Law student becomes expert multi-tasker

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Cooley student is also WCC instructor, mom, volunteer

By Debra Talcott

Legal News

As if it were not enough to be a second-year Cooley Law student while working full time, Washtenaw Community College instructor Kimberly Shepherd is involved in Cooley's Moot Court program, where she serves as co-chair of the Educational Committee.

Her group sponsors the Ypsilanti High School Student Court, where students who have violated school policy have the opportunity to restore their positions within the school community. The program trains students in American Government classes to serve in the roles of clerk, bailiff, and jurors in the students' cases.

"I have loved working on that project and getting to know the students as they get a glimpse into the legal process," says Shepherd. "My involvement in this project has re-awakened my desire to work with community members and engage them with more knowledge about the law."

As a full time instructor at WCC and divorced mother of three, Shepherd takes advantage of the flexibility of Cooley's part-time program. She also appreciates that Cooley Law School's philosophy is in alignment with her own.

"The flexible schedule has been extremely helpful," says Shepherd, an Ann Arbor resident who attends the local Cooley campus. "However, one of the reasons I chose Cooley was for their commitment to education and the community."

Inspired to start law school by her long-time fascination with how the legal system works, Shepherd is eager to learn more about the development of our American political and legal systems.

"Over the years, I've become more interested in politics and the Constitution. I might also want to try for a career in politics once my kids are grown. Having the knowledge and ability of an attorney would help me realize these dreams."

An instructor at Washtenaw Community College since 2002, Shepherd currently teaches Composition II and African American Literature. She earned her bachelor's degree in English from Michigan State University, her master's in teaching reading and language arts from Oakland University, and her Ph.D. in educational leadership from Oakland. On track to receive her J.D. in 2015, Shepherd has not yet decided which area of the law will be her focus.

Shepherd is able to share with her students at Washtenaw how her training as an English teacher helps her take written exams, write briefs and memos, and, of course, read analytically. She inspires them to hone their own writing skills by explaining how her background in language arts has prepared her for law school and an eventual career in the law.

"The best part of teaching is watching my students grow," says Shepherd. "In just one semester, their writing can advance in such a pronounced way. I like to see them push themselves to try new ways of writing and researching."

And now Shepherd is taking on a leadership role in her department by working on a new course in legal research and writing that will introduce students to the intricacies of legal writing. This course will prepare them to write legal memoranda and briefs to be used by attorneys in practice. It will also teach them the differences between various legal sources and their persuasiveness to legal arguments.

"There has been talk of creating a pre-law program at WCC, so this writing course would be a requirement," she says. "It would also prepare students for a paralegal studies program, such as the one offered at Eastern Michigan University. I have designed the course after meeting with key players at EMU, so my hope is to earn curriculum approval and make the course available in the Winter 2014 semester."

Chair of the English Department at WCC, Carrie Krantz, considers the department fortunate to have Shepherd as a member.

"Kim has been a great asset to the department, taking on leadership roles with various projects," she says.

With papers to grade, papers to write, and a family to nurture, Shepherd is often asked for her "secret" to juggling her various roles and standing out as a leader in the process. Her response is not necessarily novel, but it is worth repeating:

"Be organized. Take care of your health. Realize that school is a marathon, not a sprint," Shepherd says. "I learned a long time ago that the only moment that truly matters in now and that being present is the single most-important gift we can give ourselves."

Published: Thu, Apr 25, 2013

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