The chief judge of the Kansas Court of Appeals said those who enter law school should try to obtain a broad-based education and be flexible.
"I would not encourge specialization," said Mary Briscoe, chief judge of the court of appeals since 1990.
Briscoe, 44, made the remark Wednesday at Kansas University, where she served as a panelist at a pre-law forum, sponsored by the advising support center of the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.
About 15 students attended the panel discussion, which focused on careers in law. Other panelists were Margie Wakefield-Green, a Lawrence attorney; Dennis Prater, director of the KU Legal Aid Clinic; and Shelley White, an assistant Douglas County district attorney.
Briscoe said that as an undergraduate student at KU, law school wasn't in her plans.
"I DID NOT plan to go to law school at all," she said. "That was quite unusual, especially among the other students . . . who had wanted to go for a long time."
Briscoe said that a wide variety of legal classes helped her as an attorney and judge because it gave her exposure to an entire spectrum of topics.
"If you have a broad-based education, it will allow you to go in a wide variety of fields, and it will open up more opportunities for you," she said.
In addition, Briscoe said changes in society have led to a greater variety of legal issues. She said growing legal areas include environmental law, sexual harassment and bankruptcy law.
"I think a lot of those are reflected in the economy, or in society as a whole," she said.
BRISCOE GRADUATED from KU in 1969 and from the KU law school in 1973.
She served 10 years with the U.S. attorney's office in Topeka before being named to the Kansas Court of Appeals by Gov. John Carlin in 1984.
She is one of 10 judges on the court, which she said hears about 1,400 cases a year and issues about 930 opinions each year. Briscoe said she writes her own opinions on the cases she hears.
In addition, she serves on the Kansas Bar Assn.'s Task Force on the Status of Women in the Legal Profession.
The task force will issue a report next year outlining several problems that women may find in legal professions in Kansas, Briscoe said.