View a video of the Waterman family by clicking on the link below.
UI President Sally Mason commends Michael Appel, ’13, President of the Executive Council of Graduate and Professional Students. Also, check out the YouTube video about Iowa Law within the story.
View a video of The Honorable Mary Tabor, ’91 by clicking on the link below.
Just six years after graduating from the UI College of Law, Angela Wolfe Kelley, ’07, has had three career changes in three very different types of legal practice: large law firm, government, and corporate counsel. “My experience is one of adaptation and gradually finding the career that best fits my skill set and personality,” says the Dubuque, Iowa native.
She started working at the Minneapolis office of one of the Midwest’s largest firms, Faegre & Benson, now Faegre Baker Daniels, right after graduation. “I did big real estate law, working on large commercial transactions like office buildings, hotels, and sports stadiums,” she says. “Then the real estate market crashed.”
Next, Angela and her fiancé relocated to Des Moines where she served as an Executive Officer of the Iowa Office of Energy Independence, directing the distribution of $50 million in federal stimulus funds to advanced energy projects across the state. Finding her skills to be better suited to private practice, she quickly returned to the Des Moines office of Faegre Baker Daniels, where she practiced commercial litigation, working primarily in the areas of financial services and securities.
In June 2012, Angela returned to her hometown and is now Associate General Counsel for Heartland Financial USA, Inc., a five billion dollar financial services company providing banking, mortgage, investment, insurance, wealth management and consumer finance services to individuals and businesses in locations across the Midwest and Western United States, including Iowa, Illinois, Wisconsin, New Mexico, Arizona, Montana, Colorado, and Minnesota and loan production offices in California, Wyoming, Idaho, North Dakota, and Nevada.
At every turn, Angela says her Iowa education has served her well. “Iowa really taught me how to process questions,” she says. As Associate General Counsel of a large financial institution, “it’s important to be able to spot issues because a lot of things cross my desk every day. Iowa prepared me well for that.”
Angela easily could have ended up at another law school. Since she attended the UI as an undergrad, she looked forward to a change of scenery. After graduation, she traveled extensively for her national sorority, living in Dallas and visiting all of the law schools to which she was considering applying. “I kept waiting for something to jump out at me,” she recalls. “I thought I’d find something that I couldn’t get here, but it never happened.”
Ultimately, she was accepted by a top-ranked law school but didn’t feel that its reputation or the education she’d receive there was worth the hefty price difference as compared to Iowa Law. She’s never regretted the decision.
“I interviewed for jobs in several large cities, and I’d always be there with applicants from Stanford, Harvard, and Columbia. I’d laugh to myself, ‘Isn’t it funny that we’ll end up at the same firm, but I’ll be $100,000 less in debt and I’m just prepared as you are?’ In many ways, Iowa has given me the ability to be flexible in my career decisions.”
Today, Angela loves living in her hometown, and enjoys providing counsel for a large, national company. And she’s especially proud of where she’s chosen to live: “I was an Iowan by birth, but now I’m an Iowan by choice.”
Brian Hook, (’99), has been surrounded by law and politics for as long as he can remember. As a child growing up in a family of lawyers and elected officials, he admired their many accomplishments. After receiving his undergraduate degree, his own experience in politics began when he worked at the White House, followed by stints on Capitol Hill, and with the governor of Iowa. Eventually, he realized that a law degree was the missing piece to a better career in public policy.
“My early experiences made law school far more worthwhile and meaningful than going straight from college,” said Hook. “I enjoyed everything about law school, and what I learned there has been valuable at each point in my career.”
Since 2009, Hook has been helping corporations and nonprofits expand their operations into new countries. He has also been active in humanitarian projects, working mostly in sub-Saharan Africa to reduce deaths caused by cervical and breast cancer. “We launched the Pink Ribbon-Red Ribbon Partnership last year after raising $85 million, and we’re already saving lives through increased screening and early detection efforts,” said Hook. He is also working to create innovation centers within UN refugee camps to improve the lives of people displaced by wars and natural disasters.
Approximately 46 million people in America live in poverty, struggling to access affordable health care, secure employment, and find housing. Lauren Hansen, ’09, is acutely aware of the burdens of poverty because she lived it—growing up poor in rural, northern California, Hansen knows what it is like to sometimes lack the basic necessities.
Now Hansen is beginning a two-year fellowship with the Public Interest Law Project (PILP). She works as an attorney fellow representing impoverished clients, all of whom lack jobs, housing, and health care they can afford. Her cases are rooted in impact advocacy designed to fix the systemic problems that keep people poor.
“Not having employment, an affordable place to live, and health care are the three biggest barriers to our clients being able to move out of poverty. A lot of misinformation exists about poverty programs and there is a lack of understanding about the problems of the poor,” says Hansen. “I feel like if more people truly understood what it is like to be poor, the conversation would change.”
Hansen’s personal experiences have helped her to connect with her clients who are dealing with problems similar to those that she and her mother faced while Hansen was in high school.
Like many families, Hansen’s family was not always poor. When her mother, a paralegal, saw the need for middle- and lower-income people to have access to low-cost basic legal information, she opened her own business. New businesses can strain family finances, so Hansen helped out as a file clerk. They could not afford to purchase health insurance. When her mom unexpectedly became ill, all of their savings, including the money for Hansen’s college education went to pay hospital bills. They turned to food stamps, welfare, and Medicaid benefits to survive.
“Essentially, we became part of the community my mom was initially trying to help. I do not know what we would have done if we had not had government assistance as a safety net. We could have become homeless. I may have had to drop out of school,” says, Hansen. “Eventually, I became dedicated to helping poor people, and determined that the law is the most effective tool for social change.”
While a student at the UI College of Law, Hansen immersed herself in social justice work. Financial support from the Equal Justice Foundation and the Iowa Law School Foundation allowed her to work both summers in public interest law. After her first year of law school, she worked at the East Bay Community Law Center in Berkeley, California, providing direct legal services to clients whose welfare benefits had been discontinued or denied. During her second summer of law school, she did impact advocacy at New York Lawyers’ for the Public Interest in New York City, where she worked on health law, disability rights, environmental justice, and police misconduct.
“Grants made it possible for me to work for free during the summer so I could gain valuable experience in the field. The public interest community hires people who demonstrate commitment,” says Hansen. “You cannot demonstrate commitment if you do not work in the field.”
She also worked as a research assistant for the COL’s Associate Dean Linda McGuire, who had just started the Citizen Lawyer Program. “Working for the Program energized me, provided great experience, and has contributed to my success as a public interest lawyer,” says Hansen. “Dean McGuire is a great mentor.”
After graduating from Iowa Law, Hansen worked for Legal Services of Northern California for three years, where she represented clients in public benefits, housing, and health law before starting her fellowship with the PILP.
“PILP created the fellowship program to train the next generation of poverty lawyers in California,” says Hansen. “I split my time between the housing and public benefits groups—in housing, I do land use and affordable housing; in public benefits, I work to ensure access to a number of different benefits programs including health, welfare, and food stamps.”
With Hansen’s excellent legal education, a career path that has allowed her to gain useful experience, and a personal understanding of poverty, public benefits, and public interest law, she has made an immediate contribution to PILP.
“I am happy to continue my work and look forward to working with the experienced staff at PILP to address the difficult issues that our clients face,” says Hansen.
Some people go to law school because it is the family thing to do. With a brother and sister who were already lawyers, Meghan Gavin had the opposite reaction as an undergraduate. “I was pretty sure I didn’t want to go law school,” she recalls. While studying history and political science, first as an undergraduate at DePaul University and then in a master’s program at the University of Chicago, Gavin looked forward to working on political campaigns and “participating in the world”—not just studying it.
It only took time, though, before she was bitten by the law school bug. The decision to study at the University of Iowa’s College of Law was an easy one: “I didn’t know where I wanted to end up, whether it would be Chicago or elsewhere, so I decided on Iowa because its national reputation and central location would maximize my options. Also, the price is right—especially for its rankings.”
Six years out of law school, Gavin has no regrets, noting the multiple benefits of her legal education: “Iowa Law makes you an incredible legal writer in a way that other law schools cannot touch. You also learn how to really break down arguments and how to look at every level of a case. Iowa taught me to always second guess and question my initial impression.”
Iowa Law also opened the door to one of her best teachers and learning opportunities. After graduating in 2006, Gavin became a clerk for Iowa Supreme Court Justice Brent Appel, who she calls her ideal mentor; “Justice Appel is very much the type of lawyer I want to be.”
Working with Appel for three and a half years, Gavin had the opportunity to read the Iowa Constitution at least a half dozen times and engage in a very high level of legal abstraction. “I relied on the analytical skills I learned at Iowa every day while working for the Court,” she says.
In late 2010, Gavin became an Assistant Attorney General for the State of Iowa, gaining the interesting distinction of representing her past employer, Iowa’s judicial branch, if and when it is sued. The Dubuque native says that Iowa is a good place for lawyers hoping to pursue governmental work: “There are a lot of opportunities in Iowa with fewer job candidates—as compared to Chicago or Washington, D.C., and you can progress relatively quickly here.”
Recently, she defended the judicial branch in Carlson v. Wiggins, a case challenging the merit selection system for selecting judges. The U.S. Supreme Court recently denied certiorari after the State’s victory at the Eighth Circuit. She also argued her first case last year to the Iowa Supreme Court—Iowa Right to Life v. Tooker. The case challenged the constitutionality of Iowa’s campaign finance scheme post-Citizen’s United. Gavin is well aware that she is doing exactly the kind of “real” work to which she once feared a law degree would not lead. But it did—leading her home and to some of the state’s highest offices.
Did you enter law school immediately following your undergraduate degree?
After receiving my undergraduate degree, I debated between pursuing a doctorate degree in applied mathematics or a law degree. While I was making my decision, I worked for three years as an office manager at a small collections agency in Arizona, Solberg & Kennedy, LLC. I learned a lot about contracts, the collections industry, as well as general accounting work and administration of a business.
What made you decide to pursue a law degree?
While I was working at the collections agency, I enjoyed learning about the intricacies found in different types of contracts and the regulations that controlled them, like the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. I realized that I could use the analytical skills and logical mindset, which I developed in my undergraduate math courses, and continue to learn about legal concepts by pursuing a law degree.
Why did you apply to the UI College of Law?
Before I visited, I had standard reasons: the law school’s long-standing reputation, the affordable tuition prices compared to other out-of-state schools, and an interest in exploring places other than Phoenix. When I attended Admitted Students Day, my decision was solidified. I realized how much the faculty invests in the success of the students – even the design of the building encourages student-faculty interaction. The intelligence and friendly demeanor of the other admitted students is what I want in future cohorts. In addition to the people, there is an incredible law library and legal writing program.
Do you know the area of law that you would like to practice?
I want to explore how contracts and health law can coincide. I am keeping an open mind. I want to return to Phoenix to practice law, so I will research which areas of law will be most successful there.
What has the first semester been like for you?
It has been a whirlwind with orientation and classes. The professors are enthusiastic about the classes they teach. I understand the material (so far), and the cases we are assigned to read are actually fun. I am excited to get more involved, so I volunteered for Trial Advocacy as a juror, and I am working with the Citizen Lawyer Program to organize the Spring Break Service Trip to Chicago (Alternative Spring Break) for 2013. I do not think I could have asked for a better beginning.
Hometown: Maple Grove, Minnesota
Undergraduate Institution: University of Minnesota
Undergraduate Major: Political Science
Did you enter law school immediately following your undergraduate degree?
I took a year off and did some odd jobs, including teaching the LSAT prep course for Kaplan Test Prep. Answering challenging questions from the course’s students was great preparation for law school.
What made you decide to pursue a law degree?
Attending law school was always in the back of my mind. In the first year of my undergraduate degree, I considered psychology. As a sophomore, I decided to pursue a law degree. I thought that three years of school after my undergraduate degree would further my desire for both intellectual and individual growth, and I had enjoyed all of my pre-law classes.
What made you decide to attend the University of Iowa?
I liked the idea of living in a new place. I stayed in Minnesota for my undergraduate degree, and I thought it would be nice to broaden my perspective. The UI College of Law is not far from home and has a good connection to law firms in the Twin Cities area.
Do you know the area of law that you would like to practice?
It is too early for me to know, but I want to help people. I am considering family law or human rights law.
What are some of the thoughts you had going into your first day of law classes?
I was very nervous. The UI College of Law is a great school. My classmates are intelligent and driven. Adjusting to the change was nerve-racking, but I am getting more confident. Also, there is a real sense of opportunity for enrichment.
What has the first semester of school been like for you?
I know that I made the right decision choosing Iowa. I am benefiting from new experiences, living in a new town and beginning law school. I have been able to build camaraderie with my classmates, and have developed quick friendships and a great support system.
Somewhere in the UI College of Law’s admissions records is a letter of recommendation from First Lady Michelle Obama on behalf of Aracely Muñoz Petrich. Immediately after she graduated from the University of Chicago with a Master’s in Social Sciences, Aracely worked directly for Obama as Coordinator of the University’s Community Service Center. For three years, she helped to build sustainable partnerships among a network of students, faculty, and community organizations.
Knowing her passion for community-focused work, a mentor advised her to look into the University of Iowa College of Law. “She knew of their deep commitment to diversity, as evidenced by the College’s financial support,” Aracely says. “I obviously wanted a top tier legal education, but at a price that would allow me to do the kind of work I was passionate about.”
A native of Chicago—she jokingly says the suburbs “don’t count” and identifies city neighborhoods by parishes, hers being St. Mary of the Lake—Aracely was among the older students in her law school class. “Because I had been to graduate school and was already working, I had commitments that some of the other students didn’t have,” she recalls of her first year. For example, she was on several boards in Chicago that necessitated her traveling back to the city regularly.
Eventually, she settled into a routine in Iowa City, where she worked with Professor Adrien Wing, and served as an articles editor for the Journal of Gender, Race & Justice. Although she was in the minority as a Latina student, she felt supported by the school and was pleased to watch the Latino community in Iowa City “grow exponentially” during her three-year tenure.
“Diversity is hard for great schools to get right,” says Aracely. “In truth, there are only a few parts of the country, a few cities really, in which you can achieve the kind of diversity and inclusion that a lot of schools would like to have.”
Aracely never lost sight of her desire to apply her legal education to community issues. She returned to Chicago both summers for internships with the AIDS Legal Council of Chicago, the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, and the City of Chicago.
After graduation from law school, Aracely was a Civil Litigation Attorney with the Legal Assistance Foundation of Metropolitan Chicago, and then went on to work as Assistant Corporation Counsel for the City of Chicago’s Department of Law, which serves the Mayor, the City Council, and more than 40 client departments, boards, and commissions.
In 2008, she went to the American Bar Association where she served in two capacities, as Director for the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Profession and as Director of the Commission on Hispanic Legal Rights & Responsibilities. This past year she joined the Association of Corporate Counsel (ACC) in Washington D.C., a global bar association that serves more than 30,000 in-house lawyers employed by over 10,000 organizations in more than 75 countries, to serve as Associate General Counsel and Director of Large Law Programs.
“I meet a lot of Iowa Law alumni in my work across the country,” she says, “and I’m always impressed by where they have gone with their degree and what they are doing.”