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Nelbach, Johnson named OBA Outstanding Family Law Students

OBA Outstanding Family Law Student award winners Courtney Nelbach (l) and Casey Johnson (r).

Courtney Nelbach and Casey Johnson have received 2016-17 Oklahoma Bar Association Outstanding Family Law Student awards from The University of Tulsa College of Law. The award is presented each year to family law students nominated by each Oklahoma law school who exhibit outstanding academic accomplishment in and demonstrated commitment to the field of family law.

Nelbach, a 3L student at TU, has prepared for a career in family law through numerous volunteer, externship and paid positions in the field. In 2017, Nelbach has worked with a private family law firm in Tulsa and with Tulsa Lawyers for Children. She served in an externship with Walls & Toomey Family Law Solicitors in Dublin, Ireland, and is volunteering at Tulsa Hills Youth Ranch.

Her extracurricular activities while in law school include participation in the Family Law Negotiation Competition in spring 2017, serving as an executive board member for LawFam organization and volunteering for the past two years with Women in Recovery through the Women’s Law Caucus. In fall 2016, through the Community Advocacy Clinic, she worked with Legal Aid of Oklahoma’s medical/legal partnership. Nelbach hopes to work in in the field of family law and has a particular interest in child advocacy.

Johnson, a 3L student at TU, earned the CALI award in family law and is currently enrolled in an advanced family law practicum course. In 2017, she served as an extern for Judge Anthony Miller in the Family Division of the Tulsa County District Court. Johnson serves as an editor of the Tulsa Law Review, and her law review article Birthing Surrogacy Laws in Oklahoma: The Push for Surrogacy Laws addressed the need for Oklahoma to enact new legislation protecting the families seeking to use surrogacy to expand their families, the surrogate parents and children born through surrogacy.

 

Students, faculty and alumni featured in Dean’s Report

TU Law offers a superb doctrinal and experiential legal education to talented and engaged law students. With a full-time annual tuition of $24,600, The University of Tulsa College of Law allows students to pursue their professional dreams at a cost that is one of the most affordable among Top 100 private law schools and competitive with top-tier public law schools.

Remaining true to TU Law’s mission of high standards and selectivity, the law school continues to increase its 1L enrollment. Important drivers in the enrollment increase include outstanding academic programs, engaged faculty, exceptional clinical and externship opportunities, strong bar preparatory support and a high job placement rate for graduates. Moreover, TU Law embraces, promotes and protects the values of community, civility and dialogue to create an intellectually vibrant and thriving law school.

Beginning with orientation, TU Law focuses students on future and professional aspirations. Faculty and administration work closely with students to help them refine their career objectives and secure placements meeting their interests. One 2017 graduate who recently accepted a fellowship at Harvard Law School credits TU Law faculty with guiding and supporting her as she pursued her professional goals. Other recent graduates have secured positions with federal judgesstate and federal governments, public interest organizations, selective law firms, and major industries including banking and energy.

TU Law faculty impact the legal world not only through classrooms and clinics, but also through engagement and scholarship in a wide array of important issues. Faculty recently placed high-level articles in prestigious law journals including Yale Law Journal, Stanford Law Review, Notre Dame Law Review, Arizona Law Review, BYU Law Review, University of Illinois Law Review, U.C. Davis Law Review, Constitutional Commentary, Hastings Law Journal and Lewis & Clark Law Review.

In this report, we share more about TU Law’s accomplishments and community.  It is truly a privilege to lead this dynamic law school. I look forward to the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead. See the Dean’s Report here.

Lyn S. Entzeroth
Dean & Dean John Rogers Endowed Chair
The University of Tulsa College of Law

TU Law’s Hope Forsyth selected as 2017 OBA Outstanding Law Student

Hope Forsyth, a 3L at The University of Tulsa College of Law, has been selected as the college’s Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA) Outstanding Student in 2017. Annually, each law school in the state selects a graduating student to receive the award at the OBA meeting in November.

2017 OBA Outstanding Student, Hope Forsyth

“I’m honored and excited to be selected as TU’s representative for this great honor,” said Forsyth. “I greatly appreciate the stellar education, mentorship and opportunities I have received throughout both my law and undergraduate education at TU.”

Forsyth is the executive editor of the Tulsa Law Review, a student member of the Council Oak/Johnson-Sontag Inn of Court and a member of Phi Delta Phi. She has earned eight CALI Excellence for the Future Awards for the highest grade in various classes, and the George and Jean Price Award for legal reasoning, research and writing.

During her time at TU, Forsyth has gained experience at multiple levels of the federal court system through internships 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. In the spring of 2018, Forsyth will extern for Tenth Circuit Senior Judge Stephanie K. Seymour.

Forsyth’s law review comment, “Mutually Assured Protection: Dmitri Shostakovich and Russian Influence on American Copyright Law,” will be published in the Tulsa Law Review Spring 2018 issue. Prior to law school, her examination of the historical and current use of the word “forum” was published in Princeton University Press’ Digital Keywords: A Vocabulary of Information Society and Culture.

Forsyth grew up in Cushing, Oklahoma, where her father practices law. She earned a bachelor’s degree magna cum laude in communication and media studies with minors in English and philosophy from The University of Tulsa, where she was a research fellow for the Oklahoma Center for the Humanities, Honors Scholar, Presidential Scholar and National Merit Scholar. Outside of law school, Hope is an America’s Test Kitchen home recipe tester and a volunteer sacramental catechist at her Catholic parish.

After graduation, Hope will be an associate attorney at GableGotwals in Tulsa.

Law dean authors featured editorial about educators

This editorial was first seen in the Tulsa World on October 15, 2017 written by Lyn Entzeroth, dean and Dean John Rogers Endowed Chair at The University of Tulsa College of Law. She is a member of the Tulsa World Community Advisory Board.

Miss Clara Fieselmann changed my life. She taught high school English and in tenth grade, and she opened up the magical world of language and writing to me.

As my teacher, she did far more than simply correct my spelling and grammar. She gave me in-depth feedback on everything I wrote. She showed me how to write more powerfully; she proved to me that my seemingly endless rewrites improved my work product, and she revealed to me how much fun the hard work of writing can be. I still rely upon the skills and insights she shared with me all those years ago.

Research shows student success depends on teachers like Miss Fieselmann. As Amanda Ripley noted in her article “What Makes a Great Teacher” (The Atlantic Jan./Feb. 2010), the teacher standing in front of the class makes a huge difference in student success. Recent studies make evident that effective teachers share some commonalities. They set high standards. They plan relentlessly. They focus on student learning. They don’t give up on themselves or their students. These teachers work long, hard hours for their profession and their students.

In looking back, I can see the ways in which Miss Fieselmann worked hard for her students. First, she set high expectations, and she pushed me to meet those expectations. I am sure I fell short of her expectations plenty of times, but she kept pushing and she continued to have faith in me. Second, she welcomed each class organized, prepared, and ready to challenge us. She held individual meetings with students working one-on-one to help us meet the goals she had set for each one of us. Third, she prepared multiple lesson plans for class. If students did not respond to her first plan, she had plenty of backup plans to keep them charged, engaged, and learning. Fourth, she did not simply care about the rules of grammar; she cared about the art and craft of writing. Fifth, she cared about the success of every single one of her students — every single one.

I talk with folks all the time who recall teachers who changed their lives. Teachers who challenged them. Teachers who engaged them. Teachers who would not let them slack off. Teachers who pushed them beyond their own expectations. Teachers who opened up a new area of interest. Teachers who changed their futures.

Great teachers are everywhere, and many of them teach in Oklahoma classrooms. Teachers who work late; teachers who meet with students outside of class time to help them understand the material; teachers who care about every student; teachers who plan and rework lessons to make sure that students learn; teachers who inspire; teachers who change the lives of their students for the better. Yet the budget failures in Oklahoma raise serious concerns about our schools’ ability to assure the continuation of such effective learning opportunities for our students.

Oklahomans are all too familiar with the damage the budget shortfall inflicts on our schools and children. According to the Oklahoma Policy Institute, Oklahoma decreased K-12 funding by 23.6 percent between 2008 and 2015. According to the National Education Association and the Oklahoma Education Coalition, the average teacher pay in Oklahoma falls below the regional average and is less than the average teacher pay in Texas, Colorado, Kansas, Arkansas, Missouri, and New Mexico. Local and national news outlets report on talented Oklahoma teachers leaving Oklahoma to teach in surrounding states. Budget shortfalls force the elimination of hundreds of teacher positions across the state. School districts lack qualified teachers to fill all the remaining positions they have. Emergency-qualified teachers are at or exceed record levels for the state.

Miss Fieselmann proved to me many years ago that a teacher can make all the difference in the world to a kid. As an adult, I also know that to fill this important role in a kid’s life, a teacher needs adequate funding and resources. It is time for Oklahoma to put kids first and recommit to adequately funding schools to assure the best and most promising teachers and outcomes for our children’s futures.

 

Rex J. Zedalis: A pragmatic caution to disciples of principle

This editorial was first seen in the Oct. 13, 2017 issue of the Tulsa World written by TU Law Professor Rex J. Zedalis, Director of the Comparative and International Law Center and fellow in the Sustainable Energy & Resources Law program. 

The debates surrounding NFL players and the national anthem, the Las Vegas shootings and guns, and, among some, the recent Ken Burns Vietnam War documentary, have Americans retreating to ideological silos. This raises the hold core principles have on life.

Contrast, for a moment, Jefferson’s statement that “In matters of style, swim with the current; in matters of principle, stand like a rock,” with that of the master of political parody, Groucho Marx, who reportedly quipped, “Those are my principles, and if you don’t like them well, I have others.”

Are we to remain unmovable on principles, as Jefferson suggests? If so, what room exists when dealing with others who, because of culture, religion, or race see the world differently? Or are we, as some might argue Marx observes, always to put our principles, our ideology, up for negotiation? In that case, aren’t we left rudderless in a world of ideas that prey on the uncertain and uncommitted?

I’m ill-suited to answer such complicated philosophical questions. Nonetheless, it strikes me that whether we react by heading for an ideological silo when the NFL, Las Vegas or Vietnam is raised probably reveals whether our personality inclines more toward Jefferson’s or Marx’s view of principles.

Given the tribal character of today’s politics, untold numbers of liberals and conservatives alike surely subscribe to basic principles as commanding of unswerving commitment. Disciples of that stripe need be repeatedly cautioned of two things.

First, virtually all of what the original architects of any ideological belief warned were dangers embedded in those very beliefs has been forgotten. Virtues are emphasized; risks ignored. In light of the human habit of “cherry-picking” what we like; we turn a blind eye to what’s inconvenient.

Second, and more important, it is stunning how any absolutist commitment to principle can lead us astray from socially positive outcomes. Too firm a devotion to principle results in obliviousness to how it works out in the real world. Political psychologists might style this the “blind-spot of ideological anchoring.”

With respect to warned about dangers embedded in ideological beliefs, examples abound. Poking at devotees of small government, market-based solutions, for the moment, when did you last hear them, after waxing eloquent on the marketplace, remind us that the father of capitalism, Adam Smith, warned repeatedly of the need to guard against the market? Illustrative is his statement that laws proposed by business ought to be examined with great suspicion, for “such comes from an order of men whose interest is never exactly the same with that of the public, who have generally an interest to deceive and even oppress the public.”

And lest such reminders lead economic interventionists to believe gleefully John Maynard Keynes was no friend of free markets, it must equally be noted he professed no objection to “private self-interest … determin[ing] what … is produced … and how the value of the final product will be distributed.”

With respect to the obliviousness brought on by unalterable devotion to principle, one need only look around the globe at tragedies proceeding from the view that there’s but one “true way” in matters of religion, ethnicity, or politics. Refusal to see the world through any lens other than our own risks the worst of outcomes.

And never should we be so arrogant as to believe American democracy inoculates us from such risks. While on an entirely lower order of magnitude than what exists in some overseas locations, just look around at budget situations of state governments whose guiding tax cut ideology promised to bring unparalleled prosperity, or at the unintended consequences of certain activist social programs thought guaranteed to offer a hand up.

Governance, as life, requires juggling inconsistencies and contradictions. Whether principles are divine word or starting point, we must heed the warnings their architects called to attention, and remain open to deviations that help us steer clear of the disasters that inflexible adherence present.

Rex J. Zedalis is in his 37th year as a law professor at the University of Tulsa, having served, during that time, as director of the Comparative & International Law Center, fellow in the Sustainable Energy & Resources Law program and Phyllis Hurley Frey Professor of Law.

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.

Mimi Marton: TU Law’s incubator program filling critical need among law students

Mimi Marton is the director of Tulsa Immigrant Resources Network with The University of Tulsa College of Law. The following article was first published in the Tulsa World.

The last decade has seen a sharp increase in the number of legal incubator programs.

Inspired by the business incubator model, the goal of the legal incubator movement is to decrease the serious gap in access to justice in the United States while supporting new solo lawyers. Incubator attorneys are fierce in their commitment to serve underserved populations and rave about the collegiality, training and access to senior lawyers that are inherent in incubators.

In 2008, with a generous grant from the George Kaiser Family Foundation, The University of Tulsa College of Law launched Tulsa Immigrant Resource Network, the second legal incubator program in the U.S. TIRN is a fellowship model of an incubator program in which a recent graduate works closely with the TIRN director providing direct representation and community education programs.

In the summer of 2015, GKFF approved a proposal to expand TIRN’s incubator program. With space provided by TU in its newest location, the Oxley College of Health Sciences, TIRN opened two new programs to support TU law students and graduates dedicated to building financially sustainable solo practices: the TU Law Co-op (TLC) and the Solo Practice Clinic.

TLC participants must commit to providing legal services to traditionally underserved populations, including people of modest income who typically do not qualify for assistance from a legal aid program but cannot afford conventional hourly rates.

TLC then provides its incubator attorneys with support such as law office management and client interviewing training, office space, practice advisory support and networking and client building opportunities. Participants stay in TLC for 18 months and must also complete a significant amount of pro bono representation, a requirement that increases access to justice while giving participants legal experience as their practices grow.

Recognizing that there is a need to increase the access to justice in rural areas and smaller communities in Oklahoma, TLC also offers remote support to incubator attorneys who wish to practice outside of a city. TLC currently has two incubator attorneys, one who runs a practice in Bartlesville and another who runs a practice out of the Oxley building space provided by TU.

Two new participants are anticipated for a Spring 2018 start. This is an exciting time in legal education and for TU Law, as we lead a growing number of programs around the country that seek to reduce the access to justice gap while simultaneously supporting our innovative entrepreneurial graduates.

Here are what our TLC lawyers are saying:

Dani Weaver: “After law school, like many others, I realized how much I still had to learn in order to actually practice law. The majority of my time is spent researching laws and procedure. I do not have extra hours or days to research the best office management system, accounting system, office best practices or advertising, all of which are necessary to be successfully self-employed.

“After participating in the Solo Practice Clinic (the student program of the TLC) and graduating from law school, I decided to sign up for the first Incubator program at TU Law. I believe there is a great need for affordable legal services in Oklahoma, and many people go without crucial representation simply because they cannot afford to hire an attorney. I felt that I would be able to offer limited scope representation and immigration services to those in need and have found that most people are willing to set up payment plans or agree to replenish low retainers frequently. I hope to provide consistent services to under-represented communities and encourage other new attorneys to do the same.”

Kasey Curry: “I went to law school with the goal of opening up my own practice. After three years of law school, I realized not only did I have no practical knowledge of how to run a business but also had no idea of how to be a lawyer. Within a few weeks of swearing in, I attended a one-day seminar covering the basics of opening a solo practice. While informational, I still had some uncertainties about what I needed to do to get my business going. Meanwhile, events occurring across the nation spurred a desire to help. I reached out to a friend in Oregon who has been practicing immigration law for over 20 years. How, I asked, does one get started with immigration law? ‘You’re going to have to find a good mentor,’ he replied. Then I heard about TU’s incubator program. I requested some information from Mimi Marton, and I liked everything about the program: its mission to help Tulsa’s underserved immigrant community while simultaneously affording me the support I needed to practice law and manage my solo practice.”

“As an incubator attorney, I have access to intensive training for the day-to-day practicalities of running a solo practice as well as the support and expertise of local attorneys who have graciously offered to mentor me during this critical first year. TU’s incubator program is giving me the on-the-job training that is missing from the law school curriculum. Going forward, I can use the information I am learning to optimize my practice and develop a healthy income while simultaneously providing legal services to the many people who cannot afford to pay high hourly rates.”

 

TU Law MJIL grad joins board of Native Women Coalition

Recent TU Law MJIL graduate Joannie Suina Romero has been appointed to the board of directors for the Coalition to Stop Violence Against Native Women (CSVANW). The organization works to prevent the cycle of violence within tribal communities.

Romero graduated with a Master of Jurisprudence in Indian Law (MJIL) from TU Law in 2017. She currently manages the Institute of American Indian Arts (IAIA) continuing education program in Santa Fe. This fall she will be teaching an undergraduate course for the IAIA titled “Decolonization and Applied Post-Colonial Theory.”

Romero also operates Corn Pollen Consulting, LLC, a Native American, woman-owned small business dedicated to providing a culturally responsive and respective approach to organizational engagement and development for tribal governments, programs, organizations and individuals.

Visit our site for information on TU Law’s MJIL program.