Q&A with past, present, and future law students

Posted by Keegan Clements-Housser on Monday, Aug. 27 at 8:00 am.

Elizabeth Ford – Incoming law student

What motivated you to go into law? Why the UO law school in particular?

I can’t remember the first time I considered going to law school, but it must have been at a very young age. My dad is an attorney, and his job has always interested me. Law remained in the back of my mind while I studied journalism at the University of Missouri. I worked as a journalist for two years in Eugene, and I found my favorite stories were those where the law was a central component. That realization was motivation enough to send my law school applications. UO was a great fit with the 1L-fellowship program, the location and vibe of the school.

What area of law are you most interested in? What are you focusing on?

My interests are primarily in criminal law. Working as a journalist made this area of law all the more fascinating and exciting, and I look forward to these law school courses.

What do you think the main challenges of your chosen field are going to be? How are you planning on facing them?

Given the nature of criminal law, I imagine attorneys in this field constantly face the ugliest aspects of society. Emotionally, this can probably take a toll. I covered tough stories as a reporter, and know how important it is to separate work and life. But that’s easier said than done, and I know I will have to work hard to keep the balance.

Georgina Santos – Current law student

One year in, do you have a focus? If so, what is it?

Since I’ve only had one year of law school, I want to continue exploring different practice areas. I am focusing on taking classes that will prepare me for legal practice and for the bar exam.

Do you foresee ending up with some (student debt) by the time you graduate? If so, how much, and are you worried about it?

I have debt, and I worry about it. I try to focus on putting myself in the best possible position to find employment after graduation. Budgeting and talking with the Financial Aid Office have been the most helpful ways for me to manage my debt and conceptualize how I will face it after law school.

Where do you see yourself going after you graduate? Are you worried about finding a job?

Life after graduation will be an adventure. I remain open to many possibilities. Finding a job after graduation is my priority, but I have to balance that with my schoolwork and extracurricular obligations. I have to take this journey one step at a time, so finishing my second year of law school and finding summer employment is what I am focusing on right now.

Benjamin Harris – Current law student

What are you focusing on, and why that in particular?

At this point, I’m most interested in civil litigation, criminal work and alternative dispute resolution. I love legal research and writing, and I like the adversarial nature of our civil and criminal justice systems, but I also see a need for an expanded role for institutions with an eye toward resolving conflict like mediation and settlement negotiation.

Where are you hoping to head after you graduate?

If possible, I would love to stay in Eugene after I graduate, either working with a local firm, or starting my own practice. My ideal setup would be to have a private, multi-practice solo firm, where I can specialize in a number of areas of law that interest me and have some discretion over which clients and cases to take on. Of course, that is easier said than done. I’m not too worried about finding a job, although I realize that the job market in Eugene is not as robust as larger metropolitan areas. Still, my main focus is quality of life. Money and status, those things are secondary to me.

Is there any advice you would give to someone about to start at the law school?

Like anything in life, law school is what you make it. Work hard, study hard, but don’t lose sight of your ultimate goals. Things like work-life balance, family relations and physical and emotional health are paramount to your success and become ever-more important as you go through life. Being a student is wonderful, and law school is a significant chunk of your young life, so enjoy it! That’s not hard to do at UO.

Joe Kraus – 2009 UO Law School Graduate and Attorney for the Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance

Why did you end up focusing on the area of law (environmental) that you did?

I have always been interested in business and the environment. While I was in school, the UO developed a Green Business Initiative that combined both interests. As part of that program and the in-house counsel externship program, I landed an internship at the Energy Trust of Oregon and really enjoyed the experience. I’ve been following that path ever since.

Was it challenging to find a job after you graduated? Why or why not?

It was challenging to find a full-time job. But I did have part-time contracting work lined up after graduation. That helped me pay the bills and get more legal experience that helped me land a full-time job. It took about a year to work full-time (as a contractor). I know many other grads had more difficulty finding work after school. I was very lucky that my externshipled to a part-time independent contractor opportunity.

What was the most useful thing you did in the UO law school?

Besides meeting my wife (another law student)? I’d say getting practical experience was the most useful thing I did. My externship at the Energy Trust of Oregon, and my participation in the Small Business Clinic gave me practical experience that ultimately helped me land my current job.