Left: Kate Lee walks her dogs at Griffey Lake in Bloomington.
I choose Indiana Law because of the people. Really. I had spent my entire life in the Southwest—Arizona, Colorado, Utah—but in applying to law schools, I looked all over the country. I only applied to Indiana Law because I got a letter from them and because it was so easy to apply online. I was not particularly impressed by basketball, and it seemed to be a major attraction—but after receiving a handwritten note in my acceptance letter, I began seriously considering the school.
I was invited to a local alumni event where the people were outstanding and incredibly encouraging, which moved Indiana to one of my top choices. An alumna I met that day invited me to shadow her, which was an amazing experience. In April, I visited the campus for Spring Law Day and fell in love with Bloomington and with the Indiana Law community. When Dean Lauren Robel, whom I had met briefly at the alumni reception, remembered and warmly greeted me and my husband, I was sold.
I have been to basketball games at Assembly Hall, but I still generally just tune out when people discuss coaches and brackets and such.
I was a Summer Start student. I began my law career by studying Criminal Law with 70 complete strangers for three hours a day. It was the best thing I have done for myself academically. I worked for several years after college before returning to law school, and the transition back to school was harder than I imagined. I wasn’t used to deep, independent thinking. I worked in marketing and strove to be understandable and accessible for a broad audience. I needed a summer to get used to using words like ‘malfeasance,’ ‘perpetuity,’ and ‘adumbrate.’
The fall semester was still really intense for me; it’s not like summer starters begin with vastly superior knowledge, they are just prepared with a little more experience in reading case law. However, I encourage anyone going to law school after being out of academia for a while to do the program. It gave me a solid basis for understanding what my first year would entail, I got to meet some of my closest friends in law school, and I got to take Criminal Law from the legendary Professor Patrick Baude.
As a 2L, I was an associate on the Federal Communications Law Journal (FCLJ), and as a 3L, I’m the senior managing editor. All first-year students are given the option of entering a writing competition after spring semester exams. The competition is for positions on all three IU law journals; it includes a packet of articles that students use to advance a thesis in a 10-page paper, including proper citations. FCLJ was my top choice for a journal position because I majored in journalism as an undergrad. It also sends teams to a national telecommunications moot court competition in Washington, D.C. I participated in the competition this year as a team alternate. Arguing telecommunications issues in front of lawyers for the Federal Communications Commission was an incredible experience, and it gave me a much more in-depth understanding of communications and administrative law issue. As a member of the journal’s senior board this year, I’ll work with my classmates to find and select articles for publication, edit the articles, and publish the completed journal.
I was drawn to the Inmate Legal Assistance Project (ILAP) when I first read about the student organizations available at Indiana Law. ILAP assists clients incarcerated at the federal prison in Terre Haute with a variety of legal issues. As a first-year student, I had the opportunity to actually apply the things I was learning in the classroom—and visit a federal prison. Studying criminal law in textbooks is completely different from sitting across from a real person—someone with a family who depends on them, someone with hopes and aspirations—who is living the realities of our criminal justice system.
It’s easy to forget that the law affects real people in real ways. The need for just laws and zealous advocacy is much more real when you face people who are behind bars for life because of racial profiling or ineffective representation at trial. Mostly, I help clients ensure that their constitutional rights aren’t trampled in the legal process just because they happen to be incarcerated. While we are learning about criminal law, our clients are receiving valuable help with whatever legal issue they’re facing.
Since starting law school, I’ve been involved with Outreach for Legal Literacy, which sends a team of law students to local fifth grade classrooms to teach students about the law. I really enjoy doing this and find it very rewarding. As a first-year student, I learned a great deal by teaching what I was learning to others. The program culminates in the fifth graders having their own trial, the civil case of Calvin the Super Genius v. Susie Derkins. Watching the kids make objections, examine witnesses, and put together a trial is exciting; they love putting on a trial at the Law School in front of a judge.
The entire experience is really rewarding—and sometimes awkward. For instance, I was explaining how laws sometimes place society’s needs above an individual’s wants, such as laws that require people to wear clothing in public. A 10-year-old pointed out that if someone was robbing your home and you were in the shower, you would be allowed to go outside naked to run away. (I don’t think we covered that exact situation in Professor Baude’s class.)
I’m currently working as a research assistant for Professor Charles Geyh, who advised me on a paper I was writing for a competition during my first year, so working as his research assistant in my second and third years was a no-brainer. I sought him out because I’m really interested in his area of research: judicial ethics. Working with Professor Geyh has opened up fantastic opportunities for me, and I am currently working as his assistant on a project for the American Bar Association. My work ranges from quick little projects along the lines of ‘find me a source that says X’ to major 50-state surveys. Professor Geyh has been a great mentor, offering advice on whatever I need—what classes I should take, how to craft the perfect Boolean search, and what to do if I ever catch a shark.
All of the professors here are invested in their students, interested in our futures, and have their doors open to help students succeed in any way possible. Professor Fred Cate has gone above and beyond, offering help on a moment’s notice. Professor Sarah Jane Hughes has made time for me, even when she had many other demands pressing her, and she is just an amazing woman. Professor Luis Fuentes-Rowher has always had time for me, for whatever reason, whenever I have asked—even if my reason was just to chat.
After my second year, I worked in Washington, D.C., at the Government Accountability Office (GAO). I first learned about the agency when the Law School brought an alumnus currently working in GAO’s General Counsel Office to speak to students at a Lunch with a Lawyer event. I interviewed with the agency on campus the following fall. I really enjoyed my experience there, working for and with Congress. I even got to help draft a piece of legislation that was proposed by a former presidential candidate in the U.S. Senate.