can tell you first hand that each time you go into Traffic Court you will do better than your previous performance, and you will be improved when you leave. Law is a practice because there is no substitute for experience. That fact that you can start gaining that experience in September of your first year is an unbeatable opportunity.
Furthermore, the structure of Traffic Court speaks to the collaborative community at KU Law my fellow bloggers have pointed out. Traffic Court is entirely student driven. You are getting feedback from your peers, and those peers want to see you succeed. They also want to see you improve and will let you know where that can happen.
I’ll leave you with this final thought: There are few things more satisfying than standing in the KU Law courtroom as a 1L and saying, “Your Honor, the University appears by Ian Patterson, prosecuting attorney, KU Court of Parking Appeals.”Then again, I did write an entire blog about it, so maybe I’m biased.
— Ian Patterson is a first-year law student and KU Law Student Ambassador from Minneapolis, Minn.
Monday, April 14, 2014
When starting law school, there is a common assumption you will finally be relieved of all the math and science you dreaded through undergrad and before. But little did you know, law school is just another three years of equations and balancing tests. In Torts, you deal with Judge Hand’s negligence formula. In Con Law, you use the Pike balancing test. Even in Lawyering you are supposed to balance all these factors in some sort of totality of circumstances way.
I’ve come to accept I will never escape these scientific formulas. Instead, I decided to enjoy the math and science of law school. This led me to my greatest law school accomplishment: the Coffee Consumption Calculation. Unlike these other law school formulas, this five-part test is absolutely crucial to functioning properly in law school. It has been tested for approximately two full semesters, and I assure you it is infallible.
Keep track of your points carefully:
What half of the semester are you in?
- 2 point for first half
- 3 points for second half
What day of the week is it?
- 5 points for Monday
- 4 points for Tuesday
- 3 points for Wednesday
- 2 points for Thursday
- 1 point for Friday
How many hours did you sleep last night?
- 0 points for 8+ hours
- 1 point for 6-8 hours
- 2 points for 4-6 hours
- 3 points for 2-4 hours
- 4 points for 0-2 hours
How many classes do you have today?
- 3 points for 1-3 classes
- 4 points for 3-5 classes
- Don't get out of bed for 5+ classes
- OCI day: Cut the points in half so you don't squirm all interview
- If you’re "up" in class: Add 1 point
- Have a lot to drink last night? Add 2 points
- Sitting in one of the freezing rooms for class? Add 2 points
Add up all your points.
- Every 4 points = 1 pot of coffee
- An extra 2 points adds 1/2 pot
- 1 extra point adds a shot of espresso
Example 1: 13 points = 3 pots plus 1 point leftover adds 1 shot of espresso.
Example 2: 14 points = 3 pots plus 2 points leftover adds 1/2 pot of coffee.
Disclaimer: Please keep in mind this calculation is a bare minimum. Nothing, including this calculation, is keeping you from drinking more coffee as needed.
— Ashley Akers is a first-year law student and KU Law Student Ambassador from Casper, Wyoming.
Thursday, April 10, 2014
Back in February, KU's international moot court team traveled to Denver, Colorado to compete in the 55th annual Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition. The Jessup Moot Court competition is the world’s largest moot court competition, with participants from 80 countries and more than 550 law schools. The competition is based on a fact pattern that draws on contemporary international legal issues and themes.
This year, the problem focused on the law of the sea, and included pirates, artificial islands, and shipwrecks (oh, my!). I, along with my four other team members and Professor John Head, our faculty advisor, packed our nicest suits, eye patches, and peg legs, and took off for Denver University’s Sturm College of Law to compete in regionals.
The competition was fierce, and our team faced many worthy opponents. Our performance was based on our memorial submission, which took most of winter break to complete (hey, I can’t make Jessup sound like it is all fun and no work) and our performances during oral arguments. While our team did not advance to the international rounds this year, we did not come home empty handed. One of our team members, Ashley Akers, was a Top 5 Oralist at the competition and plundered a shiny new plaque from the high seas to show off around Green Hall. We also had the chance to make friends with students from the region, who were able to share in some of the highs and lows of the competition. (Please do not insert Colorado “Rocky Mountain High” joke here). Although it was an unofficial honor, our competitors graciously bestowed upon us the honor of “Best Team to Have a Beer With.”
When we weren’t facing off against competitors or making friends, we were enjoying Denver. Between rounds, we fortified ourselves with Qdoba and Snarf’s sandwiches, which became my local favorite. We also worked in some sightseeing and saw the very first Chipotle. Our team nearly passed out from all the excitement.
All in all we had a lot of laughs and worked our tails off. I could not be more proud of the team. It would have been great to advance to internationals and compete in Washington, D.C., but it sure tempers the sting of defeat coming home with a new plaque and having met some wonderful and incredibly talented new friends. Now if only Southwest could give Jon his luggage back, we could all retire our peg legs, fog machines, and pirate jokes, and resume our lives back here in Green Hall. Until next year!
— Kasey Considine is a second-year law student and KU Law Student Ambassador from Boston.
Monday, March 31, 2014
To my surprise, the warnings I received were true. Law school is, in fact, hard, and it does take up the majority of my time. So I had to find ways to stay healthy and sane in such a pressure cooker of an environment.
First, I have found that it is imperative to have at least one fun thing to look forward to each week. Although most of my time is spent studying, there are plenty of ways to decompress. I recommend carving out some time each week to do something fun.
My personal happy place is playing pick-up basketball with other law students once or twice a week. On the first day of 1L orientation, I quickly found that a number of my classmates enjoy playing basketball, too. There's even a Facebook group that helps law students find dates and times to organize a few games. I find that these weekly games are a great way for me to escape the traditional worries of school and just enjoy the moment.
If basketball isn’t of interest, there are many other ways to spend your time. KU Recreation Services has a fantastic gym, equipped with a climbing wall and racquetball courts.
Beyond physical activity, the law school itself, or groups within it, facilitate and host fun social events. In the past couple of weeks, three events have taken place that bring together law students, professors, guests and alumni to enjoy an evening out: the Diversity Banquet, the Hope Gala (formally known as Pub Night), and Barrister’s Ball. Most notable of the three for me is Barrister’s Ball, also known as Law Prom. This was my first year attending, and it was a blast. It is always fun to have a reason to dress up and enjoy a night of food, drinks, friends and dancing. Law Prom is one night that the law school student body looks forward to each year, and it almost always sells out.
I have also found that spending time with friends and family has been helpful in relieving stress. Taking time off on a Friday or Saturday to grab a bite to eat or watch a basketball game with friends helps take my mind off school just long enough to for me to recharge and prevent burnout. The key is finding a balance that works best.
Last, but not least, sleep is crucial to my success. If I want to fully function each day, I need an adequate amount of sleep each night. Getting the right amount of sleep and practicing healthy eating habits (or at least eating regularly) helps keep my mind and body strong enough to endure the ups and downs of law school.
Law school is hard work. What makes it bearable and more enjoyable is managing your time and taking advantage of fun activities outside the classroom. I encourage students to find the balance that works best for them.
— Johnathan Koonce is a second-year law student and KU Law Student Ambassador from Colorado Springs, CO.
Tuesday, March 25, 2014
"As a young lawyer, I never learned how to do a deposition," Valdez said. "If I could give our students an opportunity to learn that in an educational arena where they can make a mistake and clients’ interests aren’t at stake, why not?”