OutLaws Archives - College of Law

OutLaws

Learning to bridge the gap between people, communities and the law

University of Tulsa College of Law student Dalisha Kirk (2L) is looking forward to the second year of law school. Helping stoke her enthusiasm is a combination of a meaningful summer externship and a first year that exceeded her expectations both of what she could accomplish and the richness of a supportive, student-focused academic community. That first year also convinced Kirk that a career as a lawyer would be the ideal way to act on her ethical and political beliefs and commitment to effecting positive social change.

young woman with long black hair wearing a yellow blazer over a white top smiling while seated indoors
Dalisha Kirk (2L)

With a bachelor’s in criminology from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro, Kirk made the cross-country journey to Tulsa spurred on by a desire “to help people in some way.”

Kirk’s ambition was deeply influenced by her family, who “encouraged the idea of giving back”; volunteering during her undergraduate years in minority and disadvantaged communities; and the often uneasy reality of being a Black person in contemporary America. “I’ve always thought it would be easier seeing someone who looks like you help you through a legal problem because, more likely than not, they’re going to be able to understand where you’re coming from,” said Kirk. “I want to be that person who helps bridge the gap between people, communities and the law.”

A demanding externship

Between first and second year of law school, Kirk tested her convictions and applied her growing expertise during an externship with The Demand Project, which is based in Jenks, Oklahoma. The mission of this organization is to eradicate human trafficking, online enticement, child abuse imagery and the commercial sexual exploitation of children.

It would not be overstating the case to say that Kirk excelled during her externship, working on a variety of initiatives that drew on her skills and knowledge. These included reviewing the laws dealing with human trafficking and examining how The Demand Project could improve and grow its relationships with federal organizations. Kirk’ biggest undertaking and the one she says she is “most proud” of involved taking a major hand in designing a program to help victims of trafficking maintain their financial credit, which is necessary for such basic things as renting an apartment, applying for a loan and obtaining a mortgage.

Kirk’s work on The Demand Project’s credit initiative was supervised by Shar Agosto, the organization’s legal director and the executive director of its Journey program. “Dalisha was a wonderful addition to our team,” Agosto remarked. “During her externship, she completed a very complicated project that involved creating credit protection for minors under our Access2Identity program. We were so impressed that we submitted her work to the Oklahoma Bar Foundation as part of our application for an IOLTA grant.”

That amazing first year of firsts

The foundation for Kirk’s rewarding externship was the solid experiences she had during her first year at TU Law. From a great start at orientation in August 2021, where she easily met new friends while bonding over stories about the World’s Largest Peanut, to wrapping up second semester at the Barrister’s Ball “dancing the night way,” Kirk had what can only be described as a remarkable year.

young woman with long black hair wearing a yellow blazer over a white blouse with arms crossed while smiling and standing outdoors in front of a water fountainOn the more serious, academic side, highlights for Kirk included studying in TU Law’s Mabee Legal Information Center (MLIC) and competing in the Redbud and Negotiation competitions. “Even though I didn’t place, I’m happy I did them and I had an amazing partner for both,” she remarked. “As someone who is more introverted, it was great to break out of my shell. And the solid feedback I received from the judges is carrying me forward.”

While she describes herself as introverted, Kirk stepped out of her comfort zone and got involved with a number of TU Law’s student organizations, including TU Law Ambassadors, OutLaws, the Immigration Law Society and the Black Law Student Association (BLSA). “Being able to see my community represented through the BLSA was especially impactful for me,” commented Kirk. “Its members became the people I looked up to as well as my mentors. The BLSA is an incredible organization that gives us a voice and lets us know we’re not alone.”

Kirk’s first year, however, was not all smooth sailing. Perhaps the stiffest challenge she faced was balancing coursework and personal time: “I still think that’s something I’m trying to address. Burnout is real!” Another hurdle entailed developing a coherent and effective study style, which involved turning to methods such as flashcards, Quizlet, Quimbee Questions and Law Jeopardy with her friends at the MLIC.

Finally, Kirk acknowledges that learning the Socratic method employed in her courses took a lot of getting used to. “The first time I got called on I was so nervous and completely messed up,” she recalled. “I still fumble now on occasion, but I am improving. And I have to remind myself that it’s easier to remember everything you got wrong in class rather than the things you did right!”

Full of surprises

It’s clear from spending even a little time with Kirk that people matter to her — deeply. Thus, it is heartening to hear that one of the aspects of being a TU Law student that surprised her the most was “the way everyone comes together to help each other.” Study groups, hallway conversations, help arranging an interview: “All you have to do is ask and someone will point you in the right direction,” said Kirk. “You always hear that law school is cutthroat and everyone is competing with everyone else. Maybe some of those things are true some of the time, but for the most part I’ve found that everyone works together in a wonderfully collegial way.”

Another aspect of being a law student that surprised Kirk was that the cases she received in Torts and Criminal Administration became such a highlight of her learning experience: “The fact is that many of those cases are so strange and, oddly, entertaining. I’d never read and dissected a legal case before I came to TU Law, so it never occurred to me before that it would be an interesting thing to do!”

On the more personal side, Kirk’s first year on the road to becoming a lawyer was discovering “how much I want to experience.” Arriving in Tulsa “pretty set” on working in health or criminal law, the 12 months since beginning law school have, she noted, “opened my mind to other avenues. I still want to focus on public policy, but I now regard law school as a ground for nurturing my curiosity.”

A new year beckons

“It will be hard to top my first year,” laughed Kirk. “I made wonderful new friends, attended my first Hallowe’en party and took part in my first Pride festival. There were so many experiences I hope to repeat this year!”

In addition, Kirk intends to deepen her involvement in TU Law’s student organizations. Recently, for instance, she was accepted into the college’s prestigious Energy Law Journal.

And now that she has a much better handle on what being successful at law school entails, Kirk hopes to spend a little more time branching outside into the wider Tulsa community in order to volunteer doing the people- and community-focused work she treasures: “That’s where my passion to become a lawyer started, and so giving back is a major priority for me this year and throughout the rest of my studies and career.”


Knowledge of the law and its practice are powerful tools in the struggle for social justice. A Juris Doctor from TU Law could be your pathway to effecting the change you believe in.

 

Governing bodies: The Student Bar Association and its new leadership team

“As a first-year law student, I saw the impact the Student Bar Association (SBA) could make and I knew I wanted to be part of it.” Those are the words of Brittainy Boyer, the newly elected president of the SBA. Along with JP Ray, the vice president, Boyer oversees The University of Tulsa College of Law’s organization that serves as its students’ governing body. The SBA also coordinates student activities and other student organizations, while acting as a liaison between students and the college’s administration and faculty.

“Law students can get involved with the SBA as early as their first semester,” Ray noted. “Then, after a year of involvement, they can stand for election or be appointed to a leadership position.” The SBA comprises elected class delegates, a judicial branch and an executive board. “I ran as a 1L delegate,” said Boyer, “and have been involved ever since.” Recently, as TU Law has welcomed increasing numbers of students who begin in the spring semester, a “1/2 L” delegate position has been created so that all classes have representation on this influential decision-making body.

“We have been extremely fortunate to have had dedicated and capable student leadership on our SBA over the years,” remarked Karen M. Grundy, TU Law’s associate dean of students. “The SBA’s mission is to be the voice for the students in the life of the College of Law, and it has been instrumental in putting on time-honored social events, such as Barrister’s Ball, and in establishing new initiatives, such as the Mental Health Fair held in the fall.”

Grundy also commented on how fortunate she has been over the years to work with talented students in the position of SBA president and vice president. “This year is no exception,” she noted. “Boyer and Ray will do an outstanding job representing the students at the College of Law and in helping us to enhance and support our community here at the law school. I look forward to working with both of them in the coming academic year.”

One of the strengths of TU Law, the SBA and the college’s many other student organizations is their ability to bring together people like Boyer and Ray – individuals from different backgrounds who wind up at law school by following a multitude of various paths, but who all thrive in the college’s tight-knit, supportive community and work hard to excel.

So, who are this year’s SBA leaders? Where did they come from? What makes them tick? Here, Boyer and Ray introduce themselves.

Brittainy Boyer’s “evolving” dream

Osiyo. I’m Brittainy Boyer. My friends call me BB.

Some of my classmates will tell you they have always known they wanted to be a lawyer. That was the not case for me. My dream was to be a teacher, like my mother, and to provide children with a solid foundation on which to build their lives. My dream evolved as I saw how often children were denied the opportunity to succeed because of early and frequent contact with the criminal justice system. I wanted the chance to join in with others whose goal it was to stop the school-to-prison pipeline, and so I applied to law school.

Student Bar Association President Brittainy Boyer smiling and wearing a white open-collar shirt and a black blazer
SBA President Brittainy Boyer

As a teenager, I was among the near 30% of students at my high school who did not graduate. I worked in the service industry for over 10 years, waiting tables and making lattes. During that time, I organized and participated in many volunteer events, most of which were to support public schools, the LGBTQI+ community and animals. Through leadership opportunities and volunteering activities, I realized that there was more that I wanted to do.

I enrolled at Tulsa Community College and, at the age of 30, I received my first diploma. Next, I went to Northeastern State University, where I majored in history and minored in theater. While I was finishing up my bachelor’s, my partner encouraged me to take the LSAT. At the time, law school seemed out of reach for someone like me: a person who had not finished high school and who had been working at Starbucks for the last nine years. Nevertheless, I gathered up my courage, took the LSAT, applied to TU Law and was accepted.

TU Law is a small, tight-knit school that prepares us to be hard-working, zealous advocates. The college also encourages volunteer work, which was of the utmost importance to me when I was considering where to apply. As I have progressed in my studies, I have experienced the ease of access to professors and their willingness to assist in a multitude of situations. I should mention, too, that I watched my partner go through law school at TU and I saw how prepared she was for the bar exam and for her career as an attorney.

Serving as SBA president alongside JP is a great honor. But the SBA is not the only organization that grabbed my heart. In my time here, I have served as an executive board member of the Board of Advocates, which hosts moot court competitions for the law school. I have also served on the executive board member of the Public Interest Board, which promotes pro bono and volunteer work within the law school.

I also had the privilege of serving on the board of the Women’s Law Caucus as the Women in Recovery Book Club coordinator. I also served as president of Paw Law, a student organization that promotes the safety and well-being of animals. I am, likewise, a member of many other student organizations, including the Native American Law Student Association, OutLaws (LGBTQI+) and ImmLaw (immigration rights), to name just a few. There are countless ways for TU Law students to be involved in the issues that matter to them.

JP Ray’s “powerful sense of community”

My name is JP Ray and I grew up in Broken Arrow, Oklahoma. After high school, I accepted an athletic scholarship at Central Christian College of Kansas. I graduated a year early with a bachelor of science in business management. With my family’s legacy of using education to create better opportunities for the next generation, I’ve always known I wanted to obtain some form of further education.

Student Bar Association Vice President JP Ray smiling and wearing a blue blazer and blue open-collar shirt
SBA Vice President JP Ray

Initially, I wanted to pursue a career in managerial leadership and use the analytical skills learned in law school to compliment my business management training. However, my desires changed when I arrived at TU Law. This school has a powerful sense of community, which has influenced me to follow a more impactful career in criminal justice and civil litigation. TU Law’s core values are centered around excellence in scholarship, dedication to free inquiry, integrity of character, professionalism and commitment to justice and humanity. One of my favorite things about this school is that it backs up its core values with a high bar passage rate, job placement and educational recognition throughout the country.

Another thing TU Law does well is promoting the importance of obtaining legal experience while in law school. Most schools require their students to get experience; however, not every law school has the remarkable Professional Development Office that TU Law has. I have obtained valuable hands-on experience at litigation firms, the United States Attorney’s Office and the Tulsa County Public Defender’s Office.

Like Brittainy, I have also gotten involved in several student organizations. There’s the SBA, as well as the Black Law Students Association, Federalist Society and Board of Advocates. For me, though, being an active member of the SBA is one of the best ways to experience the rigors and excitement of leadership and to work with diverse personalities.

As an African American with no lawyers in my family history, one of the hardest challenges I overcame as a student was learning the right way to study for classes. As a collegiate student-athlete, I graduated one year early with honors; yet, I found my first year of law school extremely difficult. I was challenged in ways I had never been challenged academically before. Nevertheless, I relied on my family’s encouragement to use education to create better opportunities, and I made the adjustments necessary to succeed and overcame my first-year struggles. Now, I use my story and experience as a first-generation minority law student to help others overcome the challenges they face.


Are you considering taking the plunge and becoming a lawyer? Discover how TU Law can help you gain the knowledge and skills you need to unleash your inner advocate.

Legally proud: OutLaws student group advances LGBTQ+ community and equality

June 2019 is the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Riots, which took place over the course of several hot summer nights in Greenwich Village, New York City. While this was not the first time gay men, lesbians and transgender people resisted state-sanctioned police harassment and brutality, the series of running battles are recognized by many as a watershed moment in modern LGBTQ+ civil rights history.

Taking inspiration from these brave freedom fighters, Tulsa and many other cities across the Unites States and the rest of the world celebrate LGBTQ+ Pride each June. One of the University of Tulsa community members joining in the festivities this year is recent TU College of Law alumnus Mitchell Lovett (JD ’19).

At home in the Heartland?

A veteran of the United States Army who served his country both at home and in Afghanistan, when Lovett was considering relocating from Washington, DC, to attend TU Law he was anxious about the potential for homophobic bias in Tulsa.

“As a gay male living in a progressive part of the country, I did not want to return to the kind of discrimination I had witnessed growing up in Georgia and as a service member at Fort Sill in southwestern Oklahoma,” Lovett said. “Although TU Law offered what I was looking for in a legal education (in particular, energy law), I was wary about reintroducing myself into an unhealthy environment.”

Like a good future lawyer, Lovett set about researching. His first step was to ask Professor Vicki Limas, with whom he had a pre-admission interview, “what kind of environment is Tulsa for the LGBTQ+ and minority communities? Is it a place where I’m going to have to watch my back or get slurs yelled at me in the streets?” Limas assured Lovett that Tulsa is a safe city and that he need not worry about being harassed.

Becoming an OutLaw

Limas then put Lovett in touch with Preston Brasch, who was one of the leaders of OutLaws – the student organization at TU Law dedicated to addressing lesbian, bisexual, gay and transgender legal issues. “Preston was welcoming and reassured me I was walking into a phenomenal place. He also told me about OutLaws and how I could become a member.”

“OutLaws is a group of friendly students who want to advocate for, spread awareness of and be mindful of the LGBTQ+ community in Tulsa and the College of Law,” Lovett explained. The organization has a president, vice president, secretary, media manager and treasurer. Throughout the year it engages in various events, including fundraising for the Matthew Shepard Foundation; bringing in guest speakers on topics such as employment discrimination and litigation affecting the trans community; and sending students to diversity conferences. “OutLaws provides a space in the College of Law for the LGBTQ+ community to flourish.”

In his first year, Lovett took part in OutLaws events, attending fundraisers, mixers and panels. As a 2L, he stepped up and became the group’s treasurer. And then in his final year of studies Lovett returned to being an active member-participant.

“You don’t normally think of your university as your safety net,” Lovett concluded near the end of our conversation. “But that was immediate at the College of Law. For someone who up and moved across the country to come to TU it was wonderful when members of OutLaws met me the first week, went with me to dinner and helped me move in. And I’ve done the same for other new members.

“You can’t ignore how important that sense of community is. Anyone who is LGBTQ+ who is facing trepidation about whether to come to TU Law should push that aside, because there’s a great community here for us.”

Get involved

Interested in LGBTQ+ legal issues and meeting other people with similar investments? Then consider getting involved in OutLaws and attending the group’s events.

Membership is open to all TU Law students and alumni, regardless of gender and sexuality. Allies who support the LGBTQ+ community are warmly welcomed.

Visit OutLaws on Facebook or contact the organization via email: tuoutlaws@gmail.com.