What drew you to the law?
After college, I became a social worker for the state. During training, we went to the Legal Aid Society and the director gave a presentation that inspired me. I saw that lawyers, because of their knowledge and skill, could really help our poor clients. I decided that was what I wanted to do. It has turned out to be a wonderful career. It is true that lawyers can make a big difference in people’s lives.
What do you enjoy most about teaching?
I truly enjoy the opportunity to teach law students while continuing to represent people who would be without legal counsel otherwise. My favorite thing is being present when a student begins to really understand how the law works. I like to see their eyes light up when they realize how their own efforts make a difference in the case and in their clients’ lives.
What do you hope students gain from your courses?
In my course, students actually experience being a lawyer. It’s different than case law, a problem in a book or a simulation. They work with real clients in real cases that affect real lives. They aren’t pretending to practice – they are practicing (with lots of supervision!). I want students to feel the weight of the experience of being responsible for a client’s case. I hope my students will find that legal practice can be both fun and fulfilling. The key is doing legal work that means something and that makes a difference.
What did you do prior to entering academia?
I practiced law with a legal aid office in Oklahoma. I represented indigent clients in a variety of civil cases, including divorces, adoptions, Social Security/SSI disability, name changes, consumer cases, bankruptcies, unemployment compensation, food stamps, welfare benefits and landlord/tenant cases. Then I was a staff attorney at the University of Oklahoma legal clinic, where I also practiced criminal defense.
What are you passionate about outside of the law?
I love to travel! I have been to all 50 states, most of Canada and Mexico, England and Europe several times, Cuba and Japan. I also like to garden and read. My favorite volunteer effort is Habitat for Humanity. I love picking up a hammer and actually building a house with the homeowner and other volunteers. A house is tangible and positive. The homeowner is always so excited.
What are your research interests?
My research and writing focuses on real cases for real clients. I have been director of the Family Law and Benefits Clinic since its founding in 1998. During that time, most of my research has been in the areas of Social Security/SSI disability and family law. I have filed approximately 192 hearing and appellate briefs in client cases, plus innumerable pleadings. I enjoy seeing the result of my written and oral work, and knowing that it has made a difference for my clients.