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community advocacy

Law valedictorian Hope Forsyth wins W. Lee Johnson Award

Hope Forsyth was recently honored by The University of Tulsa College of Law for graduating with the highest cumulative grade point average. The W. Lee Johnson Award was presented to Forsyth at the TU Law Hooding Ceremony, Friday, May 4, 2018, where she also served as class valedictorian.

As a law student, Forsyth received the highest grade in 11 classes including Basic Corporate Law, Agency & Partnership, Conflict of Laws, Constitutional Law II, Professional Responsibility, Evidence, Selling & Leasing, Criminal Law, Legal Writing, Civil Procedure I and Torts. She also received the George and Jean Price Award for Excellence in Legal Writing and the OBA Award for Outstanding Student.

Forsyth served as the executive editor of the Tulsa Law Review, is a  student member of the Johnson-Sontag/Council Oak Chapter of the American Inns of Court and is a member of Phi Delta Phi Legal Honor Society.

During her time at TU, Forsyth gained experience at multiple levels of the federal court system as a judicial extern for Senior Judge Stephanie Seymour on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals and as an intern for Chief Judge Gregory K. Frizzell, former Magistrate Judge T. Lane Wilson and Magistrate Judge Paul J. Cleary, all of the Northern District of Oklahoma.

Before law school, Forsyth’s essay “Forum” was published in “Digital Keywords: A Vocabulary of Information Society and Culture” by Princeton University Press. Her law review comment, “Mutually Assured Protection: Dmitri Shostakovich and Russian Influence on American Copyright Law,” is forthcoming in the Tulsa Law Review. In her free time, Forsyth is an America’s Test Kitchen home recipe tester and a volunteer sacramental catechist for her Catholic parish. Forsyth will join the law firm of GableGotwals as an associate attorney in September.

International student calls upon experience as an immigrant in her legal studies

Aisosa Arhunmwunde is a third-year law student at The University of Tulsa College of Law who is working towards a career in immigration law. Originally born in Nigeria, Arhunmwunde immigrated with her family to Canada where she earned her undergraduate degree in philosophy from the University of Manitoba.

After college, she decided to continue her education in law school. “I realized early that laws are dormant until a person is there to enforce and interpret them for people,” said Arhunmwunde. “It was then that I realized I wanted to be the voice of those who needed help with their legal rights.”

“TU Law allowed me to start school in the spring semester.”

Originally, Arhunmwunde looked at TU Law because she wanted to begin law school in the spring semester and TU offers spring, summer and fall starts. After she compared schools, she realized that TU’s robust experiential learning program, excellent academics, diverse student body and the affordable cost of obtaining a legal education was right for her.

She worked with asylum-seekers in Ireland.

During law school, Arhunmwunde has focused her interests on immigration law by working at TU’s Immigrant Resource Network and Immigrant Rights Project. During the summer months, Arhunmwunde took her studies abroad through TU’s Study Abroad program and interned at the Irish Refugee Council in Dublin helping clients who were seeking asylum.

Elizabeth McCormick, JD, associate dean of Experiential Learning and director of the Clinical Education Program at TU Law said, “Aisosa brings the unique and valuable perspective of her own experience as an immigrant and international student to her work with immigrant clients. She has seized on every available opportunity to gain first-hand experience in immigration law and in representing real clients. The combination of her intellect, passion and empathy will be a great benefit to her and her clients in the future.

After completing her internship, Arhunmwunde traveled to Ghana which was funded by TU Law’s Public Interest Board. Based in Accra, she conducted interviews with citizens on the street who were displaced in order to help them find living spaces. She was one of a cadre of students from around the world there to conduct human rights work in the field.

“Law school is challenging but worth it if you choose the right one for you.”

“It is truly rewarding to have a client whose case you’ve work on call and tell you their asylum is approved and they no longer fear going to jail. It is so worth it,” said Arhunmwunde. “Law school is challenging like everything worthwhile, but it is easier and more enjoyable if you choose a law school that gives you the tools and sets you up for success before you put a foot out of the door.” During her time at TU Law, Arhunmwunde served as the associate editor of the Energy Law Journal, secretary of the Black American Law Students Association and was a member of the Women’s Law Caucus, Board of Advocates and the West African Students Association.

For more information on the TU College of Law, visit us online.

Law students study local response to nonemergency calls

TU Law students Morgan Vaughn (l), Billy Boyd and Valerie Hays.

As Oklahoma’s budget crisis threatens funding for critical medical, mental health and social services programs, first responders are feeling the pressure. When core services are cut, Tulsa’s most vulnerable residents have only one option – calling 911.

In 2017, the Tulsa Fire Department responded to calls from a single residence 21 times in one month. Such “high-utilizers” may need help getting out of bed, getting to a medical appointment, picking up medications or buying food. Some high-utilizers have chronic medical problems such as diabetes, heart conditions, alcohol and prescription drug overuse or long-term mental health issues. Some people call simply because they are lonely. Vulnerable Tulsans lean on the fire department when they can’t access other forms of assistance.

Law students from The University of Tulsa College of Law’s Lobeck Taylor Community Advocacy Clinic have been working with the Tulsa Fire Department and studying the high-utilizer problem. The students—Morgan Vaughn, Billy Boyd, and Valerie Hays—have found that the high-utilizer crisis is a serious problem not just for the fire department but for the entire Tulsa community. Nonemergency calls drain resources from the fire department’s core emergency services mission.

The fire department is not a long-term healthcare provider, but people call 911 when they have nowhere else to turn. And when people must use emergency care for nonemergency needs, their underlying health problems will not be resolved. They will continue to call on first responders for help. Because of possible state budget cuts, some medical and mental healthcare providers may have to shut their doors. This will increase demands on first responders and could cause an increase in crime, suicides and drug abuse.

See article published by the Tulsa World here.

The fire department is tackling the high-utilizer problem through the Community Assistance, Referrals & Education Services (CARES) program that is managed by Emergency Medical Services Chief Michael Baker. “We connect people to the social and medical services they need,” Baker explained.

Through partnerships with Tulsa-area agencies like the Mental Health Association, Family & Children’s Services and St. John’s Hospital, the fire department is bridging the gap between high-utilizers and service providers. The fire department is taking a proactive approach because, if these treatable or preventable situations are not taken care of early, they may become emergencies.

With proper funding, providers could do more outreach to connect people to services.  Firefighters wouldn’t have to play the role of social workers and could focus on real emergencies. And people would get the help they need rather than relying on emergency care.

King and Yeakley join McAfee & Taft

TU Law alumni and 2017 honors graduates Andrew M. King and Stanton Yeakley have joined Oklahoma’s largest law firm, McAfee & Taft.

Andrew King is a transactional lawyer whose practice encompasses a broad range of business and commercial matters, including business entity formation and organization, mergers and acquisitions, divestitures, real estate transactions, contract negotiations, business taxation and family wealth planning.

King graduated with highest honors from The University of Tulsa College of Law, where he  worked for the Immigrant Rights Project at the Boesche Legal Clinic, was a member of the Board of Advocates and received the CALI Award for Advanced Legal Research.

Prior to embarking on his legal career, Andrew served in the Oklahoma Army National Guard for six years and led a mortar fire team in Afghanistan during Operation Enduring Freedom.

Stanton Yeakley is a trial lawyer whose civil litigation practice involves the resolution of a broad range of complex commercial and business disputes in both state and federal courts and in arbitration proceedings.

Yeakley graduated with highest honors from The University of Tulsa College of Law, where he served as an editor on the Tulsa Law Review, was a member of the Phi Alpha Delta legal fraternity and the Phi Delta Phi legal honor fraternity and earned three CALI Awards. At graduation, he was named to the Order of the Curule Chair.

 

 

Stiles featured in magazine for work in immigration

This story was first seen in Tulsa People, November 2017, featuring Elissa Stiles, a 2L law student at The University of Tulsa College of Law.

Stiles serves on the TU Board of Advocates, the Immigration Law Society, Women’s Law Caucus and the Student Bar Association.

 

Welcoming refugees – Three Tulsans help others establish “home” in the U.S
By Bria Bolton Moore and Morgan Phillips

2L Leslie Briggs values working in TU Law’s Community Advocacy Clinic

Pursuing a legal career in public interest work is the goal for many TU Law students. The same is true for Leslie Briggs, a Schweitzer fellow and TU Law 2L who is already serving the community by working at TU Law’s Community Advocacy Clinic.

 

“TU has given me the opportunity to get real life experience by working at the Community Advocacy Clinic where we represent real clients including individuals, organizations and public interest groups,” said Briggs. “We work in teams to solve legal and policy problems to benefit people in the community. Right now, we’re working with Mental Health Association Oklahoma o identify barriers to housing and health care for people aging with serious mental illness, and eventually, to develop recommendations for change.”

TU Law currently operates three legal clinics including the Community Advocacy Clinic, Immigrant Rights Project and Solo Practice Clinic.

Community Advocacy Clinic students represent client organizations in systemic advocacy projects in the fall semester and individual clients in cases before state courts and administrative agencies in the spring semester. Many students find that their clinic experience is the most valuable and challenging aspect of their legal education.

“As an attorney, I want to help people with pressing problems that seem insurmountable,” said Briggs. “TU Law does a great job of focusing on experiential learning opportunities by allowing law students to work directly with clients through the clinics. I believe my clinic participation has been one of the most beneficial things I’ve had the opportunity to do in law school.

Briggs is also creating and implementing a related program focusing on restorative justice in public schools through her Albert Schweitzer fellowship. “I’m working on changing the way we think about discipline,” Briggs said. Her project will introduce restorative justice practices to public high school students in Tulsa who have been involved in school-based conflicts with a goal to lower rates of school suspension, dropouts and incarceration. The goal of her project is to lower rates of school suspension, dropouts and incarceration.

Seeing Briggs’ heavy involvement in public interest work, TU Law Dean Lyn Entzeroth helped fund her trip to the annual conference of the National Association of Community and Restorative Justice (NACRJ). NACRJ was created in 2007 with the goal to promote effective forms of justice that are equitable, sustainable and socially constructive. This past conference hosted 1,319 attendees and held 300 sessions. “While I was there, I learned from people working in the field including educators, folks in the criminal justice system and even attorneys. I also learned how to affect policy change on a macro- and micro-level change,” said Briggs.

Prior to choosing law, Briggs worked for a nonprofit in Tulsa, the Peace Corps  in Ethiopia and taught English in Mexico.