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Lakewood, New York
Following graduation from undergrad, I signed a contract to continue my baseball career in the Detroit Tigers organization. There, I learned to better handle and adapt to challenges and pressures related to performing. Preparation was often the difference between winning and losing; in a way, preparation gave me the confidence to succeed. After baseball, I joined the Air Force and there I learned about task focus. Together, both careers helped prepare me for law school.
I’m glad I chose the University of Wyoming College of Law. The College of Law is the only law school in Wyoming, so the legal community is small. As a result, there is a great opportunity for networking and establishing relationships while in school. In addition to networking, the college offers classes for practical legal application. I’ve grown the most as a student by taking Trial Advocacy and Summer Trial Institute, which provided trial experience through mock trials.
Alumni, including practicing judges and local attorneys, came together to make Summer Trial Institute possible. Again, I think this demonstrates the advantages of being part of a small legal community. Overall, I think learning how the courtroom operates and understanding what is necessary to prepare for a trial have been my biggest takeaways from law school so far.
After law school, I am planning to join the U.S. Army Judge Advocate General’s (JAG) Corps. I chose to go into military law to provide legal service for other military members. During my summer internships with the Air Force and the Army, I learned that attorneys in the military get the chance to practice in a variety of areas, such as criminal law, administration law, operational law, civil law, labor law, national security law, international law, contract law, litigation, and more. Being exposed to different areas of law and gaining such experience will help me determine what I want to dedicate my legal career to in the long term. Also, I felt fortunate to be able to connect with UW College of Law graduates who went the military route. These alumni were willing to talk with me and share their perspectives on pursuing the JAG Corps, which I found to be very helpful.
My favorite moments in Laramie have undoubtedly been the times I have spent with the friends I made in school. Academically, my favorite moment was getting the guilty verdict in the Summer Trial Institute mock trial.
Advice for incoming law students:
I feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to attend law school and pursue a legal career, and I would not have had this opportunity without the help of others. After all, I am the product of my family, friends, and mentors. Ultimately, you become a product of who you surround yourself with and what you focus your energy on. So, my advice to incoming law students would be to identify who is in your support group and look to them in adverse times. Also, create small accomplishable goals that lead to your overall goal. This helps to build confidence and lead to success. Lastly, view setbacks as a lesson and an opportunity for improvement and growth.
Fort Collins, Colorado
I am the proud granddaughter, niece, and child of migrant farmworkers, semi-truck drivers, and construction workers. I’ve learned more lessons in a field full of cebollas (onions) or on a construction site than in most classrooms. My partner, parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, siblings, and cousins are my greatest teachers and most trusted guides.
I’ve had the privilege of watching my parents achieve their dreams since I was a young girl. My sister and I would play with toys under my mom’s desk when she was getting her master’s degree. My dad graduated with his bachelor’s degree when I was in fourth grade. I was in 7th grade when he graduated from the University of Wyoming College of Law, and I saw my future too.
My parents taught me it is never too late to seek your purpose, that life is yours to craft, and to always, always give back at least twice as much as you’ve received.
I found my place here at the College of Law by finding the people who care about the same things I do, who come from similar backgrounds, and who seek opportunities that align with my values. I am thankful for my friends and colleagues in the Defender Aid Clinic who teach me so much. I am motivated by the strong professionals who mentor me, support me, and encourage me to be a fair, honest, and powerful advocate – Professor Lauren McLane, Professor Jacquelyn Bridgeman, and Professor Autumn Bernhardt.
The Defender Aid Clinic is one of the longest-running clinics at the College of Law and has a deeply-rooted history of pride in zealous criminal defense work. My father worked for the DAC when he was in law school under Diane Courselle’s brilliant leadership.
I have been honored to serve my clients, community, and clinic as the Student Director of the Defender Aid Clinic. The work I’ve had the privilege to take part in with dedicated colleagues and the clients who have trusted us with their stories, futures, and freedoms humble me and fuel my fire for impassioned advocacy.
In my 2L year, I had the privilege to travel to Atlanta, Georgia, and Montgomery, Alabama, with the Defender Aid Clinic. We participated in the Black Doctoral Network with Dr. Frederick Douglass Dixon from the UW Black Studies Center on campus where we learned from and presented with brilliant professionals from a variety of careers and paths. We visited some of the most precious places in the legacy of the Civil Rights era and in the fight for Black liberation, such as the Ebenezer Baptist Church, the Selma bridge, and the National Memorial for Peace and Justice.
Advice for incoming law students:
One of the best pieces of advice I received is to identify goals that have nothing to do with academics, such as getting in sunlight every day, doing something every week that has nothing to do with law school, and maybe not caring about your rank. Grades are important, but it’s just as important to remember why you decided to come to law school — to become a lawyer — and that great grades do not always equate to a being good attorney. Consider what a great attorney looks like to you and find goals that align with that image.
My advice to incoming students, especially to my historically marginalized, LGBTQIA2S+, low-income, neurodiverse, or otherwise “othered” comrades, is never forget who you are and where you come from. You and your community got you here, and that is what will get you through. Listen to your intuition, make healthy choices, and keep your priorities straight. These may seem like simple pieces of advice, but the environment of law school can be influencing and taxing. You do not have to be anyone but you. In fact, this profession needs exactly you!
Colorado Springs, Colorado
Being involved in activities outside of classes has helped me find my place at the University of Wyoming. The people I’ve met here have turned into lifelong friends!
I’ve been volunteering with the College of Law Family and Child Legal Advocacy Clinic for the past year, mainly translating, and I was recently hired to start as their 2L legal assistant after this semester. I am the secretary of John Burman Student Government; and as the fundraising chair of Equal Justice, I am in charge of all the law school merchandise. I also have a job as a contract paralegal working with immigration attorneys focused on humanitarian visas.
My upbringing as an immigrant, by immigrant parents, has come with a lot of challenge and has vastly shaped where I want to go with my career. It gave me the heart I have now for advocating for minorities and the marginalized.
I chose UW because my family is in Colorado. I wanted to stay close to them but also venture out on my own. The class sizes, cost and location were what ultimately helped me choose UW.
My education means everything to me, because it will allow me to make a difference in something I am passionate about. This isn’t going to be easy, but I believe if it is what you want, it is doable. Dean Hoyt and Dona Playton have been a great support team and mentors!
I found a passion in helping my community through immigration law. The level of gratitude I get from people I help is equally humbling and fulfilling.
When I started law school, I had my mind set on becoming an immigration attorney. I still want to eventually practice immigration and international law, working for the government abroad. However, now I have decided after graduating, I will begin the process to become a JAG (Judge Advocate General’s Corps) officer. I haven’t decided what branch of the military yet, but this summer I will be doing an Air Force JAG Corps externship, and that will help me make that choice.
I balance law school with cooking and hiking. From 30 minutes to an hour, I enjoy anything outdoors with my dogs—and in Laramie, we have a lot of great options.
Advice for incoming law students:
Don’t get lost in comparing yourself with your peers. The way everyone around you is learning might not work for you, and that’s perfectly okay. Keep in mind when it comes to classes that you aren’t only taking the subject but you're also taking that professor, so go to office hours and ask for guidance. They will help you get there.
Redondo Beach, California
I have long been called to Wyoming. Despite growing up on the beach in Southern California, the wilds and open spaces of the Intermountain West have called to my heart for as far back as I can remember. My grandpa was from Riverton, Wyoming, and I grew up hearing his stories of an adventurous and resourceful life. My young heart painted Wyoming as a mysterious place where cowboys still existed, and where Indians lived. Now having seen much of the place, I can’t say I was wrong.
I never imagined that I would go to law school. When I told my sister I was thinking about it, she laughed at the idea of me being stuffed into a suit and having to behave myself in front of a judge. I laughed with her. I wasn’t sure I wanted to be a lawyer. What I had become convinced of, though, was that I wanted the education.
I am a person who is strongly driven by sense of place. I care a lot about this planet we call home. As I’ve matured, I’ve learned that my passion for the Earth is something I can rely on about myself — I will always care about it. I wanted a legal education because I want to be part of the conversations and decisions about our land. A JD is a powerful tool to bring to those conversations.
The University of Wyoming was recommended to me as a place with a great focus on environmental law. I have found that to be absolutely true. For such a small law school, our faculty represents a good variety of interests. All elective classes come and go, but at UW the environmental law corner sits strong. We have professors who are national experts in public lands, water law, and oil and gas. Participating in their classes and other opportunities they facilitate has opened doors for me. The things we are working on here are important and influence the future of environmental law. In many ways, the West is kind of its own country, and Wyoming continues to be a central figure in its development.
I have taken my focus on environmental law a step further by enrolling in one of the law school’s joint degree programs. While earning my JD, I am also working on a master’s degree in Environment and Natural Resources. The law school partners with the Haub School, the College of Business, and the College of Arts & Sciences here on campus to facilitate their joint degree programs. I am very grateful for my affiliation with the Haub School. I lovingly say that they are the hippies and dirtbags here on campus, and it is there that I find people who dress like me.
People of the Haub School believe you can work hard and still do good without having to give up your humanity. My classes with them have allowed me to dive deeper into environmental current events and get involved with real projects across the state. Having a master’s degree in ENR puts another tool in my toolkit and allows me to point to something concrete when discussing my knowledge of and passion for the land.
For me it a is a privilege to be a resident of this state. The work I am involved with is important and shaping the future of the West. I am constantly meeting new people who are working hard to better their corner of the world. I can’t wait to join them.
Advice for incoming law students:
I’d like to say that anyone thinking of going to law school should understand that law schools in general attract ambitious, competitive, and self-serious types. When you put a bunch of people like that together, it can be an intense experience. That being said, one of my favorite things about UW is we are somewhat of an exception to that stereotype. Pokes* know not to take themselves too seriously and that it’s better to foster a culture of comradery and support. After all, you never know when you’re going to get stuck up a creek with a broken bridle and a bloody nose.
*Besides being the Wyoming Cowboys, we are also known as the Pokes (as in cowpokes).
I’m interested in practicing law within the Rocky Mountain region in the areas of environmental law and Federal Indian law. Specifically, I hope to work with and for tribal communities in the protection of tribal sovereignty.
During the summer of 2022, I took a study-abroad course called “Stealing Culture.” On that trip we visited Scotland, London, and Greece. While in London, I was able to visit my great-great-grandfather’s headdress which has been held by the British Museum. I’m extremely proud of that moment and thankful for the opportunity. It solidified my belief in the reasons I’m in law school and has encouraged me to continue to keep pushing so that I can someday uplift my community through the work I do.
Law school is a different environment than undergrad. I found it challenging battling the imposter syndrome that can sometimes manifest into negative self-talk and self-doubt. But I found support in a close-knit group of friends and realized I wasn’t alone, that a lot of my peers were feeling just as lost as I was. We all encourage and uplift each other.
I also found other law students who are mothers, and that connection meant a lot to me because being a law student and a mom can be challenging. It was nice to find other moms who relate to the same struggles I often face balancing my coursework and motherhood.
Also, I’ve had a couple of great mentors — Celyn Whitt and Cristina Salazar — successful women of color who were already navigating law school. And I appreciate the support I’ve received from Dean Hoyt and Professors Jason Robison, Darryl Jackson, and Lauren McLane, as well as Dr. Jackie Bridgeman. They’ve all encouraged me to stay on the path I’m on and have reminded me of my strengths and abilities.
The clubs I’ve joined have reinforced a feeling of community here, and I’ve been asked to be involved in other events that have highlighted who I am and the work I’ve been doing.
I am the Secretary for the Wyoming Wellness Advocates, the mental health club at the law school. We try to provide support for all law students, because law school is stressful. We’ve done meditation events, “venting” events, and events that allow us to get together and just have fun.
I’ve also been involved in the Native American Education, Research, and Cultural Center on campus, and I’ve sat on a few panels, one regarding Native voices in the National Park System and one focusing on the work I’ve been doing in repatriation.
UW offers a lot of great environmental law courses taught by some of the best professors. I’ve done an externship with the Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources with Temple Stoellinger. I worked a summer with her on international wildlife law where I researched laws around wildlife conservation in specific countries. I have also been offered a clerkship position with the Native American Rights Fund in Boulder, so I’ll be spending the summer of 2023 there, focusing on issues that are important to Native Americans throughout the country.
I chose UW because it is close to my hometown of Ethete, which is on the Wind River Indian Reservation. I can go back and forth between home and Laramie more often, which is important to me because I am so connected to my community. Going home always fills my cup and rejuvenates me.
In Laramie, I enjoy spending time with my daughters. We like to go to the theater and watch movies and going out to enjoy boba and cupcakes downtown. I also really enjoy spending time with my friends outside of law school, and I actively participate in the events that happen within the Native community on campus.
Advice for incoming law students:
My advice for incoming students is to show yourself grace. Take care of your mental health and know that it is okay to rest. Believe in yourself and your abilities!
Los Angeles, California
I am a military veteran; I was recently deployed to Kuwait and returned two weeks before law school in 2022. Moving from Arizona to Wyoming and settling in before class began was a logistical nightmare. Thank you, Zillow, for helping me find a place!
Going through law school alone would be challenging, but networking can sometimes be tricky. Still, I’ve found that a community forms whenever a group struggles. Also, caffeine solves (and worsens) all problems. At the UW College of Law, the professors have all been accommodating. I’ve never had a professor who wasn’t willing to carve out time to help me; you merely have to reach out to them.
After graduation, I aim to commission with the United States Air Force as a JAG officer. JAG is the Judge Advocate General’s Corps, which entails being an attorney and an officer in the military. I’ll intern at F.E. Warren Air Force Base in Cheyenne this summer.
I’ve served active duty worldwide, which allowed me to see that children everywhere all have the same smile.
Advice for incoming law students:
I recommend doing something enjoyable before starting law school because it will be a bumpy ride for a few years. Blasting loud music while cooking is my stress relief.
Cristina Salazar (left) and Jessie Salas were awarded the University of Wyoming College of Law Brimmer Scholarship for 2022-2023. It is the college’s most prestigious scholarship, honoring the career and service of Judge Clarence A. Brimmer of the U.S. District Court for the District of Wyoming. In his observations on the legal profession, Brimmer stated, “The serious law student must…make excellence his or her foremost endeavor.”
Cristina says even as a Division I athlete and member of the soccer team that won the University of Wyoming’s first soccer conference championship in 2018, her goal was always to attend law school. "From the time I was a child, my grandpa instilled in me the phrase ‘para nuestra gente,’ ‘for our people.’”
“I come from a family where none of my grandparents graduated high school and neither of my parents went to college,” she says. “As a first-generation Mexican-American woman, I understand the weight of ‘for our people.’ It means to strive for all the people who have never had a seat at the table.”
In her first year, Cristina served as the representative to the American Inns of Court, an association of lawyers, judges, and other legal professionals dedicated to serving the law and seeking justice. She also worked as a research assistant at the George W. Hopper Law Library at the College of Law and as an extern for Judge Tori Kricken of the Albany County District Court. She served as an article editor for the 2022-2023 Wyoming Law Review and held leadership roles with Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity and OutLaw, the student organization for LGBTQ awareness and advocacy.
The greatest test of her commitment came in her 1L year: “The day before my first law school final ever, my favorite person in the world, my beloved grandpa passed away from COVID. I woke up the next morning with my grandpa’s phrase ringing in my ears and I began my first final. That phrase played on repeat throughout the week as I finished my finals while writing his eulogy.”
“I am honored to have been selected as a Brimmer Scholar. I could not have accomplished this without the love and support of my family and friends.”
During law School, Cristina worked as a summer associate at the Denver office of global law firm Holland & Knight, LLP.
Playing cello was an unusual path for a 12-year-old girl from an Hispanic neighborhood in Pueblo. “I practiced every day and dove headfirst into the music of Bach, Brahms, and Mozart.”
Jessie recalls a “rude awakening” during her first semester at Colorado State University when she realized how far behind the other students she was in both music and general classes.
“At first, I turned inward. I avoided making friends, my grades slipped, and I considered dropping out altogether. Then came my second rude awakening: I would either fail or take charge of my success.”
Jessie went on to earn a Bachelor of Music degree from Colorado State and followed that with a Master of Cello Performance from the University of Wyoming. On May 19, 2022, her legal and musical worlds converged when she presented a cello performance at the Yellowstone National Park 150th Anniversary Symposium in Cody, Wyoming, an event organized by the UW College of Law and the UW Haub School of Environment and Natural Resources.
Says Jessie, “Previous Brimmer scholar Celyn Whitt was my mentor, and I have taken what she taught me and tried to pass that on to incoming first-year students. Being a mentor for younger law students has been fulfilling.”
Jessie is a member of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division. She is vice president and founding member of the Wyoming Sports and Entertainment Law Club and has served as the research editor for the 2022-23 Wyoming Law Review. She was one of ten summer associates at Sherman & Howard, LLC, a Denver-based firm serving national clients from nine offices in Colorado, Arizona, New Mexico, and Nevada.