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Joseph F. Rice School of Law

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Betsy Bull explores the wilds of Alaska

"I applied to clerk in Alaska on a whim, and it ended up being the best decision I could have made."

What was your experience like attending USC School of Law?

Attending USC School of Law was both challenging and rewarding. It exposed me to a diverse group of individuals with whom I forged lasting friendships. While in law school, it often felt overwhelming to face fact patterns in different areas of the law which, as a student, I knew nothing about. However, I've quickly learned that it is the best practice for a legal career. On any given day, a client asks me questionsabout areas of the law that I did not even know existed. My education at USC School of Law prepared me to find the answers to those questions and best serve my clients.

What classes helped prepare you for career success?

Legal Writing and Research ("LRAW") and Advanced Evidence are two classes that I use skills from on a daily basis. My LRAW teacher took the time to meet with me on an individual basis and never hesitated to answer questions. Having such an attentive, knowledgeable professor shape and hone your legal writing skills is invaluable as a practitioner. I was one of three individuals from USC Law that clerked in Anchorage and my judge once remarked to me that at the annual Judge's conference, they decided that the USC School of Law's legal writing program must be top-notch. Another class that has assisted me in my career is Advanced Evidence taught by Judge Few. In part of my practice, I often represent banks and credit unions in bench trials. Understanding how the Rules of Evidence operate as a practical matter and as an academic matter often puts me at an advantage over other practitioners.

What has been the highlight of your legal career, so far?

The highlight of my legal career so far is a humorous tale. I represented a Longshoreman's Union on an appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court. At oral argument, the Appellant, who was unrepresented at the time, removed several of his false teeth to show the Justices. He also laid on the floor behind the podium and pantomimed how he lost those teeth. The Justices were unimpressed as the case was entirely unrelated to the loss of his teeth. Watching five Alaska Supreme Court Justices attempt not to crack a smile was the highlight of my legal career so far.

What is your favorite part of working in Alaska?

The legal community in Alaska is quite small, so I am afforded the opportunity to handle cases that I otherwise would not until I was a partner at a firm. For example, within my first six months of practice, I argued before the Alaska Supreme Court, tried cases, and handled my own cases. I work at the largest firm in Anchorage and we only have twenty attorneys, so there is a lot of opportunity to gain valuable experience in and out of the courtroom. Legal practice here is also laid-back. When it is 65 degrees and sunny on a Friday, most firms will close for the afternoon. I use that time to head to the mountains or go rock climbing. I firmly believe that as attorneys, we must have a good work-life balance. Otherwise, it is easy to be consumed by the law. There is always pressure to bill hours, but I try to leave at a decent hour each day to go hiking or cross-country skiing after work. I think that having that balance makes me a better advocate for my clients.

What would you say to students who want to follow your career path?

My best advice would be to take a chance. I applied to clerk in Alaska on a whim and it ended up being the best decision I could have made. During my interview for my clerkship, the judge mainly asked questions about how I planned to survive and enjoy winter. I couldn't answer any of his questions because I grew up in South Carolina. Most clerks in Anchorage graduated from Michigan, Lewis and Clark, Harvard, or Washington - all places that experience winter. Not only did I survive my first winter, but I decided to further my career in Alaska. Do not be afraid to deviate from the traditional career path for law graduates because it can turn out to be one of the most rewarding decisions of your life. One of the nice things about leaving South Carolina and taking a chance in Alaska is that I know that if I wanted to return, the Career Services Office is always willing to help alumni locate employment. It is reassuring knowing that I would not be on my own without any guidance if I left Alaska.

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