Darian Hackney is a first-generation law student mentee enrolled in the Utah Law Student Mentoring Program. Watch her interview on UCLI’s YouTube channel here: https://youtu.be/lZFo9UOs8DA.
On Thursday, July 15, Sadé Turner met with UCLI’s summer interns to discuss her career practicing civil litigation at Strong & Hanni. Within her firm, she specializes in insurance defense litigation and family law. She also serves as UCLI’s education committee co-chair.
UCLI interns submitted questions before and during the meeting, and Sadé told her story and offered her advice.
Sadé started her legal career as a six-year-old. While other kids were playing house, Sadé was playing court, roping her cousins into representing different sides of an important neighborhood proceeding behind her grandmother’s credenza. Sadé, of course, was the all-powerful judge.
Sadé has worked for Strong and Hanni for the majority of her career. At the beginning of her time at Strong and Hanni, she was drawn to the case variety and daily routine in litigation. As time progressed, it is the personal impact on her clients’ lives which has kept her going and made her job all the more rewarding.
During our team discussion, Sadé emphasized the importance of students taking advantage of different kinds of internship opportunities throughout their academic career. For pre-law students, beyond exploring career interests, these internships can also help narrow down the kinds of law that might stand out. In these recommendations, Sadé was speaking from personal experience: it is the exact process she used to find her passion for litigation.
Moving into law career exploration, Sadé suggested students establish connections within various firms, build up a rapport, and discuss what a day looks like in different firms and in different areas of law. These efforts are important in understanding the daily routines and cultures amongst different law firms.
Different areas of law require different kinds of people. For Sadé and her family law specialty, she advised that some of the most important qualities are compassion, patience, and a skill for explaining concisely. She also noted that being a family lawyer also requires an ability to separate work and home life. Without balance, the job can easily become too taxing. Ultimately, Sadé practices law to help those at difficult points in their lives move forward, however, she does that best when she prioritizes her own needs and mental health.
Law is one of the least diverse professions in the country. Utah’s legal community is no exception. The US Census, Utah’s State Bar Survey, and ABA National Lawyer Population Survey compiles data that examines attorney demographics, specifically as it relates to race and gender. Additional data from both of Utah’s law schools, BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School and the University of Utah’s S.J. Quinney College of Law, carries this analysis further into our state’s legal education. This data emphasizes the progress to be made to connect the diversity of Utah’s population to that of its legal community.
Read about UCLI’s brief analysis here.
On Thursday, July 8, UCLI’s interns met Dr. Brigham Daniels, “Brig,” environmental lawyer and professor at BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School. According to his BYU bio, “Professor Brigham Daniels has expertise in environmental law, property law, and natural resources law. He has received several teaching awards. Prior to joining the J. Reuben Clark Law School he taught as an assistant professor at the University of Houston Law Center and as a lecturing fellow at Duke Law School.”
All of the questions Dr. Daniels answered were submitted by our interns: we do this because our interns are most proximate to and concerned about their law school application process, and they know best what they are worried about most. Their questions spanned a diverse gamut between environmental law, academic success as a student and academia as a career: What made you decide to pursue environmental law compared to another field of law? How did you navigate choosing where to go to school? What is a common misconception of environmental law? Does environmental activism play a role in your work?
Does being an environmental lawyer make you more hopeful or cynical? In your experience, what makes for a law student to have a successful law school experience? How has teaching law changed your perception of the legal field?
We sent Dr. Daniels these and other questions in advance so that he had time to consider them. He started off with this insightful piece of advice:
“For students who don’t know what to do, I ask two things: 1) “what sorts of problems speak to you? What are you trying to solve?” and 2) “What kinds of work do you want to do? How do you want to engage with work and the world?”
Watch Emily’s introduction on our YouTube channel! Follow this link.
Pictured: Emily Walter, recipient of 2021 Bar Review Diversity & Inclusion Scholarship
To stay in the loop on future UCLI scholarships, subscribe to our newsletter!
Sarah Ruth Martinez is a law school graduate from the University of Utah’s S. J. Quinney College of Law currently preparing for the bar exam. Growing up in Houston Texas, Sarah developed an interest in weather and water conservation at a young age and decided to study water conservation at the University of Utah as a result. After realizing her path to a career in water conservation lay in the humanities rather than the sciences, she began her journey to law school and becoming a lawyer. After passing the bar exam, Sarah plans to work in water policy at the University of Wisconsin.
Sarah’s path to being a lawyer was accompanied by naysayers. When first applying to colleges, Sarah found herself being questioned by her boss as to why she would even bother applying to some of the schools that she did since she had little chance of being accepted. She quit her job after this incident and never told her parents the reason. Years later during her 1L summer, Sarah tried to get a clerkship with any judges available. A professor took her aside and told her that her time would be better spent being strategic rather than trying and failing to get one of these coveted clerkships. Instead, they suggested working in juvenile or immagration court despite the fact that Sarah had never expressed interest in either of these two fields of law. Even recently, as she studies for the bar exam, Sarah was cautioned that she needs to work and study harder than her fellow prospective lawyers because women of color statistically perform worse on the bar than other demographics. When each of these situations arose, Sarah used them as moments to regroup and recommit to her ultimate goal.
Along with these individual people challenging her, Sarah has also had financial difficulties in her path to becoming a lawyer which she has overcome. When applying for law school, she could not afford any LSAT prep courses and received a less than satisfactory score. It was only with her parents’ financial help that she was able to afford the prep courses which helped to bump her score up ten points. In her 2L year, Sarah came into contact with UCLI through scholarship and mentorship programs. According to her, “the financial support from UCLI changed everything.” The scholarships allowed her to prioritize her schooling as well as her mental health rather than stressing about finances. Most recently, Sarah received a bar scholarship from UCLI to help her in her preparations to take the bar exam. This specific scholarship has been, according to Sarah, “such a godsend” as her stress levels increase and she looks to the future and her legal career in environmental law.
Pictured: Sarah Martinez, recipient of the 2021 Bar Review Diversity & Inclusion Scholarship
On June 30, 2021, UCLI’s Associate Director Kacey Sorenson sat down with Ivan Brea, 2021 Program Development Intern, to hear more about his story. Ivan is an animated, thoughtful, unfailingly kind individual who signs off all of his emails with generous gratitude and infinite energy. We have loved having him on the team, and were so excited to get to know him–– and he did not disappoint.
Ivan was born in New York City but was predominantly raised in El Paso, Texas. He is Latino and is a child of immigrants–– his father from the Dominican Republic and his mother from Nicaragua. He is currently a student at New York University, and is pursuing a degree in Politics and a double minor in Public Policy and Spanish. His identity as the son of immigrants has been foundational in shaping his identity and is foundational in his hope to give back to his community in giving care to the marginalized. This hope, of caring for the marginalized, is what inspires his desire to go to law school and to study and change policy in order to make the United States better for everyone.
In discussing how his parents’ backgrounds have shaped his identity and worldview, Ivan pointed directly to watching his parents go through the “long and hard and expensive process of immigrating to the United States.” This experience “taught [him] from a young age that not everyone in this country and this world are on an equal playing field,” and seeing “how they had to adapt, how they had to learn English, how they had to navigate this new country of theirs really opened [his] eyes to the reality of life.” In essence, seeing his parents’ experience “really taught [him] to care for others because you never know what someone might be going through.” This is what motivates him, then, to get involved with his community, build it out to be more inclusive, and to “create an amazing life for everyone.”
From a young age, Ivan saw “The Law” as “something inherently negative.” He was taught that the law was a tool used to punish. It was in his teenage years that he heard stories of Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg that he realized the law is “an amazing tool that can actually be used to uplift communities, rather than harm communities.” It was when he learned these stories that he realized he wanted to pursue the law: he realized that it dictates how all of us live our lives, and that it can be used to create a more inclusive and healthy society. “It’s the law that gave us the right for same-sex marriage; it’s the law that gave us civil rights that we have today; it’s the law that makes immigration easier or harder in this country. Seeing how the law could be at the root cause of many of our current issues was something that inspired me to pursue a career in the law so that I am able to create a more just and equitable society for everyone. It’s that pursuit of justice that can be found in the law that’s made me want to pursue a career in the law.”
As someone who identifies as a bisexual person, Ivan feels it’s very important to be aware of these laws. He spoke about the 2020 Supreme Court decision that said firing workers because they are LGBTQ is unlawful discrimination, recent court cases regarding conversion therapy, and the 2015 decision to allow same-sex marriage. With how recent all of this still is and with how many communities there are, he concluded that “We have so much work to be done for various communities.”
When he considers his future in the law, Ivan wants to pursue public interest law, saying that he “sees the law as a tool that can be used to uplift communities.” In his words: “I am not so much interested in practicing law just because I want to practice law, but really because I have an interest in the law, a passion for the law, and also a passion for helping others and uplifting communities.” While not sure how his passion will unfold in terms of public interest, he does have a particular interest in criminal justice law. He spoke to some of the common conditions of incarcerated individuals in the United States, both historical and recent, concluding that “thinking about the rights of incarcerated people has always been something in my mind, especially when connected with racial justice.”
Ivan came to UCLI because he knew he wanted to work for an organization where he could “do the most good and learn the most things.” He is supportive of nonprofits and the work that they do, but UCLI in particular stood out to him because of its tie between the legal field and the nonprofit sector. “Moreover, to see an organization that’s working so proactively to fix so many of the problems the legal field is facing from the core and the root was really inspiring to me. For me, I think that by diversifying the legal field and bringing so many voices that have been so often excluded from the legal profession really makes sure that we have a just society, both within the legal field and outside the legal field. Seeing UCLI do this in so many amazing ways […] is so inspiring to me.”
In describing his experience as a UCLI intern, Ivan says that his experience has “been nothing short of a pure joy.” (Don’t you love him?) “One of the greatest things about the internship is the people. It’s amazing to work with such diverse, talented, hardworking and passionate people–– the organization has been nothing short of a pleasure to work with.” In speaking about his fellow interns, it’s “inspiring to see these people wanting to create a better and more inclusive Utah.” The projects he’s been assigned, he says, have given him a hands-on look at the kind of work that a nonprofit conducts, from social media to programming, from beginning to end. “I’ve learned a lot of leadership skills, and how to navigate everything a leader has to navigate, whether it’s something as small as scheduling to something as big as the actual leading of a project.” In summary, he said, “a UCLI internship is very much not a paper-pushing, coffee-bringing internship. It’s very much a hands-on, collaborative internship, which I just think is incredible.” After this internship, he says, “I will be ready and able to be a leader in every sense of the word.”
When discussing the impact that diverse and equal representation in the legal profession could have on the justice system in the U.S., Ivan believes that “it will change everything, and in the best of ways.” As the justice system currently stands, Ivan believes that it “quite frankly isn’t a justice system: the discrepancies that we have are not ‘flaws in the system,’ they are by design […] by having a more diverse and inclusive justice system, we’ll find that we are able to create a more just and equitable society for everyone. When you have people who are system-impacted join the legal profession, I think you will find a more sympathetic system, and one that really values people [and] justice, compared to valuing the system. I think that will make all the difference.”
After his experience with UCLI, Ivan says he will return to NYU “with a flame and a bigger motivation to help my community and be in the service of others in any way I see […] I’ll hope to bring a newfound sense of activism to the social, political, and cultural clubs I’m involved in.” Eventually, Ivan hopes to go to law school, become a public interest lawyer, and “really put [himself] in the service of others.”
Watch Ivan’s full interview here.
You can find Ivan on LinkedIn at linkedin.com/in/ivan-brea/
Pictured: Ivan Brea, 2021 UCLI Program Development Intern
Watch Laura’s interview on our YouTube channel here!
Laura Kyte, a single mother of two, is planning to take the Utah State Bar exam this Fall. Yet growing up, she never considered she would become a lawyer. As a young girl in California, Kyte grew up in a low-income household. The only experience she had with the law was through TV and interactions she had with the men working with her Dad after he had gone to prison. “I thought, kids like me don’t go to law school,” Kyte laughed, “I remember my younger sister wanted to go and I thought she was naive.”
Laura did not do the typical undergraduate experience. She was married in her early 20s, working on and off, receiving a real estate license, later going through a divorce, and returning to school to maybe pursue a degree in history. When a professor encouraged her to go to law school she finally realized law would be a great fit. A great fit it is! Kyte graduated from BYU Law School and currently works at the Attorney General’s office in litigation. She plans to clerk for a judge for a year to pursue her interest in civil rights work and criminal law.
When asked about the barriers to becoming a lawyer as a single, working mother, Laura believes she got lucky. “I was married for 18 years and wasn’t completely financially devastated by the divorce,” Kyte said. “I could sell my house to afford law school, I received child support and alimony… If I hadn’t had those things ….” Kyte trailed off. BYU Law is a full-time program. To juggle classes with being a single mom and working full time would be almost impossible. “I was lucky, my circumstances were such that I could overcome… most women in my position probably wouldn’t have the option if they wanted to.”
Yet, Laura is still apprehensive about being able to afford the Bar. “Right now I am living on dwindling savings,” Kyte said. Kyte has an 18-year old who is attending college in the Fall. Her budget is tight and anything at this point helps. “The Bar prep scholarship from UCLI made it possible for me to survive for the summer,” Kye explained, “if I don’t pass the Bar it will be financially devastating, I have to take off time for work just to study.”Laura also greatly appreciates the UCLI mentorship program. “It’s incredibly valuable to me, I didn’t know anyone in the law growing up, my mentors are like my brothers.” Kye said.
Laura believes in UCLI because she believes in equity in legal education. Kyte mentioned, “The barriers to becoming a lawyer are so high for kids in lower socioeconomic status.” Kyte understands that it’s time to even the playing field for these kids. The same goes for women in the legal profession. “There needs to be a recognition about the realities women still face, we need to acknowledge what it’s like to work as a woman, a person of color, or other minority in the Utah legal field.” Kyte affirmed, “Once we directly confront these realities, we can begin evening the playing field.”
Pictured: Laura Kyte, recipient of 2021 Bar Review Diversity & Inclusion Scholarship
To stay in the loop on future UCLI scholarships, subscribe to our newsletter!
submitted by Collin Mitchell, UCLI Program Development Intern
Alex Sanchez is a law school graduate currently preparing to take the bar in Utah. He grew up in a hard working family with both of his parents working blue collar jobs all of his adolescent life. Although he is a native of California with strong familial roots in El Salvador, Alex moved to Utah at an early age so Utah is where he calls home.
Alex was fortunate enough to have many doors open on his way to law school. When he was entering high school, he was given the opportunity to get a scholarship to go to a private Catholic school. At this school, he found a school counselor that really took an interest in his future success. This counselor put the University of Utah on Alex’s radar as a potential landing spot for his post secondary education. At the urging of his counselor, Alex applied and not only got accepted to the University of Utah, but got a full ride through a Larry H Miller scholarship. Originally Alex wanted to graduate and pursue a profession in social work, but after Alex was exposed to law work through his time as a legal assistant, he realized that the law field was the direction he wanted to go.
Getting into law school wasn’t completely a breeze for Alex either. After scoring lower on the LSAT than he wanted, he wasn’t able to get into the University of Utah’s law school after several years of trying. He then decided to attend a law school in Idaho, ultimately performing extremely well enough to transfer to the University of Utah’s law school.
Alex’s journey in the legal field is not over. He still needs to pass the bar and achieve his dream of becoming a public defender. He really feels that he could make a difference as a public defender, both as an advocate for the Hispanic community and promoter of criminal justice reform.
UCLI has had the fortunate opportunity to help Alex with his journey through law school and in his preparation for the bar. While in law school, Alex decided to start an organization for first generation law students. He described UCLI as extremely beneficial to the success of the organization because of UCLI’s help in event planning and funding. UCLI was also able to help members of the organization by providing resources on how to be successful in law school. Personally, UCLI has also been able to help Alex directly in his bar prep. Unfortunately, the bar entrance fee as well as exam prep resources are extremely expensive. UCLI was able to pay for the entrance exam and fund the resources Alex needed to study for the bar.
Pictured: Alex Sánchez, recipient of 2021 Bar Review Diversity & Inclusion Scholarship
To stay in the loop on future UCLI scholarships, subscribe to our newsletter!
“We believe the legal profession will not live up to its essential ideals — preserving fairness, equality and justice — unless and until the profession’s demographics reflect our communities.”
Last week’s op-ed by UCLI’s Justice Lab Sarah Martinez, Ryan Williams, and Jackie Rosen highlights the importance of proactively examining and pursuing diversity, equity, and inclusion in the legal profession. While our efforts are centered in Utah and in its legal profession, many of the principles discussed–– advocacy, courage, community, personal responsibility, work ethic–– apply more broadly.
Read the article here.