Left: Rachael Yates in July 2006 in rural Nigeria. She assisted in leading a medical mission team there before joining the Class of 2009.
One of the reasons that I chose to come to Indiana Law was the feeling of community here. Although this is law school and is, by nature, about competition, there’s still an amazing amount of collaboration and camaraderie among students. The community feeling extends beyond the students to include faculty, staff, and administrators. The faculty seem to get along and support one another, and I think that feeling trickles down to the students.
Before coming to law school, I was program director for a small nonprofit organization called Ambassadors for Children (AFC), which partnered with Ambassadair Travel Club [a former division of ATA Airlines, Inc.]. AFC provided volunteer vacation options to Ambassadair Travel Club members and other travelers from the Midwest and beyond. I developed, coordinated, and directed all travel logistics and volunteer programming for trips, went to 11 different countries, and led more than 15 volunteer vacations abroad. The volunteer projects included everything from visiting orphanages and playing games with the children to conducting medical clinics.
I always knew that I wanted to go back to law school after working for a while. I applied mostly on the east coast and the Midwest, but ultimately I decided on Indiana Law because of a gut feeling that I would fit in and thrive here. I talked to many people about what I should do and weighed all the options. I remember it being a difficult decision at the time. Now, looking back, I can’t imagine having gone anywhere else!
This upcoming school year, I’m serving as one of two pro bono coordinators at the law school. Baker & Daniels, a large law firm in Indianapolis, sponsors both the fellowships and a Pro Bono Fair we are holding for the first time this September. We will work to connect law students with local, state, and national public service organizations and help provide students with meaningful pro bono opportunities.
I was honored and thrilled to be invited to join the Indiana Law Journal (ILJ) as an associate for my 2L year. Associates do most of the ‘grunt’ work on the journal, but it’s a necessary part of producing quality work, and I’m happy to be a part of it. After hours of cite-checking and proofreading, I can now format a perfect legal citation and even quote the relevant Bluebook rule from memory! But the best part about being on ILJ is developing friendships and working relationships with people who will be my colleagues in the legal profession for the rest of my life. I probably wouldn’t have otherwise crossed paths with many of the people I met through ILJ, and they have provided endless support and advice to me about job searching, clerkships, classes and professors, and more.
As co-chair of service trips for the Public Interest Law Foundation (PILF), I assumed responsibility for organizing, coordinating, funding, and directing the Winter Break Legal Aid Trip to New Orleans in 2007. PILF has been sending law student volunteers from IU to New Orleans and the Gulf Coast region since 2005 to provide legal services to the needy and at-risk population directly affected by Hurricane Katrina. PILF partners with the Student Hurricane Network, a national association of law students dedicated to providing long-term assistance to communities affected by Hurricane Katrina, and with local legal aid services in Biloxi and New Orleans. In December 2007, PILF sent 25 law students and two attorney supervisors to New Orleans. The group donated more than 950 hours of pro bono legal services, mostly working on issues of trusts and estates (successions) and family law.
The life of a student-run organization at the Law School is limited by the three-year tenure of its members. With this in mind, I aimed to build capacity. I wrote grant applications that reached beyond our budget for the Winter Break Trip and raised more than $2,000 for the Spring Break Trip.
When student leaders mentor 1Ls and encourage them to take on responsibility, student organizations can have true long-term success and sustainability. During the Spring Break Trip, I mentored first-year law students who had participated in the Winter Break Trip. I encouraged them to take leadership roles for the Spring Break Trip, teaching them to secure funding, handle accounting, organize volunteers, and communicate with our New Orleans partners. I also contacted the Dean’s office and interested faculty about the trips so that the Law School would have a greater sense of ownership in PILF’s work.
I met Dr. Mercy Obeime in 2005. Her organization, The Mercy Foundation, is an Indianapolis-based nonprofit organization founded in 2003. Its vision is to restore hope to those suffering under the burdens of society, disease, or illness. The foundation works to provide health care services and education to people in need. In Indianapolis, the Mercy Foundation focuses on battling obesity and promoting wellness. In Nigeria, the organization focuses on fighting preventable diseases, especially HIV/AIDS. In July 2006, I assisted Mercy in leading a medical mission team to rural Nigeria. I took care of all the trip logistics and organization so she could focus on what she does best—being a doctor. The medical team provided treatment and preventative care to more than 4,000 people and donated over $200,000 worth of medicine and medical supplies. Leading this trip was one of the most challenging experiences of my life. I started law school about a month after I returned from Nigeria. I remember thinking to myself that if I could handle that, I could definitely handle law school!
During my 2L summer, I worked as a summer associate for the Chicago office of Latham & Watkins. I focused on litigation projects, but Latham encourages summer associates to take work from many practice areas, so I explored other areas as well.