February 12, 2013

Bakken Fellowship leads 3L Kate Speer to law clerk position

The Constance L. Bakken Fellowship program at Hamline University School of Law offers outstanding students a $3,000 stipend during both their second and third years of law school (for a total of $6,000) and the opportunity to perform scholarly research with a member of Hamline's distinguished faculty. Bakken scholars may provide research support for faculty, pursue their own self-directed research, or consider a combination of these two approaches.

In their first year in the program, most fellows develop their research and writing skills and hone substantive interests by assisting with faculty scholarship projects. In the second and final program year, fellows can continue supporting faculty-driven writings or opt to develop their own project by researching and producing a piece worthy of publication. Through all phases, the fellows work closely with faculty experts in substantive areas of mutual interest, and the associate dean assures appropriate progress toward fellowship goals.

While Kate Speer, Hamline Law 3L, navigates her way through her final semester of law school this spring, she can dedicate her full attention to her studies knowing she has already secured a position as a law clerk with the Minnesota Court of Appeals for next year – and she credits her Constance L. Bakken Fellowship for helping her obtain the job.

“I think my Bakken Fellowship helped me get the job with the Court of Appeals because Alice Silkey wrote me a great letter of recommendation,” Speer said. “The judge actually called her and talked through it. Alice told me that because we’ve done so much work together over a long period of time, she really knows me and could answer the questions.

“I think that was a really big help, instead of just having a professor write a letter, who doesn’t know you that well or doesn’t see you that frequently.”

Speer’s close relationship with Silkey, director of Hamline Law’s academic success program, is not unique as all Bakken fellows have the opportunity to work alongside Hamline Law faculty, providing research support on faculty scholarship projects. Silkey got to witness Speer’s work ethic and attention to detail firsthand when the two worked together on Silkey’s book project.

“Professor Alice Silkey is writing a book on humane-ness in legal education,” Speer explained. “She has drafts of the chapters, but I’ve been helping do some additional research and editing, moving things from chapter to chapter. I’ve helped with all of the footnotes and detail work.”

By working with Speer over the course of several months, rather than just classroom interaction during a semester, Silkey could truly speak to Speer’s capabilities.

This year, Speer is still providing Silkey with editorial assistance, and she is also working with Professor Mary Szto, who is writing an article on dual agency for real estate agents. Speer has helped research the state statutes on dual agency for all 50 states.

“I feel like I’ve developed really great relationships with those two professors,” Speer said. “I think it’s been a really great opportunity being able to work with members of the faculty in a way that you wouldn’t otherwise. I’ve really enjoyed meeting the other Bakken Fellows, too.”

In addition to facilitating great relationships, Speer’s Bakken Fellowship has helped alleviate the financial burden of law school. Receiving both a scholarship and a research stipend has allowed Speer to focus on her studies throughout law school – rather than needing to balance her studies with an additional job.

“The fellowship made it so that I don’t have to work,” Speer said. “During the school year, I like to focus on school. I’ve worked during the summers, but I haven’t worked during the school year and that’s been really great for me.”

Overall, Speer’s law school experience has been positive, and the Bakken Fellowship has certainly helped. A native of Moorhead, Minn., Speer is happy she chose Hamline Law.

“I ended up coming to Hamline because of the scholarship and the Bakken Fellowship,” Speer said. “Together, it seemed like a really great opportunity.

“I’ve loved law school. I really like the intellectual challenge. I’ve been really happy at Hamline.”