The Students Behind the Marquette Law Mentorship Program

This is the fifth in a continuing series of weekly blog posts this semester about the work of Marquette Law School’s Office of Student Affairs. The opening post, like this one by Dean Joseph Kearney, can be found here; subsequent posts can be found here, here, and here.

Students at fall 2024 MLM event
MLM’s Fall 2024 Kick-Off Event. Photo courtesy of MLM Co-chair Isaiahs Luna.

Mentorship is a word that is heard a lot in the legal profession. Whatever else might be required for successful mentorship, it takes work to create an environment in which real relationships can form and appropriate counsel is offered and received.

Without doubting that there is much mentorship at the Law School, the Office of Student Affairs has assumed a particular portfolio in this sphere, with a good deal of the work being done by the student co-chairs of the Marquette Law Mentorship (MLM) Program. Under the leadership of Assistant Dean Anna Fodor, the office started the program in 2017, on the premise that if we should have a well-organized program, supported by the Office of Student Affairs and led each year by a pair of dedicated, skilled, and community-oriented upper-level students, the program would have a pretty good shot at succeeding.

So who better than this year’s MLM co-chairs, third-year students Isaiahs Luna and Courtney Tarnow, to describe the program and some of the behind-the-scenes work that goes into it? Here’s an interview of sorts, lightly edited, with Isaiahs and Courtney. Permit me as dean to extend my deep and sincere thanks to them—and to all of our past MLM co-chairs—for the time and work they have put into building, growing, and sustaining this important program at Marquette Law School.

In your words, what is the Marquette Law Mentorship Program?

Isaiahs: The Marquette Law Mentorship Program is a community-focused mission to foster professional and personal relationships within the Law School. The program allows upperclassmen and women to provide unique guidance that is personal to the first-year law student. The pairings are based on interests in the law, hometowns, and extracurricular activities, just to name a few factors.

Courtney: The Marquette Law Mentorship Program is an initiative designed to connect first-year law students with their upper-level peers to provide guidance, support, and camaraderie during their law school journey. Mentors offer insights, advice, and encouragement to their mentees, helping them adjust to the demands of law school and integrate into the greater law school community.

Overall, MLM aims to foster a sense of community and collaboration among law students, while also providing valuable peer support to allow first-year students to thrive both academically and personally during their time at Marquette.

Can you please describe your role as a co-chair of MLM?

Courtney: As an MLM co-chair, my role involves overseeing and coordinating various aspects of the mentorship program to ensure that the program is a success. Throughout the summer and fall semester, I worked closely with both my co-chair, Isaiahs, and Dean Fodor to advertise the program, train mentors, pair mentors and mentees, and schedule our Kick-Off Event.

Isaiahs: As co-chair of the Mentorship Program, there is a collaborative effort between you, your co-chair, and Dean Fodor. With Dean Fodor, we scheduled the Kick-Off Event and provided training for mentors. This was to ensure that mentors could provide the best guidance for first-year law students. We advised the mentors of the various resources that Marquette Law has available to students, and we had the potential mentors examine hypothetical situations a mentor might come across.

Of course, the most fun aspect of our role as co-chairs is to make the pairings. Courtney and I reserved a seminar room and, working from the forms that the students submitted, paired all the students who had signed up to participate in the program. It was a long process (around 12 hours), but we wanted to make sure everyone’s pairing was as perfect as it could be.

Community-building organizations must be energizing for you to enjoy the process and make them a success. Despite the long hours, we left that day even more excited for the program to get underway.

When matching mentors with mentees, what qualities or interests did you prioritize?

Isaiahs: Before anything else, I always checked if the mentor/mentee requested a certain characteristic or quality about their potential mentor/mentee in their form (for example, a 1L might request that their mentor be a person of color with a similar background). Next, I wanted to make sure out-of-staters were paired together (say, California mentors with California mentees) so they could begin to find a new community in Wisconsin right away. Then, I focused on the type of law the student was interested in. This was followed by taking into consideration any student organizations the first-year student wanted to be a part of.

Courtney: There were several qualities and interests that we prioritized while matching mentors and mentees to ensure there would be successful and meaningful connections. As Isaiahs mentioned, to start, we looked at the specific mentor and mentee requests. For example, some students requested not to be paired with someone specific because they already knew them well, or some students requested that their mentor be from out of state because they were also from out of state. After we paired up everyone who had made specific requests, we typically looked at interests such as area of law, student organizations, and other non-academic interests.

What was the hardest part about the matching process?

Courtney: The hardest part of the matching process was trying to balance and to work with the various information we had, to ensure everyone had the best match possible. In some instances, based on how much a student had provided, we had very little information to work with. That made it somewhat difficult to ensure that we were making a good pairing.

Isaiahs: I completely agree. The hardest part about the matching process really was the lack of diversity in some answers. To provide an example, there were many people who listed transactional law as the type of law they wanted to practice, but they did not provide any other information about their interests or background. So when all the transactional-law-interested mentees were paired up, we had a tough time pairing up transactional-law-interested mentors who had not provided additional information, beyond their interest in that practice. For students interested in participating in the future, we especially encourage them to share some further information about what makes them unique—from a random hobby to their major in college.

What do you hope mentees get out of MLM?

Isaiahs: At a minimum, a connection—whether professional or social. I think a connection is important to start law school. I continue to keep in contact with my mentor, who’s now graduated, and she continues to guide me throughout law school. More importantly, she has become a friend for life.

Courtney: The one thing I hope that every mentee gets out of their participation with MLM is a stronger sense of belonging and connection within the law school community. One of my favorite things about Marquette is that we have such a strong, collaborative community of students, faculty, staff, and alumni, and I hope that through MLM, mentees are able to feel like they truly belong here, right from the start.

What do you hope mentors get out of MLM?

Courtney: I hope that mentors will, first and foremost, experience personal satisfaction from their participation in MLM. Additionally, I think being a mentor is a great way to develop leadership and communication skills, expand your personal network, and contribute to enhancing the law school community.

How do you think the law school community, as a whole, benefits from the program?

Isaiahs: A sense of community. Given how interconnected the Milwaukee legal market is, it is important we establish a positive community from the first chance we have—and that starts at law school.

Courtney: The law school community as a whole benefits from MLM in a few significant ways. First, MLM cultivates a culture of support and collaboration within the Law School by facilitating relationships between students. Second, MLM promotes networking and relationship building. Mentors and mentees can develop meaningful connections beyond the mentorship relationship and allow for a network among current and future legal professionals. Third, MLM helps promote professional development for both mentors and mentees.

What has been your favorite part of serving as an MLM co-chair?

 Courtney: My favorite part about serving as an MLM co-chair has been the successful matches. There is nothing that makes me happier than seeing mentors and mentees together at school, getting dinner together, going to bar review, etc.

Isaiahs: I have to agree with Courtney. It’s the successful matches. When people come up to me and say, “Hey, I really loved my [mentor/mentee],” it brings me so much joy.

Any parting thoughts as you prepare to graduate?

Isaiahs: I cannot thank Dean Fodor enough for her belief in me. I look back to my 1L year, and I look back with joy and awe at all the opportunities I have come across. And, truly, it starts with Dean Fodor. Her unwavering support throughout my time here will never be forgotten. I would not be where I am without her (I almost transferred back to California), and I only wish to give back to the Marquette Law community as much I received. I am grateful.

Courtney: As I prepare to graduate, I’ve reflected a lot on my time at Marquette, both for undergrad and law school. Marquette has provided me with so many amazing experiences, and I can’t thank Dean Fodor enough for giving me the opportunity to participate in MLM, as a mentee, mentor, and now as co-chair. This process was so challenging but also so rewarding, and I am grateful to have been a part of it.

Continue ReadingThe Students Behind the Marquette Law Mentorship Program

By the Students, For the Students

This post, by the Assistant Director of Student Affairs, is the fourth in a series of weekly blog posts this semester concerning the work of the Office of Student Affairs. The first, by Dean Kearney, can be found here, and the second and third, by Assistant Dean of Students Anna Fodor, are available here and here.

FGP's 2023 First-Gen Mixer Photo
First Generation Professionals’ fall 2023 First-Gen Mixer at Third Street Market Hall. Photo courtesy of Emily Kehl, president of FGP.

Student organizations are a staple at educational institutions, including Marquette University Law School. These organizations offer students opportunities to form their own smaller communities within a larger institution. Here at Marquette Law School—whether driven by a particular practice area, an aspect of students’ personal identity, or a legal philosophy—student-run organizations offer a way for future Marquette lawyers to build connections with their peers and beyond. It might even surprise some to learn how much these “outside of the classroom” interactions shape a student’s development, contribute to identity formation, and can affect student retention and performance.[1]

Registered student organizations[2] are the one aspect of the law school experience run by students, for students. They are completely voluntary and extracurricular, with no academic prescriptions or curricular incentives for holding or attending events (on the other hand, free food, no mean incentive, is widely available); the interests and activities of students entirely drive these communities. Through them, students help create the “culture” at a particular school. How active (or inactive) an organization is, what it chooses to do, which speakers it brings to campus, how inviting and inclusive its programs are—all of these affect a law school’s culture and the student experience.

Let me give a quick highlight of our Marquette Law School student organizations and some representative engagement opportunities:

  • 35+ active organizations
  • 80+ meetings, speakers, panels, socials, and networking events during the Fall 2023 Semester
  • 150+ student leadership positions

Forum “tabling” events are quick and small ways by which students can engage with each other, with a fun “swing by for a few minutes” vibe; a few examples:

  • The Organization for Student Wellbeing’s Savor the Sips social tabling
  • Hispanic Latino Law Students Association’s monthly Taco Tuesday fundraiser
  • Student Bar Association’s Welcome Back donuts

For organizations that host a guest speaker or panel of speakers, each event brings in practicing attorneys, judges, or experts in their field to discuss legal issues. Recent examples include:

  • Labor and Employment Law Society’s AI and the Workforce panel
  • The Federalist Society’s speaker event with the Hon. Michael Brennan discussing Biden v. Nebraska and federal student loan debt
  • Out and Allies speaker event to discuss LGBTQ+ Issues in Education

Social and networking events allow our students to build lasting friendships, meet practitioners, and gather outside of Eckstein Hall. At one point or another, almost all of our organizations host networking events with their professional chapter equivalents or local bar associations. A sampling of RSOs’ recent social and networking events:

  • Sports Law Society’s annual Brewers tailgate and game
  • Real Estate Law Society’s monthly happy hour
  • First Generation Professionals’ annual first-gen mixer
  • Asian Law Students Association’s fall boba tea gathering

And a few signature events get the entirety of the student body, often along with faculty and staff, involved, engaged, and feeling like part of our greater community. These include:

  • Canned Immunity, the collaborative week-long donation drive spearheaded by our Association for Women Lawyers to collect canned goods and food for local community food banks. Interested professors grant “on call” immunity during the week for students to bring in a donation.
  • The Period Products Initiative, led by the Ruth Bader Ginsburg Society and the Office of Student Affairs, provides free period products in the women’s bathrooms throughout the building. The students ensure that the boxes are filled while the Office of Student Affairs purchases and maintains the inventory.
  • Barristers’ Ball is the Student Bar Association’s annual signature formal event. It recognizes all the work put into the year by the students and provides a highlight to celebrate the end of another great year.

So, if all this is “by the students and for the students,” what do I even do around here?

Well, I work to make it all happen. At the beginning of each academic year, I provide training to the more than 150 student leaders, going over policies and procedures to help them think about and plan these events. Working with law school colleagues, I organize the students (or the events) so that we avoid major scheduling conflicts, reserve spaces for their meetings, coordinate complimentary parking for their guests, help track their budgets, and process reimbursements and payments, among other things. In my experience, you never get to know people better than by working on a project with them, and it’s one of my favorite things to get to see a new idea blossom into a successful community event (looking at you, SBA Chili Cook-off!)

Our student-run organizations foster connections and enrich our Law School, and we, in turn, do our best to support their efforts to reach their own goals. We do this because, ultimately, national research and local experience show that the more that our students engage with each other, the more they feel they belong to our law school culture—and, by extension, in the legal profession as a whole.

[1] Give Chickering’s seven vectors or Astin’s theory of involvement a good Google. They help form the foundation of student development theory.

[2] Registered student organizations (RSOs) are groups that are completely voluntary and where students do not receive any sort of academic credit for their work. So law journals, moot court, and client skills work typically fall outside this category. The Public Interest Law Society, by contrast to both these co-curricular organizations and RSOs, falls into what might be called a department-sponsored organization category.

Continue ReadingBy the Students, For the Students

A Closer Look at the Partisan Implications of Gov. Evers’ Proposed Maps

When the Wisconsin Supreme Court tossed the state’s legislative district maps in December 2023, they invited the legislature and governor to once more seek an agreement on state legislative maps. The Court also simultaneously solicited proposed remedial maps from the parties to the original court case—one of whom was Gov. Evers himself.

The Court ultimately accepted submissions from six parties, 4 liberal or Democratic and 2 conservative or Republican. Having had the chance to review all the proposals and fearing what the Court’s new liberal majority might do, Republican legislators suddenly found themselves in the unexpected position of supporting Evers’ own proposal. On February 13, both houses of the legislature passed Evers’ map submission, with near uniform Republican support and only one vote in each chamber from Democrats.

Republicans explained their sudden support for Evers map as simply picking the worst of several bad options. In Senator Van Wanggaard’s words, “Republicans were not stuck between a rock and hard place. It was a matter of choosing to be stabbed, shot, poisoned or led to the guillotine. We chose to be stabbed, so we can live to fight another day.”

As I write this, Gov. Evers has not yet signed these maps; although, he has indicated he likely will.

The differences between the partisan lean of Evers’ plan and the three other Democratic-aligned proposals are small but measurable. The Court’s consultants calculated separate partisan bias scores and mean-minus-median-gaps for each plan in their report. For each measure, Evers map is not the best (of the four) for Republicans in either house, but it does have the most favorable Republican score when averaged across both houses.

The consultants also calculate each plan’s “majoritarian concordance,” or the reliability with which it converts an electoral majority into a legislative majority. Considering both houses across 13 statewide races since 2016, the Evers map fails the majority concordance standard 6 times—all in instances where a losing GOP candidate would’ve still won a majority of legislative seats.[1] No other plan fairs quite so well for Republicans.

Another benefit to Republicans is a small reduction in paired incumbents, relative to the other Democratic-aligned plans. The governor’s plan places 25 Republican Assembly incumbents into a district with another incumbent, compared to between 27 and 31 in the other plans. In the Senate, the Evers plan pairs 1 more Republican incumbent than the Senate Democrat’s proposed map, but fewer than either the Law Forward or Wright proposals.[2]

These partisan differences between the Democratic-aligned plans appear, if anything, smaller in the 2022 elections, when the Evers map would’ve performed very similarly to the Law Forward plan. The graphic below compares the partisan lean of the tipping point seat in each house under three different election scenarios.

partisan lean of the tipping point seat in the wisconsin legislature under various scenarios

The rightmost graph shows the share of the vote won by Tony Evers in his reelection campaign. Evers won the state by 3.4 percentage points, enough to give him a majority of the seats in both houses under all four of the Democratic-aligned proposals. (Note: These statistics cover all 33 state senate districts).

The middle graph shows the share of the vote won by Ron Johnson in his reelection campaign. Johnson won the state by one percentage point. That narrow victory would’ve won a majority of the seats in both houses under the Evers and Law Forward plans. Johnson still would’ve narrowly lost both houses under the plan submitted by the Wright Petitioners. Under the Senate Democrats map, Johnson would’ve won a majority of seats in the Assembly and lost a majority in the state senate.

Of course, state legislative races are decided by their own candidates—not top of the ticket races. We can’t simply add up state legislative votes in new districts, because many of the old races were not contested by both parties. Instead, I employ a statistical model using top-of-the-ticket races to estimate state legislative results, had both parties run candidates. The results of that model are shown in the leftmost graph. In general, state legislative Republicans did about 1 point better than Ron Johnson.

Indeed, under my modeled estimate of 2022 state legislative races, Republicans would’ve likely held a majority in every house of every plan, except for the state senate in the Senate Democrats proposal. (Again, this considers all 33 seats, not just the 17 odd-numbered districts being elected in 2022).

The 2022 result is not a prediction of 2024. The larger presidential electorate, heightened attention, greater fundraising, and variable incumbency effects may change the contours of those legislative races in consequential ways.

Still, these three election scenarios give a reasonable sense of the range of outcomes in recent Wisconsin elections. With that in mind, here are graphs showing the lean of each legislative seat under the Evers proposal compared with the previous map.

comparison of assembly seat margins

In these graphs, each tick mark shows the partisan lean of one seat. The larger, red tick mark shows the tipping point seat—the one that determines majority control. This is another way of visualizing the statistics I discussed above. In both houses, the tipping point seat was won by both Gov. Evers and Senator Ron Johnson in their 2022 reelection campaigns. State legislative Republicans did slightly better than Johnson, but even in that scenario, the tipping point seat is far more competitive than in any scenario under the old maps.

comparison of senate seat margins

Here is a greatly simplified version of the above graph. In these graphs, I have simply counted the number of seats leaning to each party by double and single digit margins, under each scenario. The first row shows the Evers map, the second row shows the previous maps.

assembly simple seat lean totals

Under the old maps, Ron Johnson won a double-digit victory in 55/99 Assembly districts and 19/33 Senate districts. That falls to 46 and 15, respectively, under the Evers proposal—short of a majority.

Under all three scenarios and in both houses, the Evers map creates a situation where majority control will be decided by a set of more competitive districts.

assembly simple seat lean totals

Click the image below to open an interactive map where you can view the Evers map and the previous district boundaries, with the districts shaded by my modeled 2022 legislative margin. For simplicity’s sake, the rest of this discussion will reference only that election scenario.

The Evers map creates 42 Assembly districts with a double-digit Democratic lean and 4 districts with a single-digit lean. Here are where those changes take place.

  • The south central region now includes 16 D-leaning seats, up from 12 previously. None of these are particularly competitive.
  • Racine/Kenosha now include 4 D-leaning seats, up from 3.
  • The Milwaukee metro includes 14 double-digit D-leaning seats, up from 13. The area retains 1 district with a single-digit Democratic lean.
  • The City of Sheboygan is unified, becoming a district with a single-digit Democratic lean.
  • Oshkosh/Neenah/Appleton are drawn to include 3 D-leaning seats, rather than 2.
  • The Eau Claire area is drawn to include 2 D-leaning seats, rather than 1.
  • Northwestern Wisconsin is redrawn to include one D-leaning seat, stretching along the coast from Superior to Ashland.
  • The La Crosse area is drawn to include 2 D-leaning seats, rather than 1.

To win a majority in November 2024 under the Evers map, Democrats could win all of the seats which lean toward them, plus four of the 7 districts with a single-digit Republican lean. The most likely targets include districts 61 (SW Milwaukee suburbs), 88 and 89 (both in the Green Bay area), and either 85 (Wausau) or 30 (Hudson).

Similarly, to win a majority in the state senate, Democrats would need to win the 10 seats with a double-digit Democratic lean, all 6 seats with a single digit lean in their favor, and one of the two seats with a single-digit Republican lean. Both of those seats are in the Milwaukee suburbs. District 21 stretches from Racine, through Oak Creek and Franklin, up to the southwestern part of the city. District 8 includes much of Milwaukee County’s north shore, as well as southern Ozaukee County.

Because only even-numbered districts will hold election in 2024, I see essentially no chance of Democrats winning a majority this November. However, Democrats have three likely pickup opportunities in 2024 with the Evers senate map—districts 14 (NW of Madison), 18 (Fox Valley), and 30 (Green Bay). Any one of these pickups would end the GOP supermajority in the upper chamber. Winning all of them will put the senate majority very much in play during the 2026 cycle.

[1] These races are Secretary of State 2022 and President 2020 among Assembly seats as well as AG 2018 and Governor 2018 among both Senate and Assembly seats.

[2] Incumbent pairing statistics are from page 13 of the Legislature’s response brief.

Continue ReadingA Closer Look at the Partisan Implications of Gov. Evers’ Proposed Maps