Fun Facts – Faculty Law School Experience Pt. 2: Meet Our New Professors!

Have you heard the news? Our #ILPfamily is growing! We’ve recently added three new members to our team. We asked Professor Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes, Professor Lawrence Roberts and Distinguished Visiting Indian Law Professor Stacy Leeds about their experience as law students and how they feel starting out at a new school. Here is their full responses to our questions.

Q: When did you start law school? What school did you attend?

Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes: I started law school in 1991 and I attended ASU Law.

Lawrence Roberts: Fall 1992. University of Wisconsin Law School.

Stacy Leeds: 1994. University of Tulsa for JD and University of Wisconsin for LLM.

Q: What do you remember from your first few days of classes? What were your emotions at the time?

Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes: I remember feeling intimidated and nervous. At the same time, I was very excited and very proud of myself for having made it to law school. It had been a dream for a long time and I was determined not to let my fear get the best of me.

Lawrence Roberts: I recall feeling incredibly excited to attend law school and at the same time feeling like a fish out of water. Incredibly excited because I realized that in a few short years I would better equipped to help those in need. At the same time, I was in a completely foreign setting. While some classmates’ parents or relatives were attorneys, no one in my extended family was a lawyer. I wasn’t quite sure what to expect, but I quickly learned that I wasn’t alone in that feeling.  

Stacy Leeds: I remember reading for hours and hours outside of class and then getting to class and feeling like I must have read the wrong case because I had no idea what the professor was talking about. I clearly did not know how to brief a case efficiently and pull out the right information.

I was very excited and simultaneously terrified.

Q: What are some of your fondest memories from law school?

Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes: Time with my classmates. The ILP Welcome Dinner, ILP study sessions, Friday nights out at Graham Central Station, barbeques with our friends at Brad’s house, our ILP graduation, and birthday celebrations on Mill Ave.  

Lawrence Roberts: Law school can be a bonding experience. Friendships formed during my first year continue to endure to this day. My fondest memories are of the professors that believed in me and pushed me to be better and the classmates that approached law school as a collaborative endeavor.  

Stacy Leeds: National NALSA moot court competitions – meeting NALSA students from around the country that remain my friends and colleagues today. Working on cases from the law school clinic. Turning the corner and becoming an effective writer/researcher during the law review process.

Q: If you could go back and give yourself advice on your first day, what would you tell yourself? What would you like to tell students who are just starting?

Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes: Plan for class prep to take about twice as long as you think it will. Find 2-3 favorite places to study and make them your home away from home. Stick to your study plan! The faculty want to help and are always happy to give feedback. After an exam take the time to talk to the faculty about what you did right and what you can improve on. Feedback is critical to your growth. First year is the hardest and will feel like it lasts the longest, but three years go by really fast. Remember to build and foster relationships with your classmates. Despite the competitive environment, law school is a community. The friendships you build while in law school will last a lifetime and even if you don’t “click” with someone, remember, you will be practicing law together, so be nice. You never know when your professional paths will cross and in what capacity.

Lawrence Roberts: Seek out your professors. They are teaching because they enjoy helping people and they want you to succeed. Stay prepared, but relax a bit. Sometimes you can overdo it and miss the forest for the trees.

Stacy Leeds: Go with the flow and realize that law school learning environment and process is not random. It is very intentional and there is a method to the madness that will eventually make sense and force you to grow. You will soon be surrounded by very smart people. Take a deep breath and realize that you are one of them. Enjoy the experience, even when it is hard. There is a tangible return on the work and passion investments you are making.

Q: As you’re now starting at a new law school (as faculty) what are your hopes for this year? What were your thoughts starting out and how do you feel now?

Ann Marie Bledsoe Downes: My hope for this year is to connect with our amazing students, help and mentor where I can and reconnect with the ILP administration and staff. I also hope that the launch of our new Indian Gaming and Tribal Self-Governance programs will build on the already phenomenal work of the ILP. I hope that tribal leaders and Indian Country find value in the educational opportunities we provide.

I’m nervous and excited. It is a similar feeling to that first day of law school. One of my favorite quotes is, “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Building a new program can be scary. It certainly is a challenge.  But, it is one that I welcome. We have tremendous support from Dean Sylvester and I’m thrilled to be working with Larry and the rest of the ILP team. It doesn’t get any better. 

Lawrence Roberts: My hopes include sharing with as many students as possible my experiences in working with and for Tribal Nations to address challenges through law and policy. I am honored to be part of the ASU team developing new groundbreaking programs focused on Indian gaming and Tribal self-governance. It’s exciting to be at the beginning of a road of possibilities and I’m looking forward to the journey.   

Stacy Leeds: I look forward to meeting a new group of people that will serve as the leaders in Indian country in the next generation. It is a treat for me to be around Indian law colleagues, a strong NALSA, and a supportive alumni base of Indian country difference makers.

The semester is going by too quickly. This has been a great intellectual shot in the arm for me. The energy in the ILP powerful.