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James LeVault

James LeVault

James LeVault has always been fascinated with the law. His interest grew during his time at the Department of Labor, and his work putting together cases for federal prosecutors showed him the value of the legal field while providing the confidence necessary to start law school. Mr. LeVault’s wife is a medical student, so they are able to support each other through the late nights and early mornings of studying.

What was your experience as a first-year student like? My first year was an incredible experience. The biggest take-away for me this first year was how much everyone wants you to succeed. Having that support from faculty, staff, and fellow students, you automatically gain a level of confidence that helps propel you through the first year.

Sum up your first year in one sentence. NIU Law offers an amazing opportunity to learn from world-class faculty.

What was the most rewarding part of your first year? Having spent over nine years working full-time between my undergraduate degree and the beginning of law school, I was very proud of how I was able to adjust to full-time schoolwork. Going into my first year, I wanted to make sure I got involved with activities on campus, while doing the best I could to maintain good grades. Looking back on this first year, I was able to maintain very good grades while being involved in a number of activities.

What was the most challenging part of your first year? Learning to read a judicial opinion and take away what is important was the most challenging part of my first year.

Why are you thankful you chose NIU Law? The NIU Law community is truly one large family. Additionally, the opportunities that I have received at NIU Law have been amazing.

What advice would you give to incoming first-year law students? Two pieces of advice that I would give first-year law students are to get involved in any and all activities that you are interested in (even some you may not think you are interested in) and to ask questions, especially of professors, if you do not understand something.

What activities are you involved in (both inside and outside of the law school)? For the 2016-2017 school year, I will be the president of the Public Interest Law Society; the vice president of the Delta Theta Phi law fraternity; and the treasurer of the Criminal Law Society. Additionally, I am a graduate assistant in the Office of Career Opportunities and Professional Development, a Lexis Associate, and am on the NIU Law Review.

What did you do this summer (externships, clerkships, internships, study abroad, etc.)? I completed an externship with the Honorable Frederick Kapala in the Western Division of the Northern District of Illinois.

What was your externship experience like? My experience as an extern was wonderful. Going into this position, I was not sure what a day in the life of a clerk for a federal judge was like. The clerks that I work with are truly amazing people who take great pride and go to great lengths to ensure that the law is applied appropriately. In these first few weeks I have had the opportunity to draft a few orders for the court, as well as sit in on a number of different court cases.

How did NIU Law prepare you to succeed in your summer position? The externship with Judge Kapala involves a great deal of reading and writing. My Basic Legal Research and Legal Writing courses both developed skills that I am using on a daily basis. I learned quickly at NIU Law that not being shy if you have a question is essential. The clerks that I am working with are very receptive to the idea of asking questions and talking out the cases before writing the orders; this was very similar to how all of my professors were. Additionally, in Civil Procedure, Professor Taylor really drove home the importance of understanding the rules. Every day in the judge’s chamber, I see the Rules of Civil Procedure at play and I am appreciative of the knowledge I gained from that class.

What is your goal after law school? My goal for after school is to work in the area of public service law, ideally having the opportunity to become a judge at some point in my career.

This interview was conducted in Summer 2016. 

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Undergraduate Institution:
Millikin University

Undergraduate Major: Political Science

Hometown: Stonington, Illinois

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