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Inside L&C Law

Brandon Hawkins

May 07, 2013

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My Background:

I came to Lewis & Clark Law School by a string of unique life experiences, and looking back, it has been a rewarding and challenging journey.  My wife and I are thankful that the road signs directing me to law school also guided us to Portland for study, as this is the ideal environment for both learning and fulfillment of our mutual love of the outdoors.  When class hits a higher tempo, and finals are looming, it’s nice to put down the books and climb a mountain, or hit the trail to gain a renewed perspective.

After my undergrad study at the University of Alabama, I was commissioned as an intelligence officer in the US Air Force and spent five years in service both at home and abroad.  My primary duty was training and providing support to an F-16 Fighter Squadron based at Salt Lake City, UT.  From live-fire missile exercises over the Gulf of Mexico, multinational training exercises in the United Arab Emirates, to a combat tour with my squadron in Iraq – I saw the world, and the challenges it presented became ‘basic training’ for what came next.  

Why I Decided to Go to Law School:

Upon separating from active service, I undertook the challenge of finding a new life, and eventually became a Middle School Teacher in Utah. I had recently met my future wife just after separating from active duty, and decided to pursue a job in teaching as it seemed a natural and rewarding fit. I was always interested in studying the law, and my stint as a history teacher fueled that desire as discussions of law, its origins and applications, and the U.S. Constitution never failed to draw my full attention.  I am certain that I made the right choice to attend law school, despite the occasional stress and hardship, as it is just the challenge and subject matter I needed to lay the foundation for a new career.  I have made some great friends here, and Portland has become home…

Three Activities I’m Involved In:

I am currently volunteering with a local area Middle School Debate Team as they are preparing for a National “We The People” Debate Competition in Washington, D.C.  I came across the opportunity after meeting a local attorney who has been involved with the program - and, it seemed a great way to get involved, and use my experience to make a difference.  From participating in that program, I have also obtained a work-study this summer with the Classroom Law Project that will further the opportunity to make a positive influence in getting youths interested in civic involvement and our government’s structure and history. 

Favorite Class at L&C:

Constitutional Law I – Early studies in high school and college often focus on the individual rights contained in the Amendments; it wasn’t until this class that I really had the opportunity to “dig in” and truly understand the Articles, and the integral framework that allows those rights to exist and be protected.  It didn’t hurt that I had a great professor who was genuinely interested in the area, and it was contagious. 

Meaningful Academic Experience Outside the Classroom:

The opportunity to meet the former Secretary of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, was inspiring as I used to report on his findings and press conferences as an Air Force intelligence officer.  Never thought I would shake his hand, nor that of Chief Justice John Roberts!  To see the Chief in action as he judged the inaugural Environmental Moot Court, and to know that he was wandering about campus visiting classes for a day, was an amazing experience!  So glad he didn’t cold-call me… I know several were surprised when he entered their classes, and knew their names from the seating chart he studied in advance.

The hardest thing about adjusting to law school: 

I am a mid-career professional, newly-wed, who hadn’t been in a college classroom in a decade.  I had to learn how to study all over again, and it was a new form of material requiring a different method than before.  When I realized that, while the books and other classmates were helpful, you have to find ‘your way’ - it became so much easier!  Second-term finals, while tough, aren’t quite as ‘impending.’

Why I Chose Lewis & Clark:

While I was certain I wanted to study the law, I wasn’t quite sure which area.  I have a strong interest in protecting the environment, as you can likely find me in a trout stream or on a trail if not in class.  I also am interested in criminal law as it is integrally related to those philosophies of individual rights and the application of the Constitution that catch my deeper interest.  And, Lewis & Clark has strong programs in both – allowing me to explore a desired career path, and adapt along the way. 

Advice to Students on How to Choose A Law School:

Go where you want to practice, and don’t ‘settle.’  It was tough to choose a private school when I had some public options, but the educational experience, location, and closeness of the community are unsurpassed. Visit the school – this is crucial.  Walk in the library, and think “this is where I will spend a great deal of my time… will I be happy here?”  Talk to other students on those visits; believe it or not, we do like to share our experiences!  You don’t have to go it ‘alone and unafraid,’ others have been there before you, and can share a great deal more than any book you can buy on the subject. 

My Top-Ten list for L&C:

  1. The Columbia River Gorge – we hike most every weekend
  2. The Coast – Amazing views and unique landscape
  3. The Restaurants – Brew pubs and happy hours,  so many choices and options!
  4. The Food Carts – This was new to me.. where else can you get Vietnamese, Salvadoran, and Korean food in the same 20 feet of sidewalk?
  5. Powell’s Books – I have a tendency of getting lost on purpose.
  6. Forest Park – When the Gorge is too far on a weekday, you can run a few miles in FP and still make it home for dinner!
  7. Tryon Creek Park – Again, when the books become overwhelming, it’s nice to know you can step outside and breathe!
  8. Microbrews – more than you can count, in an array of options you will rarely find elsewhere.
  9. Wine Country – great way to spend a Saturday.
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