Former OIP Fellow Continues to Fight for the Innocent
When attorney John Kennedy’s indigent client was acquitted of murder last year, his greatly relieved defendant turned to him and asked if it felt good to represent an innocent person. The answer was a little hard for Kennedy to articulate.
Keeping the innocent free is the highest goal for the former OIP fellow. “But I always have a fear of an innocent man going to prison if I fail,” says Kennedy, JD ’10. “It would be my fault.”
That’s a heavy weight to carry on one’s shoulders for an entire career, but Kennedy is exactly where he wants to be — in the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office. He joined the office in 2011 soon after graduating. It was his dream job, one he began longing for as an Ohio Innocence Project fellow.
The New Richmond, Ohio, native decided to become a lawyer after his first year as a political-science major at Miami University in Ohio. As he began checking out law schools, he was leaning toward Oregon’s Lewis and Clark Law School when he attended a prospective-student open house at UC College of Law. He was snagged immediately. “I was attracted to UC at that open house,” he says. “There was so much warmth and happiness in the students that I decided this is where I wanted to go. At Lewis and Clark, there was no enthusiasm. Everyone seemed down.”
Furthermore, the Ohio Innocence Project also tugged at his heart. A promotional video shown that weekend contained a short segment about Clarence Elkins, OIP’s first exoneration. “I remember sitting there and thinking how amazing that was.” The atmosphere, the students and the OIP video were enough for Kennedy to ditch any thoughts about Oregon. His OIP fellowship a couple of years later sold him on the branch of law he wanted for his career — criminal defense, especially for indigent defendants.
The fellowship, he says, was “very good — reading through transcripts and hearing from inmates, seeing the glaring discrepancies in cases.” It was also very frustrating, he admits. “I would read transcripts and say to myself, ‘Don’t you think that should be questioned? As a defense attorney, you don’t think you should fight over that? Aren’t you going to zealously represent your client?’ ”
Time constraints were another frustration, a common one among OIP fellows. “Everything took so long,” he says. “It was so difficult to get certain things done. A couple of my big cases hit dead end after dead end.
“Ed Emerick was one of those cases. We visited him in prison in Toledo. We went to police stations. We searched evidence rooms. There were spots of blood he wanted tested, but we just couldn’t find them.
“I believe he was innocent of the crimes for which he was convicted, but there were no options left. That’s the kind the frustration that I sometimes felt in the process.”
Lengthy timeframes demoralize defendants, he adds. “Ed was very frustrated the first time we saw him. He felt like previous fellows weren’t hearing him.” Kennedy and his partner won Emerick over with their empathy, but in the end, they had no more success than their predecessors.
Fortunately, Kennedy had greater success as an OIP fellow while working on the Wally Zimmer case; Zimmer got released early. But that didn’t happen until years after Kennedy had graduated and others continued working on the case. The end result met everyone’s hope, but the interim required great patience. Frustrations have followed him into his public defender work. “I enjoy being here,” he says, “but it has its trying days, too.”
One of the annoying parts of the job is knowing that some people call pubic defenders, “public pretenders.” “It's frustrating that the public believes public defenders are bad attorneys - that they do not effectively represent their clients,” he says. He believes his profession has grown more hard-working and passionate in Hamilton County over the last few years.
“In my first six months, I hadn’t seen anyone do a jury trial. Now, as an office, we had 16 jury trials by September of this year. Many people are winning them. In the past four days, we’ve had three wins.
“We’re expected to fight for our clients. Things are happening now that are unprecedented. In many other areas, indigent public defense is lacking, but we are changing that.” An example of the Hamilton County Public Defenders’ commitment to their clients is the fact that Kennedy got a client acquitted for murder in May. Joshua Maxton, 26, had been indicted for shooting and killing an 18-year-old girl who was riding in the front passenger seat of a car in North Avondale.
Kennedy retells the story:
“Joshua was walking down the street, when a car with three people in it stopped and turned around, and the driver called out to Joshua. After talking with someone in the car, Joshua walked away, and a shot was fired. It hit the back passenger window, killing the passenger in the front seat — killing an innocent teenage girl who was with the wrong people.
“The passenger in the back seat and the driver didn’t see who did it, so they assumed last person they saw — Joshua —was the one who shot.
“Later, the driver rode by the scene in a police car, and he pointed out Joshua. The police then picked him up. They tested his clothes and his hands for gun-shot residue. Everything came back negative. DNA was also taken from items at the scene, and there was no match to Joshua.
“Within two days, three people had called the police to say that someone else had committed the murder. Two of them had witnessed the shooting and gave the police the shooter’s name. A third person at the scene described what the shooter was wearing, where he went afterward and identified the shooter by his size, skin tone and what he was wearing. None of the characteristics matched Joshua’s. A fourth person came forward about four months later and also gave the police the shooter’s name.
“Yet the police didn’t follow up on any of the calls.”
At the grand jury hearing, Maxton was indicted on eight charges — murder, aggravated murder, two counts of attempted murder, three counts of felonious assault and a weapons-while-under-disability charge. He was placed in the Hamilton County Justice Center with bond set at $1 million.
At the trial, Kennedy presented evidence from recorded interviews and lab results obtained from bottles found at the scene. The jury decided that Maxton was not guilty. Getting an acquittal on a murder charge was a relief for Kennedy. He hopes it helps to boost public confidence in their office and in other public defenders around the country. One aspect of his job that appeals to him is the variety of the work. “It’s different every day,” he says, “new cases, new issues, new people to deal with. It’s ever changing.” But in the end, it’s his attitude that makes all the difference: “It’s something I am very passionate about. You can really make a difference in people’s lives.”
Written by Deb Rieselman
Prof. Mark Godsey Weighs in on Mueller’s Grand Jury
Professor Mark Godsey, director of the Ohio Innocence Project (and former federal prosecutor), discusses the meaning behind Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s opening of a grand jury in Washington, DC. Find out more here.
Andrea Yang’s Winding Journey to Cincinnati Water Works
“What did I want to be when I grew up? I don’t know. I never really had a particular idea.”
Cincinnati, OH--Andrea Yang grew up in Upper Arlington, a suburb of Columbus, Ohio. After graduating high school, she had a vague idea of what to study in college. With a concrete interest in science, Yang decided to begin her bachelors in Biology at Cornell University in 1986.
“I enjoy and understand science to a degree, but not directly. I didn’t feel like I wanted to be directly practicing science or engineering, or ecology, or environment. Those are all things I’m passionate about and that I’m interested in, but I was also interested in public affairs and public policy,” said Yang. “After college, I was still trying to figure out what I wanted to do. So I moved to New York and worked for a child advocacy organization, a volunteering organization that helps kids in foster care.”
Though she enjoyed the work she was doing, she felt like it still wasn’t the path that suited interests most. Yang loved the rewarding aspect of helping a community, she grew exhausted. Yang knew she had to continue her search.
“After that, I was in the Peace Corp for a little bit in West Africa. It was a way for me to check out some other stuff that I was interested in, more along the lines of international development,” said Yang. “What I saw where I lived was a really rural area, in a couple-hundred-person village in the area of Togo. People were hand farming on small plots. They were feeding themselves and selling some of their crop, but there was a lack of opportunity. They all wanted to live in the city; they just wanted to drive a taxi or be a mechanic, or have some kind of income. It was a kind of urbanization. I liked the rural/urban relationship, which became a real interest of mine.”
In 1996, Yang decided to return to Cornell University to pursue a master’s degree in urban planning. After graduating in 2000, her path took another turn to align with her interests.
“After grad school I worked for the Agency for International Development,” said Yang. “That kind of encompassed a lot of things I was very interested in, because I was one of those people who never really had a direct path. Maybe this is the path I want to get to. I told myself, what do I know?
The Agency of International Development is a government agency that works to end extreme global poverty and enable resilient, democratic societies to realize their potential. In Yang’s pursuit, it was a perfect mix of planning, along with human environments. The job combined many of her interests, from her biology to urban planning, international development, and helping communities. However, her path would take another turn, this time for reasons outside of her professional life.
“My husband got a job at the University of Cincinnati after receiving his PhD in urban planning. So after we moved here, I went to UC Law school,” said Yang, who left the AID to move with her husband’s new career. “I love the mix of urban planning with law because law is very indirectly focused, and planning is focused more on a big picture. Meaning, what is the picture, and how can you take care of the greater public? The planning part involves infrastructure, as well as the building environment, plus the human environment. I feel like now, all those pieces started to come together for me.”
Yang continued in her pursuit, not knowing exactly where she’d end up, but reassured that the pieces of the puzzle finally were fitting together. In 2007, Yang graduated from Cincinnati Law and became an attorney at Strauss Troy LPA.
“During law school, I was still interested in what I was interested in: environments, planning, you know, the ‘big picture.’ My professors told me I’d be really good at zoning and real estate working. So, that’s what I ended up doing; I worked at a law firm and then joined a real estate group. There were many opportunities in this city.”
In 2012, Yang began her own practice as a real estate and economic development attorney. She worked on many different development projects, including the U-Square development near UC’s uptown campus. All was well, and Yang was finally in the career that felt right to her, working with infrastructure, policy, development, and urbanization. More specifically, Yang knew her main interest was how people experience where they live.
As soon as her journey seemed as if it was reaching an end, an opportunity arose that seemed to be the perfect fit, involving biology, law, policy, urban planning, human environments, and the day-to-day diversity and excitement she wanted. This opportunity would allow her to use her wide array of skills and abilities to help provide a service that is crucially important to every resident in the community. “I talked to the folks at Cincinnati Water Works, and it seems like all the stars aligned,” said Yang. She is chief counsel at the company. “This was a job that was perfect. It fit all of my many interests, and my experience and abilities.”
“What’s amazing to me is how much happens. The water comes from the river, the level at which they treat it and the care that goes into it, is really amazing. Sand settlement, carbon filtration, UV light, chlorination, and by the time it’s done with the treatment process, it’s high quality and drinkable. But then it has to go through a pipe system throughout the city, and some of it goes to Northern Kentucky. It’s a very sophisticated operation, but the other part about water, is that it’s development-oriented. You basically need it for any kind of development.”
Yang’s job as Chief Council for Cincinnati Water Works encompasses many parts of her wide array of skills. She deals mainly in transactional law, similar to her work in real-estate, in which she handled contracts for businesses, including buying services such as construction to handle the infrastructure and accessibility of the water supply. Her job involves research, studies, and other ways to analyze the water for residents and businesses to ensure the water is meeting the demands of of the city. Yang also deals with government procurement; following the city and state rules and policy in issuing water that is not only clean and safe, but also affordable and accessible. Energy law and environmental law at the state and federal level also are under the large umbrella of all the different varieties of law involved in Yang’s work.
“There’s huge variety,” said Yang. “You don’t know what’s going to come into the door every day, but I love that.
With the recent water crises in Flint, Michigan, communities have been increasingly concerned about access to clean drinking water. Yang saw this as an opportunity to really use all that she had learned. And it was an opportunity to help her community. “People have been very conscious about our drinking water lately, so we have been testing to help people identify the problem, and making sure we have the resources to provide solutions,” said Yang. “We’re making sure people have water delivered that is clean, as well as affordable.” She continued, “Water isn’t like coffee. You need it to live. It’s not like any other service, where you can stop providing it. You can turn off your cable, you can turn off your phone, but you need water to survive. The question is, how can you deliver clean water while also being affordable. That’s a question that I’m excited about working on.”
Moving Forward: A Conversation with the Law School’s Interim Dean
Verna Williams: Bio in brief
- Born and raised in Washington, DC
- Frequented museums and libraries (Williams’ mother was a school librarian)
- Studied Spanish, German, and Italian languages in high school
- BS (Spanish), Georgetown University
- JD, Harvard Law School
- First job: reporter training program at CBS Affiliate in Washington, DC
- Worked as paralegal before decided to go to law school
- Practiced law at US Department of Justice and Sidley Austin LLP
- Spent 8 years focused on gender equity in education at the National Women’s Law Center
- Successfully argued before the U.S. Supreme Court (Davis v. Monroe County Board of Education, 1999)
Meet the Family
- Married to David Singleton, executive director of the Ohio Justice & Policy Center
- Williams and Singleton have one daughter, 17-year-old Allison, a high school senior
Verna L. Williams didn’t set out to become dean of the University of Cincinnati College of Law, where she had been teaching family law, gender discrimination, and constitutional law since 2001. Her work as co-director of the Center for Race, Gender, and Social Justice, along with leading the university’s joint-degree program in Law and Women’s Studies, provided plenty of professional fulfillment.
But when Jennifer Bard stepped down as dean and Nippert Professor of Law at the College, Williams felt called to throw her hat in the ring. She heard Peter E. Landgren, UC’s Interim Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost, speak about the need for a leader who could step in and help move the school forward.
“That actually resonated with me,” Williams says. “I like to do things like that. I felt like that was a service that I could provide.”
Announcing Williams as interim dean of the College of Law on May 8, Landgren said he looked forward to her “bringing her energy and professional background and experience to this new college leadership and community partnership role. She has already proven to be remarkable in building collaborations and providing guidance to the college during recent transitions.”
With second semester coming to a close, Williams had to balance grading final exams for two classes with graduation details and preparing for the college’s budget hearing. Despite the chaos of transitioning from faculty member to dean, she quickly began to make her mark.
“I did meet one-on-one with folks to just check in with them—alumni, faculty, staff,” she says. “The thing I wanted to get across was how grateful I was that people hung in there, even though things had gotten difficult, and that I really appreciated their commitment and support. I wanted people to know we are moving forward now and putting a lot behind us.”
With her classes done for now, Williams can focus all of her attention on leading the law school, as it partners with alumni, the legal community and the UC community as a whole. As interim dean, she wants to expand real-world opportunities for UC Law students via programs that combine legal education with specialty coursework and put students at the elbow of legal professionals.
“I'm working hard with Admissions to bring in a really great first-year class … a highly credentialed, bigger, even stronger academically, more diverse class,” Williams says. “I’m also looking very carefully at employment for our graduates. We're doing a good job, but I think we can do better. I'd like us to get more students into clerkships, which are great launching opportunities for young lawyers.”
Williams recalls how profoundly a clerkship impacted her early law career. After graduating from Harvard University with a law degree, she clerked for Judge David S. Nelson of the U.S. District Court for the District of Massachusetts. Nelson had been appointed to the position in 1979 by President Jimmy Carter, becoming the first African American appointed to the federal judiciary in the district. “I loved working with the judge. I learned so much. ...and it still ranks as one of the best professional experiences I've had in my life,” she recalls.
She also wants to find more ways to connect alumni with current students, from recruiting to teaching to fellowships. “We have the benefit of really fantastic alums,” she says. “We've got a small school and I think it facilitates connections in ways that don't always happen in larger schools.”
Another priority for Williams: revamping the Corporate Law Center, with the help of professors Felix B. Chang and Sean K. Mangan as co-directors. “We are lucky to be in a city that has such a myriad of corporations,” she says. “We can really work with them to educate our students about what it means to be a corporate lawyer and the role of the corporation in society. Let’s combine our theoretical understandings of corporations with the practical application of what ought to be happening. (Chang and Mangan) have some fantastic ideas around that.”
Just as she didn’t expect to become a law school dean, Williams also didn’t plan on making Cincinnati her home for the long haul. She and her husband, David Singleton, moved to Cincinnati in 2001 for her new job as assistant professor, with their 18 month-old daughter Allison in tow. As the family packed up to move from their DC home, news of civil unrest and curfews in Cincinnati—sparked by the death of a black teenager shot by police—made her wonder, "What the heck? What have we done?"
But raising Allison in Cincinnati, Williams says, “has been great for her. I couldn't be happier to have my family here. ...To be in a place where you're free to do the work you love and people appreciate the work that you do and it matters. The community is small enough that you actually can have an impact. And we have had an impact. That's what we wanted to do.”
2017 Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching Awarded to Mangan, McMahon, and Sperino
Professors Sean Mangan, Stephanie McMahon and Sandra Sperino received the annual award for teaching excellence.
Cincinnati, OH – For over 30 years, students at the University of Cincinnati College of Law have had the opportunity to recognize excellence in teaching by recognizing professors who distinguish themselves in the classroom, and whose accomplishments in research and public service contribute to superior performance in the classroom.
Congratulations to this year’s Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching awardees: Professor Sean Mangan, Professor Sandra Sperino, and Professor Stephanie McMahon.
Professor Sean Mangan, Associate Professor of Practice | Co-Director, Corporate Law Center
Professor Sean Mangan doesn't see his position at UC Law as a job, but as an opportunity. Noted one letter of recommendation, “he has a gift for making difficult concepts easier to learn. When much of law school seems to take place in the clouds of legal theory, Professor Mangan helps students confront the real and daily challenges of practicing law. “ Wrote another, “he has proven himself to be a skilled and compassionate guide in the development of young lawyers. His dedication to students was on display recently when he answered the call to teach a class he had not planned to teach. Moved by commitment to his students and the school, he stepped outside his comfort zone to make sure students received the instruction they needed. This is just one example of his leadership, service and intelligence.”
Professor Stephanie McMahon, Professor of Law
Professor Stephanie McMahon goes above and beyond the standard for teaching. Wrote a student in her nomination letter, “She is one of those professors you remember forever who has the ability to change your view on a subject that most expect to dislike.” Commented another, “Professor McMahon runs her classroom with excellent poise, throwing thought-provoking questions at everyone in the class. Instead of providing a dense textbook, she creates her own handouts to give students a better opportunity to learn difficult tax concepts. Professor McMahon could be working anywhere or doing anything, but the fact that she is here teaching the next generation of lawyers speaks to her public service and desire to see her students succeed. Her students truly appreciate the dedication and effort she expends every day.”
Professor Sandra Sperino, Associate Dean of Faculty and Professor of Law
Professor Sandra Sperino stands out for her ability to grasp different learning styles and build a classroom community. “Professor Sperino has a knack for making sure students know what to expect and organizing material in a way that can make even the most complicated topics clear,” wrote one nominator. Professor Sperino’s 1L students particularly appreciated the time she took to help them prepare for exams. “Professor Sperino gives students the opportunity to practice issue-spotting and learn what a successful exam answer looks like. This helped students prepare not only her Torts exam, but for all their first-year exams.” Her willingness to help students extends beyond the classroom. Whether it is meeting 1L students for coffee or taking upper level students to lunch, Professor Sperino always makes sure students know that she is there for them.
Keating Muething & Klekamp Welcomes Corporate Attorney Andrew S. Griesser
Cincinnati (July 13, 2017) — The Cincinnati law firm of Keating Muething & Klekamp PLL (KMK Law) welcomes attorney Andrew S. (Drew) Griesser as an Associate with the firm’s Business Representation & Transactions Group.
Griesser focuses his practice on business taxation, mergers and acquisitions, business planning, and general corporate transactions. Prior to joining KMK Law, Griesser worked for PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP where he assisted with international tax transactions and planning, business entity structuring, mergers and acquisitions, strategic planning, consulting, and compliance services for several large multinational and domestic corporations.
During law school, Griesser worked in the University of Cincinnati College of Law’s Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic where he assisted and advised entrepreneurs and a nonprofit through business formation and general legal matters. He also clerked for a couple of local law firms, a city of Cincinnati council member, and a local financial institution.
Griesser earned his J.D. from the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 2015. He earned his B.S. in finance and accounting from the University of Cincinnati in 2007. He is admitted to practice law in Ohio.
About Keating Muething & Klekamp PLL
The law firm of Keating Muething & Klekamp PLL (KMK Law®), based in Cincinnati, Ohio, is a nationally-recognized law firm delivering sophisticated legal solutions to businesses of all sizes—from Fortune 100 corporations to start-up companies. Chambers USA: America’s Leading Business Lawyers® 2017 recognized KMK as a leading law firm in Ohio in Corporate and Mergers & Acquisitions, General Commercial Litigation, and Bankruptcy & Restructuring. KMK Law earned four National Rankings in Land Use & Zoning Law, Commercial Litigation, Corporate Law, and Venture Capital Law and 37 Metropolitan Rankings in the U.S. News & World Report and Best Lawyers publication of its 2017 “Best Law Firms” Report. Founded in 1954, KMK has approximately 110 lawyers and a support staff of 150 employees. Additional information is available at www.kmklaw.com.
Cincinnati School of Law alumnus honored grad named to Chambers USA list
TULSA, Okla., July 7, 2017 – Cincinnati School of Law graduate Oliver Howard (J.D. 1979) was recently named by Chambers USA to its list of Leaders in Their Field. Howard, who practices law with the law firm of GableGotwals, was honored for his work in Litigation - General Commercial (Band 2).
The qualities on which Chambers USA rankings are assessed include technical legal ability, professional conduct, client service, commercial astuteness, diligence, commitment and other qualities most valued by the client. Interviews are conducted with peers outside of the firm and clients in order to determine inclusion and rankings.
Howard was one of 15 GableGotwals attorneys to receive this ranking. The firm was also recognized as a Leading Firm in the areas of Energy and Natural Resources (Band 2), General Commercial Litigation (Band 2) and Corporate/Commercial (Band 3). It also was added this year as “Other Noted Firm” in the area of Native American Law.
GableGotwals is a full-service law firm of more than 90 attorneys representing a diversified client base in Oklahoma, the Southwest and across the nation. The firm has offices in Tulsa, Oklahoma City and San Antonio, Texas.
Law Students' Work on US Supreme Court Case Pays Off; Brief Cited by Highest Court in the Land
Early in 2017, first-year students at the University of Cincinnati College of Law were invited to research a high-stakes question that was pending in the United States Supreme Court: when the prosecution chooses to pursue the death penalty against a defendant who has mental illness but cannot afford to hire counsel, does the defendant have the right to a mental health expert who is independent from the prosecution?
Since 1985, capital defense lawyers across the country have obtained such assistance as a matter of right under the Court’s landmark decision Ake v. Oklahoma. Nevertheless, the Alabama courts held there was no such right. In McWilliams v. Dunn, nationally-renowned attorney Steven Bright of the Southern Center for Human Rights asked the Supreme Court to correct that error.
The students jumped at the chance to research the expert appointment practices that have existed across the country since Ake was decided. Their research supported an amicus curiae brief filed by the National Association for Public Defense and other co-amici in McWilliams. Professor Janet Moore supervised the students in her role as chair of NAPD’s Amicus Committee, which she shares with Professor Jennifer Kinsley of NKU-Chase College of Law.
The students’ work paid off. On June 19, 2017, the Court ruled 5-4 that Ake clearly established the capital defendant’s right to a mental health expert who is sufficiently available to the defense and independent from the prosecution to effectively “assist in evaluation, preparation, and presentation of the defense.” The students were thrilled to see Justice Breyer’s majority opinion cite the NAPD brief as showing that the majority of jurisdictions have already adopted this principle.
In reflecting on the experience, many contributing students found it to be not only a valuable learning opportunity but a highlight of their first year at UC Law.
“Assisting Professor Moore with research for the McWilliams brief was one of the highlights of my 1L year,” reflected rising second year law student Francesca Boland. “When I started law school, I never dreamed that before the first year was over I would provide research support for a Supreme Court brief. This was a fantastic opportunity to put my new skills into action and to get a taste of real lawyering. I am thrilled that the brief played a role in the Supreme Court win!”
David Wovrosh expressed similar sentiments. “It was pretty surreal to see our work cited by the highest court in the land,” he said. “The research really tossed the principles we learn in the classroom into the thresher that is the practical application of law. It was an invaluable learning experience. I could never have imagined having access to such profound and impactful experiences my very first year!”
Marissa Lee also was enthusiastic about her experience: "I'm incredibly appreciative of Professor Moore for giving us the opportunity to do research for an NAPD amicus brief for the Supreme Court. My work allowed me to collaborate with my professor and fellow students outside of class, and my work had a sense of significance. We understood the importance of the case to the defendant in this case and to lawyers representing indigent defendants across the country."
The students’ energetic response to the opportunity offered in the McWilliams case led to the formation of the College of Law’s Bearcat-NAPD Amicus Team. Students continue to actively assist Professors Moore and Kinsley with research and drafting as well as with the many administrative tasks required to conduct effective appellate advocacy. The team is therefore well-positioned to continue following the McWilliams case, which was remanded for further proceedings, and to assist in the many other cases across the country that raise questions about whether courts are enforcing the bedrock constitutional guarantees that the Supreme Court emphasized in Ake: “a fair opportunity to present [a] defense” and “to participate meaningfully in a judicial proceeding in which . . . liberty is at stake” – in short, “[m]eaningful access to justice.”
Why I Choose Cincinnati Law's LLM Program
Why I chose Cincinnati Law's LLM Program
Qing Lyu left China to pursue education in America when her husband came to the States for work. “If you have a law degree in your country, and you know a little bit about American institutions, when you come back to my country, it’s very competitive for you to find a good job.” Although Lyu is not yet sure if they will return to China at some point, she does know that she wants to get work experience in America under her belt before they do.
When asked about the difference in teaching between China and the United States, Lyu explained that professors will lecture, and although you can ask questions, it typically doesn’t happen. In the third year, students take classes that do allow them to talk a little bit, but note taking is still the major point of class. During her studies here, however, “We are asked to engage a lot. To ask questions, discuss with each other, or debate with professors-that’s very different.” Professors, and other students, are more open to questions here as well, and she feels that there is not such a stigma of asking a “dumb question.”
Lyu also attended China University of Political Science and Law, but for her undergraduate education, where she studied both law and economics. For her graduate program, she went to Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, focusing on maritime law.
1. Why did you select the University of Cincinnati College of Law for your degree?
Before I came to the United States, I did some research online. University of Cincinnati College of Law has a long history. It is the fourth-oldest continuously operating law school in the country. And the reputation is very good, this is one of important factors for me. Second, before the new semester, the law school offered opportunities for students to visit courthouses and law offices, which not only chelped us obtain professional knowledge of the US legal system, but also understand what it means to be a real attorney. This is a wonderful start to get ready for the new semester. Moreover, the law school is geographically near the downtown. This is very critical, because many law firms and big companies are in the urban areas. It is a great advantage for us to do some networking or seek for an internship. Cincinnati is also home to many of the top 500 companies, such as P&G, Kroger (the nation's second largest retail supermarket, after Walmart), which means that international students have more opportunities after graduation. After three years in Cincinnati, I know that I made the right decision.
2. What are the strengths of a law degree from the University of Cincinnati College of Law?
LL.M. program actually is not new in the United States, many law schools have this programs as well. I know some law schools, like OSU, have a lot of Chinese students in their LL.M. program. In contrast, the LL.M. program in UC is rather new, however, it is growing very fast. I believe UC law school has many advantages that others do not own, such as reasonable student-to-faculty ratio. Students at the College of Law benefit a lot from an intimate study environment and personal attention from faculty to establish a good relationship. Besides, staffs are also very enthusiastic to help students. My advisor is very responsible and she always gives me advice not just in my study, but also in my life. Some courses are just open to LL.M students, some you can study with other JD students, to really know American law school learning atmosphere.
3. How has the University of Cincinnati College of Law prepared you for your career?
Because of this degree, I am eligible to apply for Ohio state bar exam. In fact, I recently passed the Ohio Bar Exam. Not only Ohio, students can also apply for other state bar exams (depending on the student’s background). Like I said in the previous question, the reputation of UC college of law is very good, it matters a lot. Not only in Cincinnati, but also in other big cities in Ohio. Moreover, UC college of law allows international students to choose their interested classes. Because I am interested in business law, I tried to study more related courses for my career planning. Besides, UC college of law has a lot of professional employment counseling, internship opportunities, and student organizations. They also regularly organize some activities, I can have many chances to network, which is very important for my career.
4. Why should other Chinese students consider the University of Cincinnati College of Law?
First, the law school has a lot of programs that we can participate, such as volunteers opportunities, summer internships. You can even apply for school part-time jobs as well. Second, students can choose their own courses of interest for their career planning. Finally, LL.M. students are from different countries in the world, not just from China, unlike many law schools. Therefore it is a wonderful chance to know the culture differences and make friends, also to practice their oral English and develop social skills.