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Presidential Reflection

By Katherine Frances Mortensen

2013 Lansing Student Bar Association

Tell me about a time when you had to accomplish a task under a tight deadline while working with someone who was difficult to get along with.

What are the three most important things that you contribute to an organization? What are the three most important things that you could contribute to our firm?

How do you deal with stress or conflict?

When have you failed? Describe the circumstances and how you dealt with, and learned from, the experience.

Can you answer these common interview questions compiled by the American Bar Association? I can. And I can say with certainty that the 40-some class senators, class directors and executive board of the Lansing Student Bar Association can answer the above with detailed, concrete examples from their law school career.

I ran for SBA President because I believe in Cooley and its students.  Being that I was a full-time student of 22 years of age, living downtown with no children and few commitments, I thought I could give back to those students whose lifestyles are not so flexible. I have always been proud to be here, and am proud to have led the largest SBA in the country.

We attend a phenomenal, dynamic institution. We have great resources and people behind us and everything we could possibly need to meet our goals and outshine our opponents.  However, at the end of the day, you can’t possibly learn all of the skills that you need to be a successful attorney inside of the classroom.  I am so thankful for the experiences I have had, the people I have had a chance to work with and even the challenges I have faced as the Lansing SBA President.

My term as President has been a whirlwind of speaking engagements and parliamentary procedure.  As SBA President, I have been given opportunities that would be tacky to brag about (i.e. being asked to throw the opening pitch at a Lugnuts game). I have made some mistakes, I have been stressed, I have cried, I have laughed, suffered through discussions I did not want to have, and yet my grades have never been better.  I have gotten to know several deans and faculty members who never taught me in class. My experience as SBA President has rounded out my education at Cooley, and has made me a better person.   

I could not have survived this without my team. I have seen the utmost professionalism and unparalleled grit from the members of the SBA. While many students are relaxing or studying, they grind through decisions, plan and attend various events and fight for what they believe students need, often times while dressed business professional. They never take off their leadership cap- leaving SBA meetings to be leaders in other places on campus, the community and in the classroom.  

I have seen my board disagree behind closed doors, come to a decision and still go out for drinks later- a skill that is difficult to master. I have seen the group guide itself through a financial crisis.  I have seen first term students find their home in the senate, carefully considering the options before coming to a decision. I have seen a brotherhood grow through common goals.   I have seen twenty-five people from every campus give up Saturdays to discuss school-wide change, only with the assistance of Distance Education technology. Through my work with the SBA, I have had the opportunity to see the absolute best that Thomas M. Cooley Law School has to offer, and I am certain that these individuals will succeed in the legal world. Their ideas, commitment and integrity never cease to surprise me.  

The apathy from the student body at large concerns me. As the SBA, we do not complain about representing you.  We do not fear your suggestions, comments, concerns or ideas. We control a large sum of student funds, and intend to spend those funds in a way that will benefit you. However, over the past year we have received few concerns, and those that we have received we have worked tirelessly to take care of. This apathy does not just concern the SBA. It’s an epidemic for all resources available from bar prep to career placement.  Various departments in your school are wracking their brains to give you programming and opportunities you will take advantage of, yet the seats remain empty.  

You are not a product of your environment. Your environment is a product of you. Cooley’s students are not a product of Cooley Law School.  Cooley is a product of the students who walk its halls. What you do, how you behave and what you achieve both here and beyond define this institution, and as your outgoing student leader I hope that all students will take this to heart.  Make your experience here as big and as brilliant as it can possibly be.  Do what you need to do to make your education, and Cooley, yours…and if anyone can help you do this it’s the SBA.

As my term winds down, I thank Cooley Law School, its faculty and administration, my colleagues and the Student Bar Association in Lansing, Grand Rapids, Auburn Hills, Tampa Bay and Ann Arbor for preparing me to be the best attorney that I can be.