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Wednesday Webinar Archive
1. I Love the Law
In our premiere episode, we hosted three panelists who were able to share some of their experiences and their motivations for attending law school.
Melinda Shiraldi, who works at the US Attorney’s Office, went to the University of Utah for her undergraduate degree and Penn State for Law School. As a curious learner and a first-generation student, Ms. Shiraldi wanted to find a career that would provide a solid foundation, motivating her to attend law school.
Sam Alba was born and raised in Mexico. He moved to the United States as a teenager and worked as a migrant farmworker. He attended Utah State University for his undergraduate degree and Arizona State University for his law degree. Mr. Alba later became the first Hispanic to sit on the Federal Bench in Utah and currently works in complex commercial litigation and white collar criminal defense. He went to law school because he wanted to make a difference in his community and has been fascinated as he has been exposed to new legal problems.
Abby Dizon-Maughan attended the University of Utah for both her undergraduate and law degrees. However, she worked as a law firm for 10 years before attending law school. After working in criminal defense for the first five years of her career, she now works in commercial litigation. Ms. Dizon-Maughan enjoyed arguing and some of her personal experiences motivated her to become an attorney.
The panelists were able to highlight some skills they believed necessary to have when attending law school, and ultimately, when becoming a lawyer. First, it is important to be curious and love to learn new things. The law is a big field with many different subtopics, so wanting to learn new things can be crucial. Other skills included having a good work ethic and being a critical thinker. Another important skill was to be an empathetic listener to understand your clients and how to better represent them.
2. Resources for High School Students
In our second episode, UCLI recaps some of the resources available for high school students to navigate the path of becoming a lawyer. First, UCLI Executive Director, Melinda Bowen, talks more about her background in order to show how there is no set path to becoming a lawyer. Everyone has a unique experience that leads them to law school. Ms. Bowen took a year gap working at an alternative school before attending law school, and then worked in a variety of different legal fields.
Then, UCLI’s Assistant Director, Ling Ritter, highlighted the resources for students. The first resource UCLI provides are mentorships that can help students avoid missterps in college/law school applications, guide student interests, and get the important experiences of a legal environment. UCLI’s Ambassador Program is tailored specifically for high school students; students can host events at their high school to learn about a legal education and legal careers. UCLI’s webinars are another resource that can provide an insight into different legal careers and opportunities. Webinars are a good place to explore student interests under the umbrella of legal careers and education. Lastly, UCLI recognizes that financial aid is an important consideration, so UCLI built a comprehensive list of scholarships for high school students, undergraduate students, and law school students. The database is available on our website (utahcli.org)!
Outside of UCLI, some things students can do is to find ways to improve intellectual development in ways that are interesting to you. It is important to develop critical reading and writing skills, as well as being introduced to legal environments to get a feel for your potential careers.
UCLI is a resource for students to learn about the law, and provides a network of support for students who are interested in a legal education and career!
3. Resources for Undergraduate Students
The Utah Center for Legal Inclusion offers a variety of resources of undergraduate students. Our PLEDGE (Promoting Legal Education to Diverse Groups Everywhere) Committee utilizes a three-pronged approach to helping students. The first prong is financial support. UCLI has created an LSAT prep scholarship that covers up to $1000 of costs associated with prep courses. UCLI recognizes that taking the LSAT is a significant part of a law school application, so this scholarship provides extra support for undergraduate students.
The second approach is educational outreach, mostly done via presentations and our Ambassador Program. This helps students explore legal careers and educational opportunities.
The third approach is providing mentorships for students. Mentorships can guide students to learn more about the law school process and explore legal careers.
Some recommendations from the UCLI team consist of treating the LSAT as a job, meaning students should dedicate time to studying for the LSAT. Practice tests are a good way to get into the mindset of studying for the LSAT. Also, when asking for letters of recommendation, it is important to ask people who know you and your work. Ask professors or supervisors who you have experience working with!
Outside of UCLI, there are a variety of resources for undergraduate students wanting to attend law school. One example is the University of Utah’s webinar series that covers specific topics like who to ask for letters of recommendation!
4. What I Wish I Had Known in Law School
In our Webinar this week, we had three recent law school graduates who shared their experiences in law school.
Two of the panelists, William Bates and Steven Arroyo, graduated from BYU Law. Our third panelists, Ezzy Khaosanga, graduated from the University of Utah’s law school.
The panelists talked about their motivations for attending law school, from wanting to be a positive influence to wanting to create a stable foundation for the future.
Some advice from the panelists covered the topic of time management. It is important to be realistic about the time you are willing to commit to the different activities in law school. It is good to explore many different options, but also set aside some time for self-care. In terms of self-care, it can be helpful to surround yourself with others to socialize and network. Networking can be hard, but building relationships with professors, friends, and others can be very helpful in learning more about your interests. There are many chances to network as a law student and it is important to not be afraid to ask questions!
Law school can be hard, which can create a competitive environment. But it is important to remember that focusing on learning the content is more beneficial than chasing the grade you want.
As undergraduate students, there really is no required major for attending law school. However, it is important to develop writing and research skills, while also thinking critically about the content. These are some important skills to develop throughout your undergraduate experience, and then develop them even more in law school!
5. Book Discussion: An African American and Latinx History of the United States
In our first Resource Roundtable, UCLI was able to host Professor David-James Gonzales from BYU. Professor Gonzales received his Bachelor’s degree from UC San Diego, and his PhD from the University of Southern California.
Professor Gonzales guided the conversation over the book, An African-American and Latinx History of the United States by Paul Ortiz. Some important terms that came up in the book are racial capitalism and emancipatory internationalism (a way to challenge oppression).
Furthermore, Professor Gonzales touched upon the importance of intersectionality between different minority groups coming together to battle oppression. The book itself presents different examples, and Professor Gonzales mentions how minority groups working together is an essential tool in combating oppression.
Professor Gonzales touches on the importance of teaching these different perspectives to students. Some suggestions are for teachers to have their own guided philosophy and then teach according to who their audiences are.
Lastly, other resources were recommended so that participants can learn more about some of the issues mentioned in the webinar and in the book itself: An Indigenous People’s History of the United States by Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz, The History of White People by Nell Irvin Painter, and The Heartbeat of the Wounded Knee by David Treuer.
6. Judicial Campaign Finance
In our sixth webinar, our panelist Professor Dane Thorley, spoke about the implications of judicial finance campaigns. Professor Thorley majored in political science as an undergraduate, and then pursued a PhD and JD program after his undergraduate experience. He worked in field experiments that intersected with legal questions he was interested in.
Professor Thorley’s research examines how donations can affect the decisions that judges make, despite the idea that judges are supposed to be neutral. Elections of judges opens the doors to financing, which can have an impact on judicial decision-making. His current studies focused on why judges don’t recuse themselves from cases and why attorneys don’t ask the judges to do so. Two main reasons judges might not recuse themselves is that they don’t want to hurt their reputation or don’t want to hurt their future elections. On the other side, attorneys have to be sure a judge is showing a bias when asking a judge to recuse themselves, and even this can lead to resentment from the judge.
Some alternative solutions are mandatory recusals, external recusals, or extra-judicial disclosure. In summary, his work on judicial finance campaigns follows a flaw in the judicial system and how it can be potentially addressed.
7. Lawyers as Legislative Advocates
Marina Lowe, a Legislative and Policy Attorney for the ACLU Of Utah, talked about her work in working with the state legislature and working to pass legislation. After attending UC Hastings for law school, Marina Lowe worked in a big firm, but realized that it wasn’t for her. She then moved to Utah, where she eventually started working at the ACLU’s office here in Utah!
Ms. Lowe mentioned how her law degree has been super helpful in her work because having a legal understanding of bills makes it easier to understand legislation. Also, skills such as persuasion, negotiation, and public speaking have been helpful in her work. Another interesting point is that knowledge of the law can serve as an objective and neutral basis for discussing legislation with others.
Some of her tasks in working with legislatures consist of drafting talking points for legislators to present and finding ways to convince others of supporting a piece of legislation. Ms. Lowe works as an advocate for groups within Utah and helps by working with state legislators to uphold legal rights. An example was how she helped in passing same-day registration for voting in Utah!
8. Legislative Counsel and Lawyer-Legislators
In our eighth episode, we had three panelists talk about their experiences working in the legislative process. Representative Stephanie Pitcher talked about her experiences working in the legislature while also working as the Deputy District Attorney for Davis County. Mr. Eric Weeks talked about his experiences working as Deputy general counsel for the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel. Our third panelist, Ms. Christine Gilbert, also works for the Office of Legislative Research and General Counsel, specifically working with tax-related bills.
In sharing their work experiences, the panelists highlighted some of the benefits a law degree has on their work. Mr. Weeks mentioned being excited about politics and drafting bills, as well as having the ability to look at an issue from both sides. Ms. Gilbert added that her law degree has helped her with writing and drafting bills and being able to critically think about the issues at hand. Representative Pitcher then mentioned how her law degree and her role as Deputy District Attorney has provided an extra sense of confidence in working as a legislature.
Working in the legislative process can be a rewarding experience.A huge benefit is being able to draft bills and see those enter the legislature. Another pro that was talked about was being able to interact with people with different ideologies and understanding their point of views in working together to draft bills.
9. Appellate Court Judges
In our ninth episode, UCLI hosted three appellate Court judges who talked about their experiences in this part of the judiciary system. Judge Jill Pohlman has been serving for the Utah Court of Appeals for the past four years. Before joining the UT Court of Appeals, Judge Pohlman worked as an attorney in a firm for about 19 years. Our second panelist is Justice Paige Petersen who has been serving in the Utah Supreme Court for almost three years. Before joining the UT Supreme Court, Justice Peterson had a variety of different jobs in the legal field, such as working in international criminal law and serving on the District Court for two years. Judge Carolyn McHugh has been on the bench for the US Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit after being appointed by Former President Barack Obama six years ago. Before that, Judge McHugh worked in litigation and served in the Utah Court of Appeals for eight and a half years.
In talking about their positions, Judge Pohlman, Justice Petersen, and Judge McHugh mentioned some of the pros and cons of being a judge. A common pro mentioned by all three panelists was the ability to work back and forth with smart and thoughtful people who come prepared to offer legal solutions to cases that come before them. A con that was mentioned is that the workload is heavy and tough, but in the end, the job is worth it.
One important opportunity that was touched upon was a clerkship. Our panelists mentioned how clerkships are great opportunities to see behind the scenes of how a decision is made. While they touched upon the responsibilities of a clerk, they also highlighted some of the skills necessary for a clerkship, such as great writing skills and critical thinking.
10. Fight and Lead: A Tribute to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
In this episode, we honor the memory of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and her legacy as a strong advocate for women and minorities.
Justice Christine Durham, serving on the Utah Supreme Court for 33 years, honors Justice Ginsburg’s work in ensuring equality under the law for women. Her courage touched the hearts of many and inspired generations of people, especially women, striving for civil rights. Her courage, which has entered our everyday culture, has created a model of justice that needs to be fought for. We must honor Justice Ginsburg’s legacy by fighting for equality under the law where it is currently faltering.
President of the Women Lawyers of Utah, Kimberly Neville, briefly mentions some initiatives striving to promote and retain women lawyers in Utah. Initiatives like Project Pipeline are meant to support women lawyers as they navigate our legal profession.
We honor the legacy of Justice Ginsburg and her pursuit of equality. We would like to close with a powerful quote from Justice Ginsburg, “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”