Law Student Limelight: Kellie Manders, Arizona State University Law


LAW SCHOOL: Arizona State University, Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law


UNDERGRADUATE: B.A. in Psychology and Sociology, University of Colorado, Boulder

HOME: Boulder, Colorado

Kellie Manders may be the quintessential experiential learner: She devises the experiences from which she knows she’ll learn.

The Boulder, Colo., native committed to law school while studying psychology and sociology in college, after taking a sociology course that examined retributive versus restorative justice and the high level of incarceration in the United States.

“I was an undergraduate shooting for the stars,” Manders, a 3L at Arizona State University – Sandra Day O’Connor College of Lawsaid in a telephone interview. “I thought I’d go to law school, become a defense attorney and reform the entire system.”

Interning at the Boulder County District Attorney’s Office altered her course while firming her resolve. “I appreciated how the assistant district attorneys focused on what was just, what would remedy the situation,” she explained. “They didn’t try for the harshest judgment, the longest incarceration. They wanted what was right for this person and circumstance.” She started considering a career as a prosecutor one day.

Still, with her mother a nurse and her father working at the time for an ambulance company, Manders said she needed to put her interest in health and medicine in its place.  Assisting doctors and nurses on a medical mission to women in Nepal did just that. “Many of the women walked – in one case a hundred miles – for hysterectomies and other surgery they couldn’t otherwise afford,” Manders said. “It opened my eyes to so many things we take for granted in the U.S., like access to quality medical care.”

The experience, she said, also confirmed that while she didn’t have the motor skills for precision surgery, with a law degree she would have the wherewithal to repair a small part of the world in another way. “I could help ensure that policies are in place to promote patient access to medical care and to hold doctors, nurses and other medical professionals accountable for the care they deliver,” she said.

LAWDRAGON: What were key factors you used to choose a law school?

KELLIE MANDERS: I have to admit that I had both shallow reasons and practical, substantive reasons for looking where I did and choosing as I did.

I knew to begin with that in attending law school, I would need to push myself out of Colorado, outside my comfort zone. To do that, I could go someplace semi-close or really far away. I wanted a city school, but a city that spread out, like Boston, not up like New York. I understand myself well enough to know that I thrive in that kind of city culture and space.

I was very conscious of looking for the place where I wanted to settle down and build my career. In researching schools I was always thinking, “This is where I’m going to create my contacts, where I’ll establish my network. Can I see myself living and working here comfortably for many years to come?”

The initial result of all this led me to Arizona and to Boston, Massachusetts. Now, here’s the shallow part of the reason I chose Arizona: the weather. Trekking to school in sleet and snow? I’ve done that. I really thought that I could use a healthy dose of warmth and sunshine. The substantive reason for zeroing in on Arizona State was its Center for Law, Science and Innovation.

ASU has amazing clinics, externship opportunities and class offerings. But some might argue that so do the other Arizona law schools. What the others don’t have is the center.

Almost everything I’ve done during my years here is linked to it. I’m a center scholar; the two certificates I’m earning are center-based programs. I worked for the center’s Public Health Law and Policy Program from my 1L summer through my 2L year. I’m currently executive notes and comments editor for Jurimetrics: The Journal of Law, Science and Technology. I landed an externship at Phoenix Children’s Hospital’s Office of General Counsel. I’m the former president of the Health Law Society and am currently its treasurer. And I’m able to connect with amazing alumni in my area of interest all because of the center.

LD: What do you wish you’d known about law school before enrolling?

KM: I thought that law school is similar to graduate school in that you finish your schooling and then start working in the real-world settings. Thank heavens I did enough research to realize that law school is not three years during which you put off real life even for a nanosecond.

During law school you are constantly searching for jobs and opportunities. Each semester you are applying for a new experience. Each summer you are working. You work hard and study hard from Day 1 through graduation. As I said, I did learn this before I actually started law school. I simply wish I had known it far earlier.

I also wish I would have known that not all law schools are as competitive as many in the media and and a number of practicing attorneys portray them. At ASU, we work together and we have each other’s backs. There is still competition, but it’s not at the expense of one another.

LD: What has been your most memorable or valuable experience?

KM: I have had many memorable experiences including participating in student organizations, law review, research clusters, pro bono groups and volunteer events. The most valuable experience I have had in law school was working with the Phoenix Children’s Hospital Office of General Counsel. That solidified the fact that I want to work in health law and, ultimately, as general counsel for a hospital or healthcare company.

At Phoenix Children’s Hospital, I was able to use the knowledge I gained from my health law classes and apply it to my work. For example, Phoenix is a research hospital. Because I had taken an intellectual property course that dealt with issues of patent protection, I was able to develop a training program for physicians that instructed them on the hospital’s intellectual property rights regarding anything patentable that they create and how they can protect/safeguard their own rights to whatever they create.

I’m forever in debt to my supervisors and the externship program for providing me with such a fulfilling opportunity.

LD: Sounds as if you know what you want to do with your law degree. Did that goal change since your 1L year?

KM: You’re right. I know that I’d like to work in the health law field, possibly starting at a firm with a health law section; a healthcare, pharmaceutical or insurance company; or doing compliance or regulatory work. As I said before, ultimately I would love to be general counsel for a hospital.

My plans have changed slightly since I started law school. I came to ASU thinking I want to focus on criminal prosecution or health law. I took the opportunities available to me and worked externships at the Maricopa County Attorney’s Office and Phoenix Children’s Hospital. It wasn’t simply that I saw myself working successfully in health law. After watching the Maricopa lawyers captivate juries and judges, I realized that I don’t have that kind of, well, performance or acting ability.

The only way I could have determined that was actually working at a prosecutor’s office and seeing what the day-to-day work was like. That is another great thing about all the opportunities and encouragement and support available at ASU: Sometimes you use them to cross things off your list of what you want to do, rather than add to the list of what you think you might do.

Each class I take here, each attorney I meet and each experience I have inspires me to seek more knowledge, to push harder, to change the world. I am grateful for all that ASU has provided for me.

Contact Margot Slade at (646) 722-2623 or