Jill Martin was lining up as a pre-medicine student when she came to UND from Jamestown, N.D.
Instead, she found her way through the School of Law and is marking down days to graduation in May. She has landed a position as a clerk in the North Dakota Supreme Court for Justice Carol Kapsner.
"The first year was the hardest," Jill told me when we visited the other day. "There's lots of reading in law school. Sometimes, classes get long. But good professors keep things from being too tedious."
In my wildest dreams, I might have been a lawyer. I have always been interested in the profession. So when invited as a guest judge for the annual chili contest at the law school, I branched out with questions.
When I asked Dean Kathryn Rand why anyone would want to be a lawyer, she replied it is a noble profession. And it's centered on service and the obligation to ensure a fair and just society.
While North Dakota is bucking a national trend of too many lawyers, she points out there is a lawyer shortage in North Dakota. Especially in the western part of the state and in rural areas all over the state there is a need for attorneys in all practice areas. Such as oil and gas, family law, business law, criminal law and estate planning.
According to the dean, it takes a strong work ethic and a commitment to put needs of the client first. You need to be persuasive and to solve problems.
Oh yes, and it takes money. For a North Dakota resident taking full time credits, it costs each of the three years around $11,000 in tuition and fees.
Martin had completed an undergraduate major in psychology before entering UND Law School. She applied before her final year of law school for the clerkship and was interviewed by the entire Supreme Court in Bismarck.
This weekend she planned to be scouting out places to live in the Capitol City. As spring turns to summer, she will be giving up her part time work in Grand Forks. She's been at the Morley Law Firm where she found Brad Beehler a really good mentor. "Always, giving feedback and providing practice tips," she said.
There are 240 students in the three-year school. And they got there through competitive tests. Around 65 will graduate in May.
Meanwhile, the lectures and reading go on. While the UND Law School is nationally accredited, there is a team coming in this spring from the American Bar Association for a regular assessment. And the school soon will have its second major renovation and addition project in its 100 years of existence. That was assured by an $11.4 million appropriation by the last legislature.
The law school had its beginnings in downtown Grand Forks. It moved into its present building in 1923.
Some of this year's crop of lawyers will stay in North Dakota. Like Jill Martin, many definitely want to stay here. As she says, "Close to family." Others have goals for faraway places. Among the graduates there is a growing number of Canadians.