When we interviewed Karen Vaysman '17, she was getting ready for a 17-day trip to Japan, her last chance to travel before beginning her final year as a full-time day student at Chicago-Kent. She had just completed 10 weeks as a summer associate with the law firm of Reed Smith LLP and managed to squeeze in a quick trip to the University of Cambridge in England to present a scholarly paper with Distinguished Professor Richard Wright, with whom Karen has conducted extensive research as a student.
"The trip was surreal," she said. "I walked past a house with a sign that read ‘Charles Darwin lived here.' Meanwhile, to be among people whose work I had read about and cited and to present my ideas to them was wonderful."
Several scholars in her audience encouraged her to pursue legal academics, but Karen at this point has her sights set on litigation.
The first-generation Russian-American grew up in Northbrook (her parents emigrated from Ukraine). At the University of Miami, she double-majored in political science and public relations, a good combination for her.
"There was an aspect of communications I was really interested in," she recalled, "particularly strategic communication, so that's where PR came in."
Then her longtime interest in "rule of law issues and principles of democracy" moved to the forefront. Her interest in writing, awakened as an undergrad, led her to Chicago-Kent.
"I saw that Kent, like me, really valued writing," she said.
Legal writing, she soon realized, "is a whole different beast," so she appreciated Professor Elizabeth De Armond's clear direction in learning new ways of presenting legal material.
Participating in moot court honed those skills further. "You get a lot of appellate brief-writing experience and a lot of practice in how to present arguments."
Now an executive articles editor on the Chicago-Kent Law Review and a member of the Chicago-Kent Moot Court Honor Society, she also served as a judicial extern to the Honorable Judge Joan H. Lefkow in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Illinois as part of Chicago-Kent's Judicial Externship Program and as a teaching assistant to Professor Mark Rosen. Karen participates in the Kent Legal Scholars Program, which pairs top students with professors to focus on shared-interest research projects. Her research work with Professor Wright morphed into the paper she co-presented in Cambridge this summer.
At Chicago-Kent, Karen finds that faculty and career services staff "are constantly encouraging us to seek out externships, participate, and not get bogged down about things that don't matter. There are people here who truly want to help you succeed, who will reach out to people for you. It's just a wonderful place to be."