Michael Solimine Awarded 2017 Provost Faculty Career Award
Cincinnati, OH—In a career spanning three decades, Michael E. Solimine, JD, has built a firm career defined by a constant devotion to teaching, research and serving the academic and professional communities.
Over the course of his career he has developed a remarkable reputation as a researcher in the field of law, earning the distinction of being one of the most cited civil procedure professors in the United States for the last half decade. His work has seen publication across more than 70 law review articles, book chapters and book reviews.
His scholarship has been influential in the nation’s courts, with his works having been cited by Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg for a Supreme Court of the United States case. As a prominent figure in the College of Law, his colleagues and students have taken note of his constant professionalism, kindness and his role as a champion for the college’s core values of collegiality, due process and transparency.
Holding the title of Donald P. Klekamp Professor of Law, he has been known to his students as a professor who can translate “legalese into English” as he has transformed seemingly abstract concepts into comprehensible lessons.
He has served as a valuable mentor for the legal professionals under his tutelage, with his immense knowledge of all forms of federal courts and civil procedure making him an invaluable research source for his many students. In addition to his research and teaching service, he has shown a strong commitment to serving his community, helping newer faculty members as a key figure on the RPT committee and multiple decanal review boards and appearing as a consistent staple of the Faculty Senate.
Congratulations to Professor Michael Solimine!
College of Law Celebrates its Graduates at the 184th Hooding Ceremony
Cincinnati Law will celebrate the accomplishments of its graduates at the 184th Hooding Ceremony on Saturday, May 13, 2017 at 1:00 p.m. at Northern Kentucky Convention Center.
Cincinnati, OH – The University of Cincinnati College of Law will celebrate the accomplishments of its graduates at its 184th Hooding Ceremony. Interim Dean Verna L. Williams will lead the ceremonies, where 84 degrees will be conferred. This number includes 70 juris doctor degrees and 15 LLM (master’s) degrees.
The Hooding keynote speaker will be Robert E. Richardson Jr. ’05, Of Counsel at Branstetter, Stranch & Jennings. He recently ran a campaign for mayor of Cincinnati. A double Bearcat, Richardson served as the university’s Student Body President, was awarded the UC Presidential Leadership Medal of Excellence, and established the first college chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in the tristate. Later, he was appointed to the university’s Board of Trustees and was unanimously elected chairperson of the board in 2016, the youngest person to be elected to this position in the university’s history. His term has now ended.
This year’s recipient of the 2017 Nicholas Longworth, III Alumni Achievement Award is the Hon. Marilyn Zayas ‘97. This annual award recognizes law school graduates for their outstanding contributions to society. Prior to joining the First Appellate District of Ohio, Judge Zayas served her community as an attorney for nearly 20 years. Judge Zayas, who was born in New York to immigrant parents, earned a degree in computer science at City University of New York, training which helped her land a job with Procter & Gamble here in Cincinnati. But she carried with her a passion for law, born of her experiences as a teen who saw how the legal system worked when her parents divorced and she grew concerned about the custody and care of her younger brother.
She left her job as a P&G tech manager to pursue her law degree. After graduation, she spent time as a public defender before opening her own firm, MZD Law, in 2000. She now serves on the board of Beech Acres Parenting Center.
For more information about the ceremony, visit the Hooding web pages.
Cincinnati Law’s Trial Practice Team Advances to National Competition
3Ls Chris Diedling and Rob Jones took home their second win at the regional TYLA Trial Practice competition, putting them in contention for a national win.
Cincinnati, OH - Cincinnati Law’s Trial Practice Team recently competed at the regional Texas Young Lawyer’s Association competition. For the second year in a row, the team successfully advanced to the national level. Third year law students Chris Diedling and Rob Jones are headed to Fort Worth, Texas this week (March 20 – 26) to compete against 14 other regional winners.
“It should be exciting,” said Chris Diedling recently about the upcoming competition. “Last year we felt like the first win was maybe a bit of luck, but we’ve won regionals two years in a row now. We deserve to be there.”
“We’re going to do better this year,” added Rob Jones, “second time around.”
Though they seem confident, Diedling and Jones are not taking the victory for granted. Working alongside a trio of dedicated coaches and collaborative practice with the 2L trial team, they are more than prepared to take their skills to the national level. With long weekly practices, lengthy conference calls with coaches, and tiresome travelling, the entire team shows true dedication among their busy schedules and heavy course work.
“We’ve got some great coaches, Bill Markovits, Zach Schaengold, and Bill Blessings, who basically drop everything to help us do this,” said Jones. “The amount of work and preparation they put into this is mind-blowing, they really help us prepare.
“Specifically, we would do practice once a week. The last couple of weeks we ramped it up to two per week,” said Jones, “but we would also do conference calls between practices with our coaches, and those could be pretty lengthy. The 2L team—Kalisa Mora, Jefferson Kisor, and Jonathan Walker—were good. They’ve helped us immensely in preparing and bouncing ideas off of each other. Practice went for four hours. It was mind-numbing at points, and they were a good laugh. They kept it fun”
All in all, there is more to the trial practice team than tiresome competition with gruesome preparation. Students are benefiting from all of their hard work, whether they win or lose. The practical experience, according to Diedling and Jones, is one the most helpful exercises they can participate in to better their future in law.
“You can only learn so much in a classroom,” said Diedling. “We both want to go into litigation in our careers and this was a way for us to really develop those skills.”
Jones agreed. “It is the most practical thing you can do at law school, especially if you’ve got a practical setting to apply what you’ve been taught.”
About the Texas Young Lawyer’s Association National Trial Competition
Attracting nearly 140 law schools of over 1,000 law students each year, the Texas Young Lawyer’s Association National Trial Competition encourages and strengthens students' advocacy skills through quality competition and valuable interaction with members of the bench and bar. Established in 1975, the program intends to provide a meaningful contribution to the development of future trial lawyers.
Co-sponsored by the American College of Trial Lawyers, students have the opportunity to win the Kraft W. Eidman Award, consisting of $10,000 to the winning school thanks to the generous donation Fulbright & Jaworski. Beck Redden LLP presents a $5,000 award to the second place team, and each semifinalist team is awarded $1,500 by Polsinelli PC.
Author: Kyler Davis’19, communication intern
Urban Morgan Fellow Travels to the International Criminal Court
Luke Woolman became the first UC Law student to study abroad at The International Criminal Court during his externship with the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights.
Cincinnati, OH – After completing four years of undergrad at Texas Christian University and commissioned as an engineer officer with ROTC, Luke Woolman embarked on a new journey with the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights. With a military background and an interest in international relations, Woolman set his sights on traveling to The Hague, Netherlands to work at the International Criminal Court.
“I’ve always been interested in International relations,” said Woolman, “being with the Urban Morgan Institute, they kind of had different opportunities, and they’ve never had someone go to the ICC before, so I was able to work with them and find a way to get there.”
The International Criminal Court is an intergovernmental organization located in The Netherlands. The treaty that was signed to establish the ICC is called the Rome Statute, which was adopted at a diplomatic conference in Rome on July 17, 1998. This treaty gave the ICC jurisdiction to investigate crimes of aggression, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide in an international setting. One hundred twenty-four (124) states are currently party to the statute, however, the US formally renounced their signature on May 6, 2002.
“First of all, I was the only American on my floor. Second of all, I was the youngest person by far,” said Woolman. “The court functions in English—English and French are the main languages there—but since America isn’t a party to the ICC, they’re just less Americans there in general. Of the two people that I spent time in the office with, the two visiting professionals, one was from Canada, the other was from Australia. You get a nice mix of people to work with.”
Though Woolman may have been an outsider at the ICC, this was not his first experience studying abroad. During his time at Texas Christian University, he spent a summer working and training with the Thai army. The main challenge at the ICC, according to Woolman, was the adjustment to working with law in the international environment.
“I studied abroad in undergrad and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel, but I’ve never worked abroad,” said Woolman. “It was kind of eye opening, because in your first year of law school you learn about law in the US. The system of law, the general formatting and stuff is completely different at the ICC. It’s pretty much like learning everything all over, but most people that actually go to work at the ICC worked within their country for probably over five years as a lawyer, but it was a good experience.”
After his time spent at the ICC, Woolman is prepared to take on bigger and bolder challenges. His time dedicated to traveling abroad, along with his interest in international relations, has led him on a path toward grand opportunities. Though he doesn’t see himself working at the ICC anytime soon given the tough requirements, his future is solid as he takes on his next summer experience with the Department of Justice.
“(The ICC) is a very competitive place to get a job at. Obviously you’re competing with people all over the world, but they do expect you to at least have five to 10 years of experience in your own country before they even consider hiring you. So maybe when I get to that point I’ll think about it,” said Woolman. “This summer I’m working in DC at the Department of Justice in their criminal section, so I’m looking forward to that. I have the military too, so we’ll see what happens. I hope to probably work for the government here to some degree, ideally the DOJ or some kind of federal agency.”
About the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights
The Urban Morgan Institute has educated and trained human rights lawyers, who promote and protect human rights all over the world. Established at the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1979, the institute has become a model for other human rights programs throughout the country, based on the unique experiences students gain both inside and outside of the classroom.
Writer: Kyler Davis’19, communication intern
Emily Roberts Conducts Field Research in Durban, Africa
2L Emily Roberts reflects on her experience at the Legal Resource Center in Durban, Africa during her externship with The Urban Morgan Institute of Human Rights.
Cincinnati, OH- After their first year of law school, Urban Morgan Fellows are given the opportunity to spend their summer abroad through an externship program. Students work with international judges, human rights attorneys and organizations, governmental agencies, or U.N bodies. The externships provide invaluable hands-on training for the student and much needed assistance to the host organization. For an incoming law student planning on entering the human rights field, it is a chance to gain real-world experience, and begin making a difference before getting a degree.
This was the driving force in Emily Roberts’ decision to enroll in the College of Law, and become an Urban Morgan Institute of Human Rights fellow. As an undergraduate student at the University of Iowa, Roberts studied abroad in Botswana, Africa while obtaining her BA in International Studies and Global Health with a focus in African Studies and Human Rights. She immediately fell in love with South Africa while abroad, and knew she wanted to return. The Urban Morgan Institute was her ticket back.
“I wanted to make sure that I was able to go abroad as much as possible,” said Roberts. “If you’re admitted as a fellow, even before you start school, you’re guaranteed to go abroad after your 1L year.”
After her admittance into the program, Roberts’ dream of returning to South Africa came to fruition. Following her first year, she embarked on her externship at The Legal Resource Center in Durban, Africa. Established in 1979, the center promotes justice for marginalized populations, advocating for those suffering from discrimination regarding race, class, gender, disability, or historical circumstances.
“I was probably only at my desk in our office two out of the five days a week,” said Roberts. “The majority of the time was spent driving out to these far away farms in the middle of no where, and sitting down with these elders who could tell us the story about why the land is so important to them, and what the government is not doing to help them. That’s the type of experience I want as a career.”
Roberts enjoyed the fact that her externship was not a “typical” desk job. Much of her work involved investigating discrimination in land and housing, where she gathered data during numerous field visits. She talked directly to victims, listening first-hand to the stories of men and women who were affected by cases involving the unlawful destruction of their home and property. For Roberts, this was the exact career she hopes to one day pursue. However, her experiences came with many tough challenges and obstacles.
“One of the harder things was the language barrier,” said Roberts. “English is widely spoken, but then there’s also Zulu, which is the biggest tribal language in South Africa. When you’re out in the farms, the residents really don’t have a high level of education, so they most often don’t know English. Me and two other candidate attorneys would do the interview process; they would relay the information to me and translate it. I appreciated that they would take the time to do that.”
Conducting this field work in Durban called for very intimate and close discussion with people who have lived in these areas for generations. Roberts expressed difficulty not only by barrier of language, but also as an outsider to their culture. However, she added that the experience was humbling.
“If you are used to being the majority, go some place where you’re going to feel like the minority,” said Roberts. “Being in a completely different culture, it’s not only just that you’re white and you’re blonde and you’re a girl, but you’re obviously American. I always worry that when you go someplace, especially when you don’t look like everyone else, people are going to think that I’m sort of imposing on their life. I try to blend in as much as possible.”
Victims of Unlawful Destruction
Roberts most impactful project involved the unlawful destruction of an “informal settlement” in rural Durban. After collecting research via field visits, Roberts utilized her education to interpret the crimes against many of the victims in an international context in order to present a viable case to the Legal Resource Center.
“We were trying to bring a suit against the government, not only for damages of property destruction, but also for how it affected the kids that lived in those villages, who were sleeping or playing outside and pretty much saw their homes destroyed right in front of their eyes. I had to really use what I learned, constitutional law based on US Law, and try to apply it to a South African context.”
The service experience and knowledge Roberts gained during her three months spent in Durban will forever be cherished as she embarks on future pursuits to provide justice.
“It was amazing to see one woman who knew so much about her rights,” said Roberts. “You know, she barely knew English but she was able to articulate to me why this was so important to her. We were really thankful for being there and listening to them, because sometimes that’s really all you can do.”
About the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights
The Urban Morgan Institute has educated and trained human rights lawyers, who promote and protect human rights all over the world. Established at the University of Cincinnati College of Law in 1979, the institute has become a model for other human rights programs throughout the country, based on the unique experiences students gain both inside and outside of the classroom.
UC Sports Law Club Competes at National Baseball Arbitration Competition
Two teams from UC Sports Law Club traveled to New Orleans to compete at the Tenth Annual National Baseball Arbitration Competition hosted by Tulane Sports Law Society.
Cincinnati, OH – Some go to New Orleans to party; these students went to compete. This spring semester, six members of UC Law’s Sports Law Club traveled to New Orleans to compete at Tulane University in New Orleans. Nick Kitko (3L), Mickey Sutton (3L), and Zach Johnson (2L) made up one team, while Matt Wagner (2L), Alex Spalding (2L), and Ken Westwood (2L) made the other.
Johnson, Kitko, and Sutton advanced to the quarter finals of the competition, succeeding to the final eight. (Kitko and Sutton competed as 2L’s, making this their second visit to the competition.) Johnson, vice president of the Sports Law Club, shared the team’s experience preparing for their first competition alongside their faculty advisor, Professor James Lawrence.
“The process begins with a written brief, just to make sure you’re doing the work. Tulane doesn’t want people to show up unprepared,” said Johnson. “After we submitted our written briefs, we came back from break a little early. We met with Professor James Lawrence at Frost Brown Todd to talk about our competition and what we were going to do. He helped us prepare, to know what an arbitrator looks for. Before you knew it, we were headed down on a plane the first week of school to compete.”
Professor Lawrence has been an adjunct professor at the law school since 1975. His current practice involves mediation and teaching dispute resolution. As a past chair of the firms’ Alternative Dispute Resolution Practice Group, he was able to equip the teams with the necessary knowledge and skills to compete.
“Professor Lawrence read our briefs and talked to us about our oral presentations. He gave us advice on what to do, what not to do, and how to present properly.” said Johnson.
At the 2017 National Baseball Arbitration Competition, the teams were excited to see the guest arbitrators and judges, who were all experts in the field of baseball arbitration proceedings. The assistant manager of the Cincinnati Reds, Nick Krall, was one of many special guests that the teams had the opportunity to meet. Other judges and arbitrators included special assistant to the Philadelphia Phillies, Bryan Minniti; partner of Turner-Gary Sports, Rex Gary; and general counsel to the Major League Baseball Players Association, Dave Prouty—who judged the quarter finals of the competition.
“It was an experience that I cherish,” said Johnson, “especially being a fan of baseball.”
“There’s so much money to be made. Those contracts are massive, I mean, it’s money you can’t even quantify,” said Johnson. “If you’ve reached arbitration, it’s kind of your chance at really making your career a baseball career, rather than something that you’re chasing for a while and moving forward from that.”
After this experience the Sports Law Club is considering attending again next year. “I think we’re going to try to make it more of an official tradition for our Sports Law Society,” said Johnson. The competition definitely serves as a practical and exciting opportunity to apply what is learned in the classroom to real-life situations future attorneys may face.
About the National Baseball Arbitration Competition
The National Baseball Arbitration Competition is a simulated salary arbitration competition held in the early Spring semester at Tulane University. Similar to moot court or practice trial, this arbitration competition is modeled closely to the procedures used by Major League Baseball. The competition’s main goal is to provide participants with the opportunity to sharpen their oral and written advocacy skills within the unique specialized context of Major League Baseball’s salary arbitration proceedings. In addition to the competition, a collection of experts in the field of baseball arbitration serve as judges and discuss legal issues related to baseball.
About Arbitration in MLB
After a player reaches his first three seasons in Major League Baseball, they are eligible for arbitration, meaning that the player has a chance to challenge the club over the amount of money in which they will be paid. These proceedings in Major League Baseball are crucial to the business aspect of the sport, by determining the quantifiable value of each player. Though these proceedings don’t directly deal with the rules and regulations of baseball, arbitration basically resolves disputes in salary between the player and the club. On both the players side, and the club side, evidence and arguments are presented outlining statistics of the player’s performance, comparing the player’s statistics against other players who may have received more or less money, and illustrating other factors such as injuries, temperament, and consistencies throughout the player’s career. After both sides present their best argument, a salary is determined by an objective third party, and a deal is made favoring either the player or the club.
Author: Kyler Davis ’19, communication intern
Evin King Released as OIP Celebrates #25
After maintaining his innocence for 23 years, Evin King was released due to the hard work, dedication and efforts of the Ohio Innocence Project.
Cincinnati, OH—Yesterday, April 19, 2017 the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP) team watched a now-familiar scene playout as its client Evin King was released at the Cuyahoga County Courthouse by Judge Brian Corrigan. In 1995 King was convicted of murdering his girlfriend despite no direct evidence of guilt, such as an eyewitness account or forensic evidence. Now, 23 years later, he is a free man. King and the OIP’s other 24 freed clients have together spent more than 470 years in prison for crimes they did not commit.
Cincinnati Law’s Assistant Clinical Professor Jennifer Bergeron said "Mr. King was wrongfully convicted, and never gave up hope. It's hard to wrap your mind around how agonizing it must have been the past many years to have proof that you are innocent, but the courts and prosecutors simply refuse to look at the case again. This victory is a testament to the character and will of Evin King."
A Look at His Journey
In 1994 King’s girlfriend, Crystal Hudson, was found in a closet, raped and strangled. King was convicted based on his relationship to the victim and his alleged inconsistent statements surrounding his whereabouts on the day of the crime.
DNA testing of the semen from the rape kit and skin cells under the victim's fingernails demonstrated that Evin King was not the perpetrator. For years prosecutors did not respond to King’s motions for relief, even though the evidence of King's innocence was clear. And the trial court did not act on King's post-conviction motion for nearly 18 months before denying relief. The Eighth District Court of Appeals saw it differently, however. In 2016 they reviewed the trial court’s decision, and sent the case back to the trial court for a hearing, while specifically noting that the DNA evidence supported King’s claim of innocence. On Friday, April 14th the OIP learned that Cuyahoga County prosecutor Michael O’Malley had asked new prosecutors to take another look at the case. They did, and when O’Malley learned the details of their findings and reviewed an analysis of the evidence, he ordered King’s conviction be overturned and that he be released.
“While the initial delay in obtaining justice for Mr. King is disturbing, Michael O’Malley and the Cuyahoga County Prosecutor’s Office deserve credit for turning this case around and correcting an injustice,” says Mark Godsey, OIP co-founder and director. “O’Malley’s involvement in the case since his recent election, along with his decision to put new prosecutors on the case, may have been the pivotal factor that secured freedom for an innocent man, and we are thankful for his heroic intervention.”
This exoneration is due to the hard work and dedication of many current and former OIP attorneys and fellows. Professor Bergeron has represented King for many years, along with former OIP staff attorney Carrie Wood (now at the Hamilton County Public Defender’s Office). OIP fellows on the case include Taylor Freed'16, Katie Wilkin'16, Mallorie Thomas'17(expected), Joe Wambaugh, Bryant Strayer'14, Steve Kelly'17, Morgan Keilholz'18 (expected), Jon Walker'18, Scott Leaman'14, Thomas Styslinger'14, John Markus'15, and Julie Payne'15. Also, special thanks to the Ohio Public Defenders Office, particularly Kris Haines, who worked on King’s case as well for many years.
Watch videos of Evin King learning of his release, being set free by Judge Corrigan, and walking out of the courthouse a free man after 23 years in prison.
UC Law alum Erica Hall '05 is a Woman on a Mission
UC Law alum Erica Hall shares her work on behalf of children victimized by war.
During the week before spring semester, UC Law graduate Erica Hall (2005) returned to her alma mater to teach a short course on a weighty topic: children and war. In the span of five afternoons, Hall and a class of nine students explored some of the ways children are affected by war and the violations of human rights law and international humanitarian law implicated.
The course comes straight out of Hall’s work at London-based World Vision UK, where she leads policy and government advocacy on gender and children and armed conflict issues. She describes World Vision as “a development and humanitarian organization working to improve the lives of children around the world.” Prior to her current job, she worked on International Policy and Programmes at the Children’s Legal Centre and as a consultant for UNICEF.
“My job, basically, is to convince the UK government to do more and to do specific things to improve the lives of children overseas,” she said. Hall enjoys her professional autonomy. “I pretty much get to do what I want, which is great,” she said. “I've been successful enough in my current job that ... If I say, ‘Look, I think this is an issue we really need to be focusing on and we need to be pushing the government on,’ they let me do it.”
After earning a bachelor’s degree in French, she started working in corporate marketing communications. After a decade in the field, Hall decided it was time to shift gears. “I kept changing jobs and thinking, ‘I hate this company,’ and then realized, ‘Actually, I think I just hate the job. It's just not for me,’” she said.
Instead, she wanted to delve into the world of international human rights law—which led her to UC. While researching law schools, “I had the most impressive spreadsheet you have ever seen,” she said with a laugh. “I tell you, it was a masterpiece. It took me months to put together. UC was very high on the list,” she recalled, based on the Urban Morgan Institute of Human Rights and its international summer externship opportunities.
“I came on day one—you can imagine, based on my spreadsheet—saying: ‘I want to go to Bosnia next summer. Here is a list of 10 organizations in descending order that I would like to work for.’” She got that internship, with a helpful reference from the Institute’s director, Bert Lockwood. In her second summer of law school, Hall interned at UNICEF. “I was working on some issues that were really important to me, particularly around holding peacekeepers accountable for sexual exploitation and abuse, or ideally preventing that,” she said.
During her time at UC, Hall decided to specialize in gender-based violence. “I had never taken a gender course. I never considered myself even a feminist,” she said. “I know that's a strange thing, but I had this image of ‘feminist,’ and I thought, ‘that's not me.’ Then I took “Feminist Jurisprudence” (taught by UC Law Professor Kristin Kalsem) and it completely changed my world view.”
Persistence pays off
The same dogged determination that drove Hall to become a lawyer and begin a new career in human rights continues to propel her forward at World Vision.
These days, government officials come to her for help with issues of children and conflict. But in the early days, she recalled, “it was literally me cornering someone at a reception, and saying, ‘You need you talk to us about this.’ And that person saying, ‘Oh my gosh… Team, meet with her, just so that she'll leave us alone.’"
In terms of legal influence, Hall explained how human rights law can be a “very analytical process of looking at what (certain countries are) already doing, sometimes looking for new laws.” For instance, she’s working toward new legislation in the UK that’s similar to existing US law, prohibiting military funding to governments who use child soldiers.
“I get to go and do research and meet the children that we're talking about, and do an assessment of where are the barriers—and they might be legal barriers,” she said.
Children in war zones
In December 2015, Hall co-authored the report No Shame in Justice, addressing stigma against survivors to end sexual violence in conflict zones. She based the report on field research she conducted in Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo, highlighting a survivor-centered approach to ending impunity and responding to sexual violence.
For her research, Hall met with children, usually ranging in age from 10 to 19, in their homes, schools, or sometimes even their town squares. “In a lot of the villages, there's a square where people meet. So we’d meet there ... sitting on the ground, under a tree,” she recalled.
So how do you get young survivors of violent conflict to talk about such traumatic experiences? “We do things like drawing your life story. ‘Here's what it was like in the bush, what it was like to escape, what it's like now...’ Then we talk about the drawings, or do some other kind of activities, that can get at some of the challenges they're facing, and what they see as the potential solutions to those challenges.”
The long haul
From research to advocacy, Hall points to real-world results as her measure of success. In the case of the stigma against survivors of sexual violence in Africa, “We got three-quarters of a million pounds over two years, to work on the issue in three countries,” she said. “Now I'm leading a working group to create principles for action that governments and UN agencies all over the world will then be using in terms of, how do we change this.”
And despite the magnitude of the problems she tackles, Hall remains optimistic rather than overwhelmed.
“For me, being able to go to the field makes a huge difference because I can see the difference that things are making. So you might think, this is a hopeless cause... but when you start seeing in some places that you are able to make a difference... when you see smiling children, who are so excited they're finally able to go back to school, it's worth it. It might take a long time, but it's worth it.”
Firm Life: Q&A with Kevin Tamm
After graduating magna cum laude from UC Law in 2013, Pittsburgh native Kevin Tamm dove into his law career as an intellectual property associate at a firm in Indianapolis. In 2015, he moved to Houston, Texas, to work at Bracewell, LLP, with some of the world’s largest oil companies as clients. We caught up with Tamm recently to find out how firm life is going so far.
Q: How did your experience at UC Law affect your decision to work at a large, full-service law firm?
A: After my first year, I interned during the summer and then during my second year of law school at GE Aviation. I worked over the summer full time and then during my second year of law school part time at GE Aviation in their environmental legal group. It was good to see how the in-house legal department at a big corporation worked. But they didn't hire new attorneys right out of law school. They only hired folks with many years of experience.
After my second year of law school, during my second year as I worked at GE, I was applying to law firms. Because of my engineering background and my general interests, I was applying to bigger firms that had intellectual property practices. I went to job fairs that had that as well. That's how I got my summer associate position, after my second year at a firm in Indianapolis (Faegre Baker Daniels LLP), not far from Cincinnati. I worked at that firm in their summer associate program, but I was in the IP group.
Q: How did you get your first job out of law school?
I was waiting for an offer from a firm I summered for. Then I finally got a full-time offer from them. I also asked them if I'd be able to intern there during my third year. Basically, the second semester of my third year I was going up to Indianapolis about two days a week to work for the firm. I was able to work remotely, as well, so on weekends and stuff I could work for them. Then pretty much over the summer after I graduated, I was able to move up there and took the bar. I worked in their IP group for almost two years.
Q. So what brought you to Texas?
When I was working (in Indianapolis), I actually was recruited because of my (previous chemical engineering) experience down to Texas. The firm I'm at now basically needed a chemical engineering patent associate. It was a pretty good offer—hard to refuse. I ended up moving down here and have been pretty happy.
Q. What’s it like to work there?
It's a much larger city. I live in Houston, near downtown. It’s a very industrial city—a lot of oil and gas companies, chemical companies, banks. So it’s a pretty big legal market. A lot of the law firms here are what you would call the New York firms. We're on a New York scale. You get to bill a lot of hours. You make more money. There's a lot of opportunity.
I really like it because you're given a lot of professional freedom. I have to bill 2,000 hours a year, but that doesn't mean I'm sitting at my office desk 2,000 hours a year. I travel a lot.
I work a lot with the IP group, which here is about 40 people. I also work a lot with the corporate folks on mergers and acquisitions. I work on licenses. I work on some employment matters. We're available, as the IP group, to help out the other groups in more technical issues that arise. I go to clients, manufacturing facilities and their offices quite a bit.
Q: How did UC help prepare you for firm life?
I would say that UC prepares you pretty well. I would say generally in the South law schools in the North are just viewed better. There's lots of law schools in the South that are unaccredited and not what you would call top tier.
I think the experience of being taught by an adjunct professor is invaluable because they're the ones who are actually practicing still. They would come over and teach maybe one day a week or two days a week for us. Their teaching I felt like is what really prepares you to practice, because they're the ones working at law firms. I really thought UC was good with that, letting a lot of their senior classes be taught by adjunct professors.
Q: As a relatively new associate at a firm, do you feel like you have to earn your stripes before you get to work on the “juicier” cases or clients?
I think that's true. I think for at least half a year, a year, you have to prove yourself to people. Once you've proven yourself to people that you can do the work, they give you essentially as much freedom as you want. At this point, I normally go to the partners when I have a really complicated or risky issue. But for the day-to-day stuff, the partners don't want to really be bothered with that. Once they trust you, they just expect you to handle the day-to-day legal work. They're around for support when you really need someone to sign off on something that has a lot of risk involved.
Q: What has surprised you so far about working as a lawyer?
The thing that I think still surprises me is just ... I don't know how best to word it. It's just the whole idea of doing legal work at a firm that people are willing to pay you to do. The billable rate law firms, especially big law firms, charge is extremely high. You think to yourself, "What am I doing that's worth this amount of money?"
But the thing is, the corporations we work for all have lawyers that work for them, so typically the stuff we're getting is stuff that they don't want to do, they can't do, they're too busy to do, or it's too complicated. A lot of the work we get is that type of work, where it's either really burdensome or tricky. It surprised me. You think, "Wow. How are they paying this? Why are they paying this?" But it's like, "Oh, because you're basically doing the work that the corporations don't want to do."
Q: Do you have a chance to pursue hobbies outside of work at all?
I bike quite a bit. I bought a townhome this year with my girlfriend. I've actually been buying rental properties in my spare time. The thing is—and most law firms are like this these days—you do work a lot, but it's not you're in the office a lot. You can work from home. You're constantly emailing and responding to emails from your phone. Oftentimes, if I have to bill a lot, I can sit on my couch and work remotely. It's a lot of work, but it's not like you have no free time.
Q: What do you think the future holds for you, career-wise?
When you're junior or mid-level at a law firm, you don't have to decide quickly. Myself, I don't know. I like it here. In terms of staying at a firm, I'm going to stay here. I'm not going to leave. I've looked at some corporate opportunities.
Additionally, over this past year I got really involved in politics. I got drawn into working on one of the presidential campaigns. During the election, myself and another coworker were called up to work in New York City on the election day operations for a campaign's legal team. I might in the next year or so be drawn into working politics.
Cincinnati Moot Court Team To Go International
This coming March, a team from the University of Cincinnati College of Law will compete in an international arbitration moot in Hong Kong.
By John B. Pinney, Senior Trial Lawyer and Chair, International Practice Group, Graydon Head & Ritchey LLP. and Moot team coach
Members of the Vis Moot Team
Over the past two years, the University of Cincinnati College of Law has been working towards fielding a team to compete “against the world” in Hong Kong in the Willem C. Vis International Commercial Arbitration Moot. Now, all of the time and hard work has come to fruition as a team of UC College of Law students will represent the tri-state in late March at the 2017 international competition, becoming only the second Ohio school to compete in the Vis Moot in history.
Making the Cut
In October, a team of eight law students, including three 3Ls, three 2Ls, and two LLM attorney students, was selected. Currently, the entire team is working on researching and preparing written memoranda supporting each side of a hypothetical commercial dispute; only the top four participants will travel to Hong Kong to compete.
While in Hong Kong, the team members will not only fight hard in competing against teams from all six continents, but will also meet and network with other law students, as well as attorneys practicing in international commercial arbitration, from all over the world.
What is the Vis Moot Competition?
In 1992, the Vis Moot was created for the promotion and study of international commercial arbitration and to train tomorrow’s legal leaders in the methods of dispute resolution of international business disputes. Named for Willem C. Vis, a law professor and United Nations diplomat dedicated to enhancing cross-border business transactions, the moot quickly became a success with hundreds of law schools from around the world coming to Vienna each spring. In fact, the moot was so successful that in 2003 a second venue in Hong Kong was established – the Vis East International Arbitration Moot. The 2016 moot attracted almost 400 teams to Vienna and Hong Kong. Competitors included teams from Harvard, Georgetown, Stanford, USC and Yale. This year’s competition, held at the City University of Hong Kong, is expected to host approximately 120 law school teams.
Each year, Vis Moot teams are given a “problem” in early October that is based on a hypothetical commercial dispute arising under the Convention for Contracts for the International Sale of Goods (CISG)1. The problem for the 2017 moot involves the sale of jet engine parts from a seller located in “Equitoriana” and a buyer located in “Mediterraneo.” In their “contract,” the parties agreed to resolve any disputes by international commercial arbitration in the country of “Danubia” administered by a Brazilian arbitral institution. (The problem is always drafted to require an understanding of the 1958 New York Convention on Recognition and Enforcement of International Arbitration Awards and the UNCITRAL Model Arbitration Law, as well as the CISG.)
Built into each year’s problem are issues involving both the procedures of international arbitration practice and substantive breach of contract issues based on the CISG. The procedural issues this year are whether the seller’s arbitration notice was timely and whether the seller should be required to post security in order to proceed with the arbitration. The substantive issues deal with whether the buyer or seller should pay for losses arising from fluctuating currency exchange rates and large unexpected bank fees. During the competition, each team will argue both sides through written memoranda and in oral arguments before real-life international arbitrators who have volunteered to judge the competition.
Competition Supported throughout Tri-State
College of Law Dean Jennifer S. Bard is a strong advocate for the law school’s international programs and in enhancing the international proficiency of the school’s students. In addition, the school has helped to partially underwrite the costs of sending the team to the competition. Dean Bard said,
“In a world where business in the Cincinnati region is increasingly becoming part of a globalized world economy, today’s lawyers need to know how to help clients resolve business disputes not only within the United States, but also in China, in Germany or, as a practical matter, anywhere in the world. We at the College of Law believe we must equip our graduates to have the skills required to practice law relevant in the 21st century, including international arbitration, which increasingly is becoming a necessity for today’s dispute resolution lawyers. The Vis Moot provides not only an exciting opportunity for our students to travel to Hong Kong and see first-hand another culture and legal system different from our own, but, more importantly, it introduces them to and allows them to learn from some of the world’s leading international dispute lawyers and arbitrators. We are extremely happy to support our students and their coach, Professor Pinney, as they compete in the 2017 Vis Moot competition.”
Additionally, Professor Rachel Smith, faculty advisor to the law school’s Moot Court program, and Assistant Dean for International Student Programs Nora Burke Wagner assisted with helping to coordinate the team and arrangements for the trip. Steve McDevitt, an associate at Frost Brown Todd, serves as the team’s assistant coach. McDevitt brings a wealth of experience to the team as he competed in the competition in 2013 and 2014 while at Georgetown Law School and has shared insights on writing winning memoranda and making effective oral arguments on an international competition level.
Why take this opportunity to participate in Vis Moot? Among the important benefits is their opportunity to join the Moot Alumni Association. All participants in both the Hong Kong and Vienna competitions are able to join the Vis Moot Alumni Association, which now has thousands of members. Through the association, team members can maintain their connections among their fellow competitors and the arbitrators, further enhancing their professional development and careers.
We’re confident that the Cincinnati legal community will enthusiastically support our “Cincinnati team” as they prepare for this rigorous challenge. By doing so, not only do we enhance ourselves, but also how the rest of the world views the tri-state and the University of Cincinnati College of Law.
1The CISG is a United Nations convention governing the cross-border sale of goods. The United States and 83 other countries have adopted and are parties to the CISG. Unless expressly disclaimed, the CISG automatically applies to contracts for the sale of goods where the parties to the contract (buyer and seller) are from different countries that are signatories to the CISG. For example, the CISG will apply, in lieu of the Uniform Commercial Code, to a contract specifying Ohio law because the CISG, as a convention to which the United States is a party, is part of Ohio law by virtue of the supremacy clause of the U.S. Constitution.