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Kevin McIlwain: Put on a Law School Thinking Cap

Kevin McIlwain is learning to think like a lawyer. As a first-year TU law student, McIlwain is retraining himself to approach problems in a different manner. “The experiences that you gain through law school allow you to think critically and problem solve,” he said. Lawyers must view and understand a topic from myriad perspectives, a concept that is not new to McIlwain.

After receiving his bachelor degree in political science at Baylor University, McIlwain joined Teach for America and worked as a special education math teacher in Tulsa’s McLain High School. His students reached individual goals of at least a 1.5 increase in grade level. “Teach for America allowed me to advocate for underserved youth within the confines of the classroom,” McIlwain said. “But, I wanted to continue my pursuit of being an advocate for those youth, and ultimately, I turned to TU law.”

In his first year, McIlwain developed relationships with his professors. “I really enjoy the mentorship opportunities,” he said. “Students are encouraged to meet with their professors to discuss academics as well as professional opportunities and where you can navigate your career.”

McIlwain has not decided on a specialty, but through several internships, he is starting to narrow it down. This summer, he interned with Fry & Elder law firm on immigration matters. He conducted legal research and drafted motions, pleadings and briefs for filing with the Executive Office of Immigration Review, the Board of Immigration Appeals and the Tulsa County District Court.

In addition to his internship, McIlwain served as a research assistant to Assistant Professor of Law Melissa Luttrell. “I arranged and moderated a panel discussion during Foundations of Legal Study week featuring six distinguished J.D. graduates, some practicing attorneys and others working in J.D.-advantage positions. They spoke with newly minted first-year law students about the importance of serving the public interest through a variety of career paths,” he said.

This year, McIlwain is the associate editor of the Tulsa Law Review and one of two judicial externs for John E. Dowdell, a federal district court judge for the Northern District of Oklahoma.  “I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to draft judicial orders and provide input to the judge and his clerks regarding various legal disputes in criminal and civil rights cases,” he said. “By the time I complete my externship, I anticipate that I will have drafted at least one judicial opinion.”