Event Alert: 19th Annual Silent Auction to benefit YWCA Pathways Program

Each spring, the Women’s Law Caucus holds its annual silent auction to benefit the Missoula YWCA Pathways Domestic Violence Program. In 2015, the WLC Silent Auction raised nearly $10,000 for the Pathways Program. Committed to engaging in issues affecting women, families, and the law, and with even greater ambitions for 2016, the WLC hopes to raise $11,000 during its 19th Annual Silent Auction.

The YWCA is the leading organization in Missoula for moving women and families out of crisis situations and empowering them to achieve lasting independence. Its Pathways Program offers a safe shelter, crisis counseling, and support for survivors of domestic and sexual violence, including a 24-hour crisis hotline.

More than 300 members of the campus, legal, and greater Missoula communities attend the annual silent auction in support of both groups and their missions to advocate for victims of domestic violence.

The WLC will hold its 19th Annual Silent Auction on Friday March 4, 2016 from 6:00 to 9:00 p.m. at the Missoula Children’s Theater.

Admission is free to the event, with appetizers, refreshments, and live music all included. Attendees are encouraged to bid on silent auction items such as weekend getaways, handmade items, homemade goods, artwork, gift certificates, outdoor adventures, gift baskets, and much more.

Please visit our Facebook event page for more information: https://www.facebook.com/events/1546146669011292/12719261_1013847328677428_9004211876180900116_o

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Waiting for the Fog to Lift: Another First Semester Perspective.

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In my first interview for a summer internship the interviewer asked me if I liked law school. I looked him straight in the eye and hesitated. I hesitated for a really long time. It was awkward. I finally managed to squeak out a nervous “Yes?” He asked me if I was lying. No, I wasn’t lying, but how I feel about my first semester of law school is far more complicated than what I was able to easily articulate in that stuffy interview room.

My decision to go to law school was an easy one. I have known this is what I wanted to do for many years, but the timing never worked out for our family. I assumed my decision would be met with support but I was surprised at the negativity I encountered.  Lawyers I knew said some of the same things we all have heard, that law school is cut-throat and competitive. Attorney colleagues warned my husband that law school would change me, that I would become this person he did not know or like very much.

Sadly, the most negative responses came from my female friends, the majority of whom told me I was making a mistake. One of my closest friends, upon hearing I was accepted, asked, “Why the hell would you put yourself through that? Are you crazy?” Even a few family members expressed their unhappiness with my decision to go to law school, regarding it as a selfish choice for a woman my age.

Despite the naysayers, I forged ahead, not blind to the stressors that awaited me. Generally, there are different pressures for a non-traditional law school student of my age, not worse necessarily, just different. I have a mortgage, children, and a spouse with a busy job, all which involve some measure of pressure beyond school.

While these pressures present unique challenges, I am thankful that I don’t have to deal with the pressures other students do. My children are all in college, and therefore, I do not have to decide when and if I want a family and how this will impact my career. Nor am I forced to practice in a certain geographical area. And while I realize my career path may be limited because of my age, I do not have to worry about daycare or sick children and I do not feel guilty about spending time at the library instead of at home. And I am certainly glad that I don’t have to date in the era of Facebook, Tinder, and Snapchat.

I think the best way I can describe my feelings about the first semester of law school is that it is was a daily exercise in humility. I felt pretty confident about my intellectual abilities walking through the doors the first time. This confidence lasted until I began reading my first assigned case. What the hell were all these words? I recognized most of them, but they were arranged in a way that made no sense. Those first few cases were like wading through thick mud: slow going and messy. I ended up reading some of these early cases four and five times before I understood what rule was being taught. That is not to say I didn’t enjoy my classes and my professors, I did, but it was frustrating to have to work so hard to understand even the most basic concepts.  It was tough going at first, but, as our wise contracts professor predicted, the fog eventually lifted, and the rules, theories, and purpose behind what we were reading become clearer.

After completing my first semester, I agree that law school changes a person and frankly, I don’t know how it could not. To be successful in law school, you have to make compromises and sacrifices and even the most supportive partner or family member may not understand. I like to think that how I handle these complications determines whether I change for the better or worse.

I will be the first to admit that I have not dealt with the pressures of law school with as much grace and charm as I am capable of. For example, three weeks before finals I told my husband he was now responsible for everything: cooking, cleaning, pets, laundry, EVERYTHING! I could handle nothing more. I am fortunate to have an extremely patient, supportive spouse who he wears headphones most of the time and is, therefore, oblivious to my stress induced tirades. It works for us.

I know I should say that studying the law is my favorite part of law school, but to be completely honest, what made my first semester overall a positive experience is my class of fellow 1Ls. Learning alongside this group of funny, creative, and brilliant students is inspiring. With few exceptions they get along, support each other, and recognize that because we are all succeeding and suffering together, kindness is the best approach. The law school and those practicing law should take great pride in knowing that these students represent the future of law practice in Montana and elsewhere. I am proud to say that I am a law student at the Alexander Blewett III School of Law and am honored to be part of the class of 2018.

Written by: Jennifer Morgan.

 

Fear of Expectations: A First Semester Perspective

When I committed to law school, I committed to making my experience different than undergrad. I wasn’t going to allow fear to prevent me from joining clubs and participating in programs that I found worthwhile. I decided to graduate with more than just a law degree. I promised myself I would leave law school with a network of advisors and meaningful experiences. I had a plan for how to succeed in law school.

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As an undergrad I frequently felt lost in a sea of 35,000 students on campus. I never challenged myself, for fear of the competition. This developed into an overwhelming fear of not measuring up to others’ expectations.

Fear kept me from applying to programs and participating in clubs that I was interested in. It kept me from meeting people. After four years, and no professional connections to show for my time at a major state university, I found my degree had very little value.

I was more anxious for the first day of law school orientation than I can remember ever being in my short two and a half decades of life. I’m thankful that I biked to class, because the sunshine and the fresh air helped ease my nausea. In my short two and a half decades I’ve also learned that what I expect is never what reality reveals. When I asked for my nametag and orientation folder from Student Services, I could barely speak; I was so afraid that I was already doing something wrong.

In expecting to be immediately challenged by everyone around me, needing to prove why I belonged, I began my law school career. I’m not sure of the moment that this feeling changed, but by the end of the first day, I was no longer anxious. I was repeatedly welcomed by upperclassmen and faculty who were happy to have the new 1Ls arrive. This was the first time my expectations did not match the reality of law school.

As classes began, I found myself lost in planning mode. I wanted to be organized and strategic about how my time was spent. But planning is just a guise for trying to make expectations match reality.

Part of my plan was to force myself to go to social functions. Fortunately, those functions didn’t turn out to be as nauseating as I expected. Our 1L class was broken into twelve “law firms,” small sections where we discussed study-tips and legal citations. My law firm quickly became close. Suddenly I wasn’t alone at those social functions. I was able to find solace in being with other people who were just as anxious about going to a social event as I. Yet again, my expectations did not match the reality of law school.

What I learned was expectations are never going to match the reality of law school. These expectations only serve to give your mind some sense of control in what is a very a chaotic reality. It’s tempting to try and control every aspect of your fate to ensure inevitable success, but this can be a disservice to your success when you are paralyzed to imagine anything but your own expectations. It is much more manageable if you use preexisting expectations to inform you on what might lie ahead in your first year. There’s no reason for your expectations to hold you back from even trying. Just as your expectations never match reality, reality is never quite as bad as you think it will be.

Written by: Arie Mielkus

Up next: First Semester Law Students.

In the following two posts you will hear from two different first semester law students about their experience in law school. Both are unique perspectives due to their differing backgrounds. The first article will be from Arie, a 1L who came to Alexander Blewett III School of Law at the University Of Montana, two years after graduating from her undergraduate school. The following week you will hear from Jennifer, a 1L whose path to law school has meandered a little more.

Our goal in presenting these articles back to back is to highlight the shared experience of a first semester law students. We hope that you also notice the different struggles both students encountered, and how they are framed by the writer.    law-series-4-1467436-1278x960

Montana vs. Everyone else: The gender divide in Montana and the national stage.

When discussing my first semester of law school with friends and family, they often asked how many women were in my class and how many female professors taught at the school. News articles, blogs, and TV shows often depict both the learning and practice of law as a boys’ club reluctant to bring women into the fold.

Despite this popular assumption, the first couple times I was asked about the law school gender divide, I was a little taken aback. My generation sees more women than men in many educational disciplines, and the gender disparity of my undergraduate and law school classes was never significant enough for me to notice.

But, since I still couldn’t answer my friends’ and family’s question, I decided one day to count the number of women in my section of 35 students. Before I was halfway around the room it was clear that women outnumber men.

This is true for the entire 1L class. Out of 71 of us, 38 are female and 33 are male. The current 2L class is nearly neck-and-neck with 40 women and 43 men. The gap widens for our 3L class with only 33 females out of 83 students.

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These numbers put UM at the national average. For the past few years, the percentage of women enrolled in law schools throughout the U.S. has hovered around 47%. Those who study and discuss these numbers express concern that female enrollment in law school is stagnating and falling behind female enrollment numbers in other areas of graduate-level education.

That, however, doesn’t seem to be the case at UM Law. Three out of the past five years, the incoming classes skewed at a higher percentage of women than the national average. The 1L class easily skirted that number at 54%, while the 2L class and 2011 incoming class skewed closer to 50%.

Our UM faculty outpaces the national average by an even higher margin. An impressive 57% of our professors are female (12 out of 21), which demolishes the 36% national average of female law faculty.

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However, when looking at practicing attorneys in the state as a whole, Montana dips below the national gender divide. Nearly twice as many male lawyers practice in the state than female lawyers at 2346 men to 1212 women. This means that only 34% of Montana lawyers are women.

That percentage seems low, and, quite frankly, it is. Unfortunately, it’s nearly on par with the national statistics. According to the most recent data available from the American Bar Association, a mere 36% of lawyers in the United States are women.

Experts attribute this low showing to women leaving practice to raise a family, avoid crushing work hours, or to work in a field that feels like less of a boys’ club. But, the generational divide plays into it, too. As more and more women graduate from law school, they will populate more of the workforce, gradually changing the composition and culture of the profession.

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Written by: Chelsea Bissell.

Welcome.

This post marks the unveiling of the Women’s Law Caucus Blog, here at Alexander Blewett III School of Law, at the University of Montana!

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This blog will support WLC in its mission to promote women’s issues in the law and serve as a link between the law students, attorneys and the Montana Community.

You can expect a new blog every two weeks. In these posts, the goal is to provide a forum to openly discuss ideas, issues, and events that affect women in Montana and the legal community. Stay tuned for interviews of practicing attorneys and law professors, “in the news” posts that comment on stories that have made the headlines, and other thoughtful posts.

We encourage feedback; please see the “about” page for information on how to contact a WLC member.

These guiding principles underlie the foundation of this blog:

  • To engage readers with interesting blogs,
  • To collaborate with members of the Montana legal community;
  • And to serve as a resource for prospective law students.

Enjoy!