Law school ranked among best in nation for practical training

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Law ranks 21st in the nation for offering the best practical training for future lawyers, according to National Jurist magazine.

The rankings, which recognize “schools that go above and beyond in preparing law students for the real world,” appear in the spring 2016 issue.

“Since KU Law offered its first clinic more than 50 years ago, hands-on learning opportunities that allow students to represent real clients or practice the skills of a working lawyer have continued to grow,” said Stephen Mazza, dean and professor of law. “We are pleased that this ranking recognizes our ongoing efforts to expand opportunities for students to prepare for the practice of law and proud of the many ways our students have helped their clients and communities in the process.”

A few success stories:

  • Students in KU Law’s Project for Innocence helped free a man after 16 years in prison for a murder his brother eventually confessed to committing. They also earned the exoneration and release of a woman unconstitutionally convicted of murder through a coerced confession.
  • A student in KU Law’s Medical-Legal Partnership helped a victim of human trafficking obtain a T visa, providing her with a foundation to begin a new life in the United States, free from fear of retribution.
  • A student in the Legislative Clinic conducted legal research, wrote memos and presented his findings to the Kansas Senate Judiciary Committee – work that contributed to the passage of legislation that increased penalties for drunk drivers whose actions injure victims.

KU Law offers 12 clinics and externships in a variety of practice areas, a robust moot court and mock trial competition program, and simulation courses that teach students the art of taking and defending depositions, examining expert witnesses and performing due diligence in business transactions. The Best Schools for Practical Training rankings measure which schools have the greatest percentage of students participating in such programs.

KU Law also rose two spots in the 2017 edition of U.S. News and World Report’s Best Graduate Schools guidebook, ascending to 65th among all law schools and maintaining its 36th-place rank among public schools. KU has increased its standing for four consecutive years.

KU Law’s innovative simulation courses are also featured in the guidebook’s article on “Law Schools that are Breaking with Tradition.”

There are roughly 200 law schools accredited by the American Bar Association.

KU Law team crowned national champions at Indian law moot court competition

Monday, March 07, 2016

LAWRENCE — March Madness hasn’t even started, and KU has already won a national championship. A KU Law team brought home first-place honors from this year’s National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition.  

Ashley Akers, of Casper, Wyoming, and Maureen Orth, of Prairie Village, won the competition and received the best brief award. Orth was named the second-best oral advocate and received the first-ever G. William Rice Advocate Award for the highest cumulative points in the competition. Corey Adams of Wichita and Nathan Kakazu of Madison, Wisconsin, placed third and received the second-place brief award. Nick Hayes of Lawrence and Jason Vigil of Las Cruces, New Mexico, also represented KU at the competition, held March 5-6 at Michigan State University in East Lansing, Michigan.

The NNALSA competition tests students’ knowledge of Indian law by evaluating their legal writing and oral advocacy skills. Students submit written briefs and participate in a simulated courtroom experience.

“This year’s competition involved a hypothetical conflict between a state and tribe related to the growth and sale of marijuana on the tribe's reservation,” said Professor Elizabeth Kronk Warner, team coach and director of KU’s Tribal Law and Government Center. Students considered whether the state could apply laws prohibiting some forms of marijuana against the tribe. Akers and Orth argued on behalf of the state in the final round, defeating the University of Oklahoma to win first place.

Team members prepared for the competition by researching and preparing briefs and participating in practice rounds judged by KU Law faculty, alumni and peers.

“Our experience at the NNALSA competition was nothing short of amazing,” Akers said. “Nearly every professor at the law school took the time to judge one or more of our teams as we prepared for this competition. It's an honor to bring home this recognition for our school after it has provided so much time, energy and resources to help us succeed.”

“It feels amazing to win, but the best thing to come out of the competition is how much we learned from our coaches, the KU faculty and each other,” Orth said. “We had so much support from the whole team.”

The final rounds were judged by a panel of esteemed Indian law scholars and practitioners, including tribal judges, tribal law professors, a Michigan Supreme Court justice and a D.C. circuit judge for the U.S. Court of Appeals.

“The competition is an excellent way for students to learn federal Indian law, which is especially valuable given the close proximity of so many tribes to Kansas and the important relationship between tribes, the federal government and states,” Kronk Warner said. “Students learn and improve upon their legal research, writing and oral advocacy skills.”

This is the second year in a row that KU Law advanced to the final round of the NNALSA competition. A KU Law team brought home second place from last year’s competition at the University of Arizona.

KU Law students’ brief wins second place at national moot court competition

Wednesday, April 08, 2015

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas placed second in the Best Brief category at the 2015 Federal Bar Association’s Thurgood A. Marshall Memorial Moot Court Competition, which was March 26-27 in Washington, D.C. Emily Barclay, third-year law student from Andover, and Gretchen Rix, third-year law student from Fremont, Nebraska, represented KU.

“We improved tremendously throughout the process of preparing for the competition,” Barclay said. “It was rewarding to see our scrupulous editing culminate in an award for our brief.” 

The FBA’s moot court competition provides a simulated courtroom experience for aspiring lawyers. This year’s competition centered on two issues: the constitutionality of a police search under the Fourth Amendment and a defendant’s right to present a defense under the Sixth Amendment. Students spent a month researching and writing their brief, then prepared for oral arguments with practice rounds coached by faculty members.

“The writing skills I learned through this process will be beneficial to my future litigation practice,” Rix said. “Our coaches, Alice Craig and Quinton Lucas, as well as many other faculty members, provided invaluable advice.”

“Our goal was that they really understand the law and issues surrounding the case,” said Craig, staff attorney for the Project for Innocence and Post-Conviction Remedies. “I think they achieved that and were one of the most knowledgeable teams I saw at the competition.”

The FBA team’s success comes on the heels of the school’s strong showings at three moot court competitions earlier this year. KU students came in second and achieved a Sweet Sixteen finish at the National Native American Law Students Association Moot Court Competition; won top brief and finished in the semifinals of the Transactional LawMeet Regional Competition; and brought home a top-five speaker award at the Jessup International Law Rocky Mountain Regional Competition. 

Photo: From left, Gretchen Rix and Emily Barclay.

KU students win top writing prize at transactional law competition

Thursday, March 12, 2015

LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Law made a strong showing at the recent Transactional LawMeet Regional Competitions in Kansas City and Chicago.

The draft agreement, written by Paul Budd of Deephaven, Minnesota; Kerry Hillis of Austin, Texas, and Chris Keyser, Lee’s Summit, Missouri, was deemed the best at the competition hosted by Northwestern University School of Law, while students Maria Caruso of Leawood, Trevor Jennings of Olathe and Dylan Long of Overland Park were named regional semi-finalists of the competition at the University of Missouri-Kansas City.

The Transactional LawMeet offers a “moot court” experience for aspiring transactional lawyers.

“The competition gave me hands on-experience with transactional law by simulating an asset purchase deal between a buyer and seller,” said Caruso, a third-year law student. “I had to go through the steps of understanding my client's interests and positions, drafting those interests into a contract, marking up a contract drafted by another team on the other side of the deal and then negotiating to come to some agreement while upholding my client's interests.” 

To prepare for the competition, team members interviewed their client, conducted research, then drafted an agreement that followed legal precedent, yet was still tailored to the client’s individual needs, Keyser said.

“I was able to work on a large, complex business transaction from beginning to final negotiations,” Budd said. “As a 3L looking to work as a transactional attorney, I think this is an experience that very few law students receive.”

Team coach Kenneth Lynn, adjunct law professor, was impressed with the students’ effort.  

“Their collective performance throughout the competition was outstanding,” he said.

The team also benefited from the expertise of alumni Stan Woodworth, L’78, Craig Evans, L’85, and Kelley Sears, L’74, who served as advisers.

“It was the first chance I've had to interact with attorneys representing an opposing party's interests in a business deal, which is a great deal different from drafting or analyzing a contract from one side,” Hillis said. “That was a very valuable experience for me.”

The National Transactional LawMeet tests students’ contract and negotiation skills. This year’s case simulation involved the sale of a family-owned business to a publicly traded international corporation.  Eighty-four teams participated in seven regional competitions.

Last year, KU brought home Best Draft Agreement from the Kansas City competition and advanced one team to the final rounds in New York.

Photo: Pictured from left are Paul Budd, Kerry Hillis and Chris Keyser.

Marysville student finishes among top-five moot court competitors

Friday, February 27, 2015
 
LAWRENCE — The University of Kansas School of Law brought home fourth place and third-year law student Katie Malott was named the fifth-best oral advocate at the Jessup International Law Rocky Mountain Regional Competition in Denver, which was Feb. 19-22.

The event pitted KU law students’ written and oral advocacy skills against 20 teams and approximately 75 individual speakers from 11 states. The KU team includes third-year students Kasey Considine of Dartmouth, Massachusetts; Katie Malott of Marysville; Michael Wise of Olathe, and Steven Wu of St. Louis, as well as second-year student Jacqueline Patton of Wichita.

“Participating in this competition taught me that you can never be too prepared,” Malott said. “It would be wrong to think a judge might not ask you a specific question and then not research that issue, because likely, if you thought of the question, the judge will, too. Collaborating with other people, whether it be on the team or in an office, is important. We all had to work together and help one another.”

The Philip C. Jessup International Law Moot Court Competition is the world's largest moot court program. It features participants from more than 550 law schools and 80 countries. The competition involves a simulated dispute between nations before the International Court of Justice.

“This year’s team continued the tradition of KU’s success in the Jessup program,” said John Head, Robert W. Wagstaff Distinguished Professor of Law  and the team’s faculty adviser. “It gave these students a great opportunity to learn a vast amount of international law in a short time and to hone their advocacy skills in a highly prestigious program. I’m so pleased for them, and of course especially proud that Katie Malott received special recognition for her talents and performance.” 

The Jessup team’s success comes on the heels of KU Law’s moot court victories last year. KU had a top-five speaker at the Jessup regional competition and brought home first-place honors for their written brief at the Stetson International Environmental Law Moot Court competition in 2014. The Jayhawks also advanced to the final rounds of the 2014 National Transactional LawMeet.

Top competitors in KU’s in-house moot court competition represent the university at national and international competitions. Clinical Associate Professor Pam Keller oversees the moot court program. 

Pictured above, from left: Steven Wu, Kasey Considine, Katie Malott, Jacqueline Patton and Michael Wise.

KU students advance to national finals in transactional law competition

Friday, March 07, 2014

LAWRENCE – A team of University of Kansas School of Law students will compete in the finals of the National Transactional LawMeet next month after winning at the Chicago regional round.

The law school fielded two teams in the competition, which offers a moot court experience for aspiring transactional lawyers. Jay Berryman, of Meade, and Kevin Wempe, of Topeka, won for the buyer’s side in Chicago, and Anna Kimbrell, of Lawrence, and Rachel Martin, of Kansas City, Mo., earned the prize for best overall draft agreement at the Midwestern regional in Kansas City.

This is the first year KU has participated in the competition.

“The LawMeet’s drafting and negotiation process is very reflective of what corporate attorneys do in practice, so this experience is invaluable to me and one that most transactional attorneys did not have the opportunity to engage in while in law school,” said Berryman, who will graduate in May, then begin his career practicing corporate transactional law at Polsinelli PC in Kansas City, Mo.

Teams were assigned to represent either buyers or sellers of a business and were required to draft an agreement covering a disputed issue, mark up the opposing side’s counterdraft and negotiate a resolution. Teams from 84 law schools met at seven regional sites last Friday to conduct the negotiations. Two teams from each region (one buyer and one seller) advanced to the final round to be held April 3-4 in New York. 

“The negotiations were very professional,” said Wempe, who is set to graduate in May and will work in public finance with Gilmore & Bell PC in Kansas City, Mo. “We decided beforehand we would avoid being adversarial, if possible, and instead take the approach that we were there to facilitate our client’s wishes and move the transaction forward rather than bicker with the opposition.”

Competition judges evaluate which team most adeptly combines its lawyering skills, drafting, marking-up and negotiating techniques with their knowledge of corporate and other facets of business law and business sense to develop innovative solutions to negotiate a draft agreement.

For its Chicago victory, KU bested teams from the University of Colorado, Ohio State University, Temple University, Northwestern University and elsewhere.

KU law alumni Ken Lynn, Class of 1981, and Kelley Sears, Class of 1974, coached the teams in preparation for the competition, with assistance from Webb Hecker, professor of law.

KU law students win top brief at North American international environmental moot court competition

Friday, February 07, 2014

LAWRENCE — University of Kansas Law students Jon Simpson and Matt Huntsman are the latest to join the school’s legacy of success in international moot court activities. The pair brought home top honors for their written brief at the North American rounds of the Stetson International Environmental Law Moot Court Competition, which was Jan. 24-26 in Denver.

“Their oral advocacy was strong, they learned a lot, and they met interesting colleagues at several other law schools,” KU Law professor and team coach John Head said. “And of course I’m thrilled at the success they enjoyed with their written submission. It’s a fine achievement, and I’m over-the-top pleased for them and proud of their work.”

Teams from the University of Kansas and the Bahamas gathered in Denver for the North American competition, which focused on international, environmental and human rights law. Wake Forest, the University of Maryland, Pepperdine and American University were among the participants, with the University of Hawaii and the University of California-Hastings advancing to the international rounds and KU’s brief named the best of the competition.

Simpson, of Wichita, and Huntsman, of Sherman, Texas, spent five months preparing for the event. As newcomers to the field, they did extensive research. “I literally had to start from scratch and work my way through various treaties, articles and books,” Huntsman said. “It probably worked to my advantage. Had we dealt with a more familiar area of law, I doubt I would have taken the time to approach every issue in such a thorough way.”

Huntsman and Simpson credit their faculty mentors with their success and are confident that the skills gained through the competition will serve them well in their future careers. “More than anything, I credit the Stetson competition for providing me the opportunity to refine my advocacy skills.”  Simpson said. “But I also appreciate the experience for exposing me to new areas of law.”

Currently in its 18th year, the Stetson International Environmental Law moot court competition features schools from all over the world. This year’s theme focused on sea turtle protection and cultural practices, challenging participants to consider the legal implications of pitting indigenous people’s rights against protection of endangered species.

Simpson and Huntsman continue a strong KU tradition of excellence in national and international moot court competition. Jayhawks brought home top honors for their briefs at the Herbert Wechsler National Criminal Law Moot Court Competition and Mardi Gras Sports Law Competition in 2012. Last year KU Law became one of only two American law schools to advance teams to the finals of both the European Law Students Association and the Jessup  International Law Moot Court Competition in the same year.

KU Law students participate in an in-house moot court competition during their second year of law school, with top performers representing KU at national and international competitions during their third year.

KU Law team reaches finals of international moot court competition

Thursday, May 30, 2013

LAWRENCE — A team of third-year students once again proved the University of Kansas School of Law’s moot court mettle on the highest stage, placing 15th in the world at the WTO International Moot Court Competition.

From left: Bruno Simoes, Jade Martin, Ryan Thornton and Matthew O’Neill.For the second time in five years, a KU Law team advanced to the world finals of the competition, held this year from April 30 to May 5 in Geneva at the headquarters of the World Trade Organization. Team captain Bruno Simões, of Lawrence; Ryan Thornton, of Sapulpa, Okla; Jade Martin, Rose Hill; and Matthew O'Neill, Tecumseh, represented the university, facing off against 20 other top teams from around the globe.

“The competition was wonderful,” Simoes said. “There is not much room for error in this competition, but that's also part of what makes it exciting. For me, it was certainly one of the most rewarding and worthwhile activities I did as a law student.”

KU Law’s team initially placed 12th, but recalculated scores after the competition had concluded placed the team at their final ranking.

To reach the finals, the KU Law team had to qualify in a competitive regional round that included teams from Harvard, Queen’s University and American University. After advancing to the semifinals in Costa Rica, they had just over a month to prepare for the final round. They spent that time strengthening their argument around this year’s moot court problem, which involved currency manipulation and discriminatory preferences in banking.

“The moot court problem this year was especially complex and contentious,” said team coach Raj Bhala, the associate dean for international and comparative law and Rice Distinguished Professor. “Just grappling with these issues, much less arguing about them cogently, showed the professional sophistication and maturity of the Jayhawk trade team.”

Although the experience was demanding, the rewards made the effort worthwhile. Once again, the students met and received feedback from top-tier judges, including former WTO officials. They took time to sightsee and visited a number of prominent organizations in Geneva, enjoyed the local cuisine, and socialized and networked with the other teams, coaches, and lawyers. Perhaps most importantly, they attended a WTO career panel and interviewed for international positions, and Simoes landed a job with a prominent international trade law firm in Brussels, FratiniVergano.

“The competition is much more highly regarded outside of the U.S., so if you're thinking of working abroad, it is definitely an activity in which you should try to take part,” he said.

The competition, a simulated hearing in the World Trade Organization dispute settlement system, is sponsored by the European Law Students Association (ELSA), the largest independent law students association in the world.

It has been an outstanding year for KU Law moot court teams in international competition. Earlier this spring, the Jessup International Law Moot Court team competed in the world finals in Washington, D.C., where they placed in the top 30. KU Law is one of only two schools in the country to advance moot court teams to the finals of both the WTO and Jessup competitions.

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Why KU
  • One-third of full-time faculty have written casebooks and treatises
  • 2 KU law faculty were U.S. Supreme Court clerks
  • KU’s Project for Innocence: 34 conviction reversals since 2009
  • 7,600+ alumni in all 50 states, D.C., and 21 foreign countries
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  • 92 percent overall employment rate for Class of 2014 – top 20 percent nationally
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