Law School Celebrates 180th Hooding Ceremony; First Class of LLM Students Graduate
Graduation was held Sunday, May 19, 2013, at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.
The College of Law celebrated the accomplishments of its graduates at its 180th Hooding Ceremony, held May 19, 2013 at 1:00 p.m. The event was at the Aronoff Center for the Arts.
Making this event extra meaningful was the inclusion of the first class of students graduating with an LLM in the U.S. Legal System. The LLM is the law school’s master’s degree program designed for foreign-trained attorneys, which was launched last year. This year, four of the six LLM students graduated. (Two students have chosen to remain at the law school to participate in a certificate program next academic year.).
Meet Several of the LLM Graduates
- Ovenseri Ven Ogbebor. From Nigeria, Ogbebor received his education in Benin City. He has also taken classes at a university in Indianapolis, IN. He took part in the LLM program to begin the process of fulfilling Ohio’s bar exam requirement so that he can become an attorney in Ohio.
- Felicia Omoji. Also from Nigeria, Omoji was a practicing attorney for 22 years in her home country. The additional knowledge and skills learned via the LLM Program, Omoji believes, will help her to be better prepared in dealing with American and Nigerian clients, especially in a global arena. She would like to work in the legal/public interest/ non-profit sectors.
- Nerissa Harvey. From Jamaica, she received her LLM from the University of London. Harvey decided to work for her LLM in order to gain an understanding of the U.S. legal system and to develop the foundation necessary for the Ohio bar. She is interested in a career in estate planning.
About the Ceremony
The speaker for this year’s ceremony was Class of 1984 alumnae Sharon Zealey, chief ethics and compliance officer for the Coca-Cola Company. In addition to managing the global compliance program, she serves on the company’s Ethics & Compliance Committee and advises on U.S. trade sanctions and the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. Previously, she was senior litigation counsel for the Coca-Cola.
Zealey is a former partner in the commercial litigation practice group at Blank Rome LLP. She served as the United States attorney for the Southern District of Ohio, appointed by President Bill Clinton. She was also appointed by U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno to the Attorney General’s Advisory Committee and advised Ms. Reno on issues of national importance. She was an assistant U.S. attorney in the Criminal Division for three years prior to her appointment. Ms. Zealey also served as Deputy Ohio Attorney General.
This year’s event also included the presentation of the 2013 Nicholas J. Longworth, III Alumni Achievement Award to Mark Stall ’88. This award recognizes law school graduates for their outstanding contributions to society. Stall is currently general counsel of xpedx, a division of International Paper Company. In this role he provides legal and business advice and assistant to senior management, headquarters and field managers, as well as sales professionals. Actively involved in the community, Stall is co-chair of the Greater Cincinnati Minority Counsel Program, a member of the school’s Board of Visitors and the board for the school’s LLM Program and Institute for the Global Practice of Law, member of the board of directors of the Clermont County Chamber of Commerce.
Also being honored were this year’s winners of the Goldman Prize for Excellence in Teaching: Professors A. Christopher Bryant, Lewis Goldfarb, and Sandra Sperino. The Goldman Prize is given to law school professors and is based on their research and public service as they contribute to superior performance in the classroom. .
From Comedy Writing to Legal Writing, Sean Myers Brings a Unique Background to UC Law
Wherever Sean Myers ’14 may end up living after law school, one thing is certain: anywhere he goes he can make people laugh. While the rising 3L has fine-tuned his legal writing skills in his first two years at the College of Law, he came to Cincinnati with a very different writing background: comedy writing.
Myers graduated from the University of New Hampshire in 2010, where he majored in English, minored in philosophy, and first got his feet wet in comedy. In his first semester of undergrad, he tried out for UNH’s improv team and “did awful,” he said. Myers said he realized he was not as talented at making jokes on the spot, but was better after the fact.
“That led me into sketch comedy,” he said. “It’s improv, but it’s pre-scripted. Those thoughts you have afterwards, you can just write into the script because you’ve still got it.”
Thus, Myers created a sketch comedy group that first semester, although it took about a year before they hosted the first of their many shows. After two years on the UNH campus, Myers said he pushed the group to be more active and get out and perform more in the community, but the others were not as interested. So they split ways – “creative differences” they called it. As a senior, Myers helped develop another sketch group with members of the community, with whom he held writing meetings over Skype.
After graduating from UNH, Myers tried standup comedy again, but he found his niche to be in news satire – “like The Onion, but obviously not as good,” he said.
In the year-plus off between his 2010 graduation and beginning class at the College of Law in August 2011, Myers wrote for two news satire websites. The first, Uncyclopedia – a Wikipedia parody of sorts – was a good fit for him, as he could publish content himself.
“It was very good to hone my voice for news satire because it definitely takes a specific journalistic voice,” Myers said. “Apparently I was very good. I won some awards on the site.”
After several months, Myers moved to GlossyNews.com, which Myers called a bit of a “step up,” joking the site had 12 more viewers than Uncyclopedia. Myers said he still writes for Glossy News when he has time, although school kept him busy enough this year that he has not been able to write in a while.
From Home School to Law School
Myers is a native of Southington, Conn., a central Connecticut town about 20 miles from the capital city, Hartford. He is the middle of three brothers, and he was home schooled through high school. He credits his experience always being at home and the overall family dynamics as an inspiration for his comedy.
He finally got the chance to get out on his own and eventually got into comedy as an undergrad, but he made his biggest move in 2011 when he came out to Cincinnati to begin his next phase of education.
“I came out of undergrad right when nothing was out there, and with an English degree, you really can’t do (much),” said Myers, who after his first wave of job applications fell short, decided to return to school.
Myers saw law school as a way to “make a difference in people’s lives.” He applied to University of Connecticut, Fordham University (his mother’s alma mater) and almost anywhere that offered a fee waiver, he said.
The Connecticut native had one distant connection in Cincinnati. After applying to UC, Myers reached out to that person and he offered Myers a place to stay for a couple nights when Myers visited the College of Law.
“UC Law was the highest ranked at the time I applied, it had a great human rights program, and it was also the most affordable,” Myers said of his reasons for choosing to attend the College of Law over the other schools.
Law School and Beyond
Looking ahead, Myers says “human rights is still on the map,” noting there are very human rights jobs out there. As a result, Myers said he is focusing a bit more on civil rights.
Last summer, however, Myers had a judicial internship in Botswana through the Urban Morgan Institute for Human Rights, which he said was “awesome.”
“It was, hands down, a top three experience in my life,” Myers said. “Being in Africa was just mind-blowing. People over there are just incredible.”
Outside of a busy course load, Myers has been very active at school. He was an articles editor for the Human Rights Quarterly this year and will be a managing editor for the Freedom Center Journal, beginning in the fall. He also was a co-director of the Tenant Information Project, he heads up the school’s ping pong club, and he founded the First Generations Law Students organization this past fall.
Myers said the aim of the latter organization was to get “first generation” law students on par with those classmates who had the advantage of parents or other relatives who had been through law school and are working in the legal profession.
“It exceeded all expectations,” Myers said, noting in the fall they had meetings aimed at 1Ls that had decent, but relatively small attendance. “We (then) had this one meeting of four professors – Moore, Bryant, Houh, and Sperino – who showed up to talk about exams. We (mostly) filled up (room) 118. Just the general feedback I’ve gotten about the programming has been nothing but positive – students, faculty, and staff.”
Outside of school, Myers plays a lot of ultimate Frisbee, playing nearly every day around town. He also enjoys playing the guitar, writing comedy, and writing fiction when he can. He will spend this summer working in Connecticut before returning to Cincinnati for his 3L year.
By Jordan Cohen, ‘13
Coming to a Courtroom Near You: How Eric Kmetz Transitioned from Hollywood to UC Law
For most of his adult life, Eric Kmetz '14 lived in Los Angeles and worked in Hollywood. He could probably talk for hours, sharing everything he saw. Everything he did. For the Canton, Ohio native, Hollywood was an opportunity to pursue his dreams.
But after about 11 years in the industry, a journey of a career that was filled with many ups and downs, Kmetz packed his bags and loaded up his car. He was returning to the Midwest in the summer of 2011, leaving behind a decade-plus worth of memories in the film industry. For law school – a three-year journey of its own kind.
When he settled on law school, Kmetz made a tough decision to return to Ohio. He knew if he stayed in California, it would be difficult to mentally break away from his time in the film industry.
After settling on the College of Law, Kmetz embarked on a four-day drive to his new home in the Greater Cincinnati area. Perhaps he was not saying goodbye to Hollywood. Maybe just until next time. But the cross-country trek marked a new beginning for Kmetz, who was set to join the College of Law’s Class of 2014.
Back Home Again in Ohio
Technically, Kmetz – who is now two-thirds of the way to his J.D. – now resides in Northern Kentucky, living across the Ohio River. His trip from Los Angeles was more symbolic than just moving closer to his childhood home, a few hours northeast of Cincinnati. It marked a complete shift in Kmetz’s life.
“Driving from L.A. to here, it’s almost like transitioning into a different world. You sort of cross this Rubicon when you cross the Mississippi (River),” Kmetz said. “I knew I was ready for this, and that I was leaving that behind, and I just had to be in a different mindset.”
With two years of law school under his belt, Kmetz has been able to successfully change gears, although the transition back to the classroom involved a bit of an adjustment period.
“It took a little while to adjust to the studying, taking notes. I hadn’t taken notes in 15 years or better,” the 38-year old Kmetz said. “I didn’t have the problem with the time commitment, in terms of reading. Sitting through the hour, or whatever length it is for these classes, is a little difficult at times.”
Getting His Start in Film
Kmetz began college at Indiana University in 1993. While he only attended school there two years, it was in the Hoosier State where he had a pair of experiences that led him to Hollywood.
The summer after his freshman year, Kmetz found an unpaid production assistant internship for a feature film being shot in Indiana, and “absolutely loved it.” That fall, Kmetz went on a double date to see the new Quentin Tarantino film “Pulp Fiction” the first week it came out, in October 1994. Kmetz said he walked out of the theater “blown away by it.”
“They thought it was terrible,” Kmetz said. “I said, ‘Are you guys kidding me? That was like the greatest film I’ve ever seen.”
The next morning, Kmetz saw the first showing of the film, which was ultimately nominated for several Oscars, including “Best Picture.” Between that movie and his summer experience, Kmetz noticed there was something powerful about the film medium and realized “storytelling can find its voice through film and through screenwriting.”
During his sophomore year, Kmetz applied to the University of Southern California (USC), known for its prestigious film school. The film school was difficult to get into, and Kmetz was rejected three times. He eventually earned a business degree in 1998 from USC, where he studied film financing.
While at USC, Kmetz developed some contacts through people he met on campus. During his junior year, Kmetz did part-time unpaid work at a production company at Universal Studios, reading “bottom of the barrel scripts,” some of which actually got picked up by the studios. Kmetz felt he could write better scripts, so he presented some ideas to people around the office, and they told him to put his ideas down on paper.
After his first year at USC, he returned home for the summer and wrote his first script, “The Other Side of Simple.” He had read screenwriting books, which suggested he write a film in his hometown with locations he knew and people who would work for free. Upon returning to USC in the fall, Kmetz put a business plan together, intent on raising at least $50,000 to eventually shoot the movie in Canton.
Unbeknownst to Kmetz, his script got circulated around and, during his senior year spring break, he received a call from a literary manager who liked his script. While meeting in person, he convinced Kmetz to take himself off as the director and producer, and he would be able to sell the script to a studio and kick start Kmetz’s screenwriting career. About six months after his Dec. 1998 graduation, it sold to New Line Cinema.
Screenwriting Career Takes Off
In the six months between graduation and New Line Cinema buying “The Other Side of Simple,” Kmetz worked his way into an assistant position for a creative executive at Paramount Pictures. When his screenwriting career later took off, Kmetz was able to return to Paramount and sell them a pitch. That pitch was a script for an action movie called “Tag.” Will Smith heard about it and eventually came on board. But the film never came to fruition and Smith moved onto other projects.
Meanwhile, “The Other Side of Simple” was getting fast-tracked at New Line Cinema, and the script went from a $50,000 budget to $18 million. After the first director left to shoot “The Bourne Identity,” Kmetz received a call from Ted Demme, who had recently finished directing “Blow,” starring Johnny Depp. Demme read the script and wanted to meet. The next Saturday, Kmetz met Demme at a two-story guest house in the back of Demme’s property.
“He is in this big screening room and Johnny Depp is hanging out on the couch, and Ted’s dancing around the room because they just got back rushes for the day from “Blow,”” Kmetz said. “So they’re watching these scenes from the movie for the first time together. Johnny Depp’s just chilling on the couch, smoking a cigarette, (and) I get introduced around.”
Demme was on board to direct the project, and soon after a strong cast was hired as well, including Don Cheadle, Vince Vaughn, Hayden Christensen, Shannyn Sossamon, and Method Man. In the meantime, Demme had brought Kmetz under his wing, brought him along to several meetings, and later hired Kmetz to write another script for him.
Not So “Simple”
While Kmetz’s screenwriting career began to take off, he was regularly taking trips back to Ohio. About a year and a half earlier his brother, Brian, had been diagnosed with testicular cancer. “He fought that for about two years, and then he ended up losing that battle in late August 2001,” Kmetz said.
Kmetz temporarily moved back to Ohio to be with his parents. Meanwhile, “The Other Side of Simple” was on track to begin shooting in Toronto in early 2002. In January, he received a call that Demme had collapsed on a basketball court and had died of a sudden heart attack.
“So I just lost my brother and I just lost one of my closest friends in the film industry, who was also like my mentor, in the course of about fourth months of each other,” Kmetz said.
Kmetz returned to Los Angeles and the film was otherwise ready to go, save for one major problem: no director. A new director was eventually hired to replace Demme, and everyone was sent up to Toronto in November to film “The Other Side of Simple.”
“It was just a big disaster,” Kmetz said. The new director did not seem to have the grasp on the script like Demme. The director started to alienate himself from the cast, and he sort of secretly brought on one of his friends to rewrite the script.
“He wanted to change it from a brother story – which was what I had written – to this sort of love triangle. Having just lost my brother within the year, and I based the whole relationship in the script off our relationship, I couldn’t make those changes,” Kmetz said. “It was terrible. I cried.”
During the holiday break, nearly every actor walked off the project. In early January, Kmetz was told to clean his stuff out in Toronto. The studio had pulled the plug on the film.
A New Beginning
Kmetz decided to take a break from Hollywood and put his career on hold. He placed his belongings in a storage unit, cancelled his cell phone service, and boarded an airplane with a one-way ticket. “That began like a 14-month journey for me, where I just lived out of backpack, traveled through Europe for a while, then ended up getting to Southeast Asia, where I stayed in Laos for about six months and taught English,” Kmetz said.
He helped build an English school there, bought a motorcycle, and traveled through Vietnam and Thailand.
Then Kmetz decided to get back into the film business.
He applied to the prestigious American Film Institute (AFI) and returned to California for round two; only now, he hoped to work his way up as a writer, producer, and director – the “triple threat.” The Canton native began the two-year program in 2005, and he started directing, writing, and producing short films. He wrote one script in particular that James Franco liked, and soon after Franco was the lead in Kmetz’s short film, “Grasshopper.”
Around the same time, a short film of Kmetz’s from prior to leaving the country, was “shortlisted” for an Academy Award. This film, “The Book and the Rose,” was played at nearly 40 film festivals around the world and was selected as a finalist by the Academy. The film narrowly missed the top five, which would have put his film in the awards show.
Writers go on strike
After Kmetz returned to California and completed the AFI program, he was re-energized and beginning to establish himself. But he emerged from AFI in debt, because of his travels and two years at AFI. Then, the Writers Guild of America went on strike from Nov. 2007 through Feb. 2008, although it effectively shut down the industry for more than a year. Kmetz could not get work, as no one was buying scripts.
After the strike ended, Hollywood “emerged in such a different landscape.” Kmetz said the larger studios swallowed up the smaller distribution companies and the major companies were mostly interested in sequels, movies based on books with pre-existing audiences, and superheroes/comic books.
“The movies that inspired me could not get made in the new landscape,” Kmetz said.
As Kmetz struggled to find work, he learned editing and began working as an assistant editor for promo commercials for the TV show “Gossip Girl.” It was his first “9-to-5” job since the six months at Paramount, and he said it was “torture” for him.
“Hollywood wasn’t the place it was when I got into it when I was 21 years old,” he said. “I decided that if I left, first, it would give me a break away from Hollywood to decide if I really wanted to do this the rest of my life. Next, I could also get an education other than writing. When you’re an out of work screenwriter, there aren’t a lot of other avenues to go to make money.”
So Kmetz decided to attend law school as a way to develop another skillset and position himself for a potentially new career.
The ‘Twisted World of Hollywood’
Before leaving California, Kmetz sold the 2007 Franco project to a small distribution company on the East coast. With a tiny market for short films, he did not expect much to come from it.
One night in 2010, Kmetz attended an American Film Market event at a hotel, which featured mostly low-quality B-movies, including the likes of “Sharktopus” and “Teenage Mutant Girl Squad.” While on the top floor, a poster across the room caught his eye. The film was called “Love and Distrust,” and the poster featured several big-name actors, including Franco, Robert Downey, Jr., and Robert Pattinson. Kmetz wondered how a movie like that was made under the radar and being sold there.
“I went over to the poster to see who made this film, and at the bottom of the poster it says, ‘written and directed by Eric Kmetz,’” he said. “So bizarre.”
As it turns out, this company bought five short films (including “Grasshopper”), and edited them together to make it look like a feature film. Since Kmetz was the only writer and director of one of the five films, they decided to use his name. Apparently it had been shown on Showtime in Russia and Hungary, was being sold on Amazon and Netflix, plus was a lead film on Redbox.
“I went home and looked it up,” Kmetz said. “It’s getting all these (really bad) reviews, mostly from Robert Pattinson fans who think they’ve discovered the “underground” Robert Pattinson movie right after he did “Twilight.”
Kmetz, who called this combined film “unwatchable,” said the company did not even contact him to get the master tapes with good sound and visuals.
“I went out to L.A. to make movies and it took about 11 years for me to actually make one, and ultimately I didn’t even know I made it,” he said. “It’s the twisted world of Hollywood.”
Life in Cincinnati
Kmetz will graduate from the College of Law in 12 months, in May 2014. One factor in his decision to come to Cincinnati was that it was “a good school for the money,” especially with the graduate metro rate. Moreover, a good friend of his is practicing in town. In fact, this summer Kmetz will be working with that friend at Markovits Stock & DeMarco, a civil firm located downtown.
Kmetz is a member of Law Review, he just finished a year with the Ohio Innocence Project, and he was recently named the 3L Student Bar Association representative and head of the chess club for the 2013-14 school year. This past year, he was involved with the Trial Practice Team, and has since been named its vice president.
“Trial team has been a great outlet for storytelling,” he said. “Hopefully, I think this appreciation of storytelling is going to find its voice now through law. I’m just not sure where or how.”
Kmetz is interested in being in the courtroom, although he does not think he wants to pursue criminal law. Of course, Kmetz has not officially closed the book on Hollywood.
“Coming to law school is sort of a way to get a larger, diverse skillset, that if I do get back to writing, directing, producing, or another avenue of entertainment, I think I’ll have more knowledge about how to actually capitalize on it,” Kmetz said. “If I don’t go back into entertainment, then it will just open up new doors and I can build a new career.”
In his free time, Kmetz still writes and works on scripts and screen plays. Anything arts-related is up his alley, whether that is seeing plays at Covington’s The Carnegie, operas at Music Hall, or just movies. Kmetz has also been to some Reds games. In March, Kmetz got an Italian Greyhound dog, Wendell, and he goes to the park almost daily.
While he is fully settled into life in the Cincinnati area, Kmetz says he has a “yearning to still get back to an ocean area, whether it’s California or whether it manifests this time on the East Coast.”
Wherever Kmetz may end up and whatever he may do after law school, it will be but another step on his journey. Even if he does not make it back to Hollywood, it is unlikely that he will ever stop writing – even if just for fun. To this day, Kmetz is most proud of his work on “The Other Side of Simple.”
“Everything after that was chasing a paycheck,” Kmetz said. “It took me almost 10 years to realize that.”
By Jordan Cohen, ‘13
Meet Matthew Barnes: 2013 UC Law Graduate and Equal Justice Works Fellow
What are your plans for the summer? A family vacation at camp or the beach? Relaxing at home? For Matthew Barnes, a recent UC law graduate, summer will bring an opportunity to get a jumpstart on his legal career. Barnes is a recipient of the prestigious Equal Justice Works Fellowship. Learn more about Matt, his experiences, and why the Fellowship is so important to him.
Tell us about your background.
I was born in Kansas City and have moved around a bit, but I mostly grew up in Naperville, Illinois, a suburb of Chicago. I went to undergraduate school at Miami University (Ohio); I was a political science major (with an economics minor). One interesting fact about me—that many people don’t know—is that I’ve been an extra in several Skyline Chili commercials. It’s a source of both pride…and shame!
Why did you choose UC for law school?
I was living in Cincinnati at the time, having just completed a year in AmeriCorps, when I decided I wanted to go to law school. I had been living in Ohio for about five years through my undergraduate years at Miami University and decided I wanted to stay in the area. UC's law school was not only close, but it was a well-respected nationally ranked school that would be more affordable as an in-state resident. I also liked that the school was relatively small and urban-based, and would allow for more of a community feel and give me more time with professors.
What activities were you involved with at UC Law?
I'm a judge in Student Court, which has been a really fun experience. I'm also a Book Review Editor on the Immigration and Nationality Law Review. I participated in the Tenant Information Project my first year as well, and recommend it to anyone looking for some service hours.
What type of law do you want to practice and why?
I’m attracted to the public interest field generally, administrative law, tax law, property, wills and estate planning.
I'm interested in politics, especially policy. I have always wanted to help others, especially those who are underserved in society, through making better policy or implementing policy in a better, more effective manner. I believe that governmental policies and regulations have the most potential to help others, but sometimes can cause a lot of harm if not done right. I think it's a very important and relevant way to try to improve the world around me, by understanding or even being involved in policy making or policy implementation.
Why did you apply to be an Equal Justice Works Fellow?
The Fellowship fit with what I wanted to do and what I had been doing. My experience in AmeriCorps and two summer internships while I was at law school, including Housing Opportunities Made Equal and Pro Seniors, were wonderful and confirmed that public interest law was an area with a lot of need. It is something I wanted to do. The Fellowship gives me the opportunity to make a difference in my own community, since I will be staying here in Cincinnati, and also to gain valuable experience as a legal professional.
Tell us about your EJW Fellowship project.
I am sponsored by the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation, an organization that focuses on ensuring that resources, programs and services exist statewide to serve the unmet civil legal needs of Ohio's low-income population.
I will be working at Pro Seniors, which I interned at last summer. Pro Seniors is a non-profit organization that assists seniors with a variety of legal issues. Many of them are part of the underserved community, some due to their income (or lack of). I will be working specifically on developing a program that will help Pro Seniors’ thousands of clients find out what benefits they qualify for and how to obtain them.
Many seniors who are living paycheck to paycheck qualify for benefits they do not know about or do not have the confidence or expertise to obtain. I will also be working with other senior care providers in the area, such as nursing homes or Meals on Wheels, giving presentations and providing information to the staff as well as the seniors themselves on how to access the benefits they qualify for. At Pro Seniors, I will be working with other staff attorneys on specific cases where a client may be having difficulty with a government agency in obtaining benefits, or is having their benefits reduced or taken away in an unfair manner, and would help with litigation on their behalf.
What does this opportunity mean to you?
It means being given the chance to give back to my community in a meaningful, effective way. I was lucky enough to be born into a world where I had a lot of opportunities and advantages given to me by my parents, my community, and by society in general that others never get. This Fellowship allows me to fulfill what I feel is my duty to try to help others have the same opportunities and benefits I received.
What are your plans post fellowships?
I have been told that the vast majority of fellows stay in public interest afterwards, and that is my plan, though I'm not sure on the specifics. I would want to stay in either a non-profit environment or move on to a governmental agency dealing with an underserved population.
About the Equal Justice Works Program
The Equal Justice Works Fellowship program is the largest postgraduate legal fellowship program in the nation, with nearly 100 Fellows working across the country each year to provide legal assistance to those who could not otherwise afford it. Equal Justice Works Fellows design their fellowship projects with nonprofit organizations, targeting the most crucial needs of the communities they serve. Funding for Equal Justice Works Fellowships is provided by donations from law firms, corporations and foundations from around the country.
*Barnes is a 2013 Equal Justice Works fellow, sponsored by the Ohio Legal Assistance Foundation.
Law Students Take Part in University Project Slam
On a recent Saturday in April, four local companies brought together one start-up enterprise and students from six area universities to take part in what may be the area’s first “university project slam.”
What is a university project slam? It’s an opportunity for a local small business to get real world advice from future business, creative, and legal minds, working under the direction and guidance of area professionals.
Teams of students, including UC Law’s Michelle James ’13 and Christian Dennery ’13, were selected to take part in this event.
“Though no legal advice was required, I wanted to revive and reinvigorate my business skills,” said law student Michelle James about why she took part in this venture. “I also have a soft spot for small businesses and it was great to know I was helping out a growing Cincinnati enterprise.”
The local start-up—handpicked by cohost companies: The Brandery Group, CincyTech, bioLOGIC Corp and Centrifuse—faced a critical business challenge. They had created a phone application specifically geared toward music. Banking on the success of the launch, the start-up team was contemplating whether to remain in the industry or use the knowledge and skills to expand into other areas. If expansion was the solution, how should it be done?
The teams, comprised of students from a combination of backgrounds, including MBA, computer information systems, marketing, graphic design, and entrepreneurship, then worked together to figure out the best solution and make recommendations for the company.
James’s team bet on expanding the operation. Dennery’s team recommended the company use the technology to provide exclusive content, building a “buzz” about the program.
About the experience James said, “I wanted to see what practical problems businesses are actually facing on a daily basis. It was a great opportunity to network with other students from other disciplines and schools as well.”
Dennery concurred, “It was a great opportunity to get out of the law school bubble and meet other professionals. And, it was a lot of fun.”
James, who graduates this year, would like to practice in the areas of commercial, corporate, mergers and acquisition, real estate or tax law. Dennery, who also graduates this year, will focus on small practice bankruptcy and small business reorganization and restructuring. He plans to open his own practice.
Teams consisted of students from Miami University, Xavier University, the College of Mt. Saint Joseph, Cincinnati State, Northern Kentucky University, and UC—Law, DAAP, and Business programs. Professor Lew Goldfarb, Director of UC Law’s Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic, was on-hand as an advisor/mentor throughout the day, along with other “advisors/mentors” from various active investment groups, service providers, and local entrepreneurs.
Joshua Smith '14 Gets a Bird’s Eye View of UC as a Board of Trustees Member
Joshua Smith arrived at Ohio University in the fall of 2006 intending to pursue a degree in education. Smith switched to political science/pre-law as a sophomore, however, realizing he wanted to attend law school down the road.
“I always liked the idea of representing someone and the court system always amazes me, along with the entire legal system,” said Smith, a native of Westerville, a northeast Columbus suburb.
He didn’t graduate until 2011, but it was not because he needed a fifth year of classes to graduate. Rather, he spent a year deployed in Bagram, Afghanistan as a United States Army Military Police Officer.
Smith spent the spring of 2008 and that summer following his sophomore year in basic training, as part of becoming a soldier in the U.S. Army Reserves 447th MP CO. He returned to the Athens, Ohio, campus for his junior year, but spent July 2009 through July 2010 in Afghanistan.
“It really was a great experience,” Smith said. “It’s kind of an adventure in a way. You’re going to a country you know nothing about.”
Smith said his year in Afghanistan went by “really fast,” and he made some of his best friends there. During the first half of the deployment, he did basic security operations, manning guard towers and doing patrols around the base. The second half involved detainee operations, doing a lot of prison work.
After returning from Afghanistan, Smith returned to OU for his final year of school, where he became president of his fraternity, Phi Kappa Tau. He received a national award for “Outstanding President” for that 2010-11 year.
Joining the UC Law Family
The 2011 OU graduate was attracted to the College of Law for a number of reasons as a prospective student, including the small class sizes. Since enrolling at the College of Law, the current 2L has been impressed by the faculty.
“I’m working with Professor (Sandra) Sperino right now on an individual research project. I took her Employment Law class and Civil Procedure II and enjoyed her as a professor,” Smith said. “I’m also in Professor (Felix) Chang’s Agency class, and also enjoy him as a professor.”
Smith is a member of Moot Court and will be one of two directors of its intramural competition next fall. He also participated in Student Court as a 1L, where he and some of his peers represented UC students in disputing parking tickets. It was through this activity that Smith made an interesting connection, one that led him to a position that no other student on the entire campus holds: graduate student trustee on the University of Cincinnati Board of Trustees.
“I actually represented the Graduate Student Governance Association’s president in Student Court,” Smith said. “She liked me enough that she thought I would do a good job at that position and told me to apply for it.”
Being a Member of UC’s Board of Trustees is a Big Responsibility
After submitting his resume last April and participating in a phone interview of sorts during the summer, Smith was offered the position for a two-year term. “It was kind of a shock to me,” said Smith, who is joined by an undergraduate student as the non-voting members of the Board.
Smith attends public Board of Trustees meetings every two months. While not a voting member, he is still asked for input and gives a report every two months on the entire graduate body – the College of Law, the College of Medicine and the other graduate programs. He also serves on subcommittees as well, including the Academic and Student Affairs Committee, as well as the Finance and Administration Committee.
In this first term, which dates back to August, Smith was involved with a number of issues and happenings, including the appointment of President Santa J. Ono in October.
Outside of school, Smith is a law clerk at the Law Office of Marc Mezibov. He also spent last summer as a judicial extern for Judge Sandra S. Beckwith in the United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio.
Smith is an avid sports fan and he made his first Great American Ball Park appearance of the season on April 5, when the Cincinnati Reds beat the Washington Nationals 15-0. The Westerville North High School graduate will be living in Columbus this summer and hopes to play in some pick-up rugby games with his former high school teammates.
By Jordan Cohen, ‘13
Sapphire Diamant-Rink ’11
As a Morgan Fellow I furthered my education with unique and invaluable experiences. Growing up on the Blackfeet Reservation, I have always had a passion for the rights of Native Americans and indigenous peoples everywhere. This, as well as a fascination with comparative law, led me to the Urban Morgan Institute at UC. My time as a clerk at the High Court of Botswana working with their parallel traditional tribal legal system, as well as my fellowship at the Indian Law Resource Center in my home state of Montana, allowed me to narrow my focus and gave depth to my understanding of the human rights issues involved. I was one of the four applicants chosen for the Honors Program at the Office of the Solicitor in the U.S. Department of the Interior. Following completion of that program, I am now an Attorney-Advisor in the U.S. Department of the Interior for the Division of Indian Affairs in Washington, D.C., where I focus on Indian water rights, tribal government, trust responsibility and a variety of other Indian law matters.
3L Casey Kirchberg Shares His ECDC Experience in CBA Report
Third year law student Casey Kirchberg had the opportunity to share his experience as a fellow with the Entrepreneurship and Community Development Clinic (ECDC) with local bar association members. His story about what he has learned is featured in the April 2013 issue of the CBA Report. Read the story here.
University of Cincinnati College of Law Wins National Moot Court Competition
The University of Cincinnati College of Law Moot Court team of Sarah Kyriakedes and Tony Strike brought home a first place win at the 15th Annual Herbert J. Wechsler National Criminal Law Moot Court Competition. The team won the overall competition and Strike won the Final Round Best Advocate Award. The event was held Saturday, March 23, 2013, hosted by the SUNY Buffalo Law School.
Kyriakedes and Strike, who will both graduate this year, have been on the Moot Court Board since their second year of law school after making the team during the Intramural Competition. (There, Kyriakedes won the Best Overall Score during the competition.) They became partners last year for their first competition: the Benjamin N. Cardoza School of Law Moot Court Competition. (Strike won Best Overall Oralist at this competition.) In addition, they worked together on the Trial Practice Team for the last two years.
“I got involved in Moot Court, because I wanted to improve my oral advocacy skills,” said Kyriakedes. “After graduation, I always knew that I wanted to be in the court room actively litigating. I knew that Moot Court would give me an opportunity to practice my courtroom etiquette and to grow from the constructive criticism that I received.”
Strike concurred. “I came to law school in large part because I want to do things in the courtroom and Moot Court is one of the best ways to get that sort of experience. Moot Court is an excellent way to delve into a particular topic and get a sense of the way the law develops.”
Prepping for the Moot Court Competition
The Herbert J. Wechsler National Criminal Law Moot Court Competition is one of the leading national moot court competitions in the United States to focus on topics in substantive criminal law. Problems address the constitutionality and interpretation of federal and state criminal statutes as well as general issues in the doctrine of federal and state criminal law.
The Wechsler Competition consisted of two parts: a written brief and oral arguments. After receiving the material for the brief in January, Kyriakedes and Strike researched and reviewed the issues, dividing responsibilities between the two. Before they began writing their brief, they met with Professor Janet Moore and Professor Christo Lassiter to brainstorm ideas about how to approach the problem. They estimate it took about three weeks to write the 30 page brief. (Meanwhile, they were also practicing for a Trial Practice Competition in February!)
After turning in the brief, they began to prepare for the oral arguments, including weekly meetings to talk through issues and problem spot and weeks of practice “moot sessions.” During these sessions, they basically ran through their arguments as if they were in the actual competition with different people acting as judges to ask questions. Because the Moot Court Program is a student organization, there aren’t formal coaches. So, the students reached out to professors and attorneys in the community to help them prepare.
“We knew that the best way to get prepared was to soak up all the advice that we could get,” said Kyriakedes. Judge Patrick Fischer, Hamilton County Court of Appeals, First Appellate District of Ohio; Professor Moore; Donald Caster, an attorney with UC Law’s Ohio Innocence Project; and fellow student Sundeep Mutgi, the Moot Court Executive Director, helped with practice and acted as judges.
Looking Ahead to Life after Moot Court and Law School
Both Kyriakedes and Strike are already making plans for life after law school. Strike has been working part-time at the Hamilton County Prosecutor’s Office and hopes to continue that full-time after passing the bar. This "new" career of Strike's comes on the heels of a lengthy career in business, including receiving an MBA from Harvard.
Kyriakedes will be moving to Charlotte, North Carolina after graduation. She hopes to work at the Mecklenburg County District Attorney’s Office, where she interned this past summer. “It has always been my goal to pursue a career as a public servant, so that I could use my legal education and skills to better the public welfare as a prosecutor.”
|Take Note: Recent Moot Court Competition Success |
Amy Bedinghaus’14 and Erica Helmle’14: advanced to the quarterfinal round at the Whittier Moot Court Juvenile Law Competition.
Nina Vachhani’13 and Josh Langdon’13: advanced to the octo-final round of the 2013 Cardozo/BMI Entertainment and Communications Law Competition. Team also had top 10 brief.
Cincinnati Named a top 10 Revitalized City for Young Professionals by Forbes
Forbes magazine has included Cincinnati, OH on its list of the top 10 revitalized cities for young professionals. According to the article “Downtowns: What’s Behind America’s Most Surprising Real Estate Boom” by Morgan Brennan, America’s major metro area downtowns experienced double-digit population growth in the decade ending 2010, more than double the rate of growth for their overall cities. As more Americans, particularly college-educated young adults ages 25 to 34, opt for urban lifestyles, cities are working to revitalize their central business districts. Cincinnati, OH is listed as one of them.
See what they’re saying about downtown Cincinnati’s transformation: Forbes magazine article