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Feb. 13, 2019
UK Law hosted a Noon Forum with special guests from the federal judiciary on campus in January.  This comprehensive student engagement opportunity included a panel discussion among four guest judges and a former U.S. Attorney, guest lecturer appearances by judges in two classes, and a luncheon with a group of students interested in federal judicial clerkships.

Guests  included Hon. Gregory F. Van Tatenhove, District Judge, Eastern District of Kentucky, Hon. Robert J. Conrad, Jr., Chief Judge, Western District of North Carolina, Hon. Michael J. Mosman, Chief Judge, District of Oregon, Hon. Timothy Mark Burgess, Chief Judge, District of Alaska and Roscoe Howard, former U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia and former member of the NCAA Division I Committee on Infractions.

“I’m always grateful to UK for providing these experiences,” said John (Austin) Hatfield, 2L student at UK Law.  “I’ve been blown away by the numerous opportunities students have to engage with professionals in an array of fields.”

A Noon Forum at Sanders Chapel was moderated by Mr. Howard, with students and the panel judges engaging in meaningful conversation.  Mr. Howard asked the panel a few questions and then turned the floor to the students who posed several questions. 

Panelists shared why they chose a career in public service with Judge Conrad stating, “The work is very meaningful. One of the things I love most about being a district court judge is interaction I have with law clerks coming out of law school or with a year or two of practice where they are eager, enthusiastic.” 

The panelists encouraged students to find ways to give back in their community wherever they happen to be, to appreciate the present, and be open to the many things they can do with a law degree.

“The most impactful moment for me, and the most useful advice, was hearing the judges discuss the necessity of living in the moment,” said Hatfield.  “They provided a perspective of someone at the pinnacle of the legal profession.”

 When asked by 1L student Paige Goins about their favorite aspect of being a judge, Judge Conrad said, “I love the whole dynamic of selecting the jury of citizens, very well-trained lawyers and the passion of lawyers arguing for their clients.  I think our country is very blessed with this jury trial system and presiding over a well-tried case is satisfying.”  Judge Van Tatenhove added that working with law clerks, men and women right out of law school who bring fresh energy and idealism, is a real privilege.  “It is one of the richest parts of the experience for me,” he said.

The panelists also discussed having a great respect for lawyers who are aware of the impact their work has on others and shared an appreciation for the importance of humility.  Their advice to students included the benefits of getting to know their classmates and future colleagues and the importance of studying and practicing practical skills.  The panel also reminded students that they are about to enter a service industry.

“You are students now and we are trying to prepare you,” said Mr. Howard.  “What kind of lawyer you are going to be is yet to be determined.  What you’re doing here is all about prepping yourself.  When you go outside, it is about working hard.  When you get out you serve other people, you work hard.  Be honest, be truthful.”

Judge Mosman was a guest lecturer in Professor Cortney Lollar’s Evidence Class and Judge Burgess was a guest lecturer in Professor Melynda Price’s Immigration Law Class where they encouraged the exchange of ideas and facilitated a question and answer session.

The visit concluded with a luncheon that provided another opportunity for student engagement with the federal judges and former U.S. Attorney.

“The judges provided information on the clerkship application process and encouraged students to embrace their own personalities and trust the process to find the right judge for them,” said  Hatfield.  “They encouraged us to apply to judges who we think we would enjoy spending time with, rather than just anyone who would hire us.  They stressed the value of the clerkship experience as a mentorship experience, one judge calling it a ‘family’.  Not only does this environment provide useful networking opportunities, but it humanizes so many jobs that might otherwise be less approachable,” said Hatfield.

“I want to thank Judge Van Tatenhove for the opportunity to engage our students with his visiting colleagues.  Opportunities such as this enhance our students’ classroom experience and gain great exposure to some of the most accomplished individuals in the legal profession, helping UK Law in its efforts to provide a high-quality legal education,” said Daniel P. Murphy, Jr., Assistant Dean of Community Engagement and Diversity.