Lucy Kates, 2L

Before coming to Michigan for a dual degree in law and social work, Lucy Kates spent two years investigating child abuse and neglect for Child Protective Services in Milwaukee. She was tasked with responding to referrals about a spectrum of problems, including physical and sexual abuse, at-risk teenagers involved with activities like sex trafficking, and parents with mental health or substance abuse issues.

Kates’ experience underscored the importance of good legal counsel as a safeguard to protect parents and children in a flawed system. “As a social worker, you often confront the same problems again and again, yet solutions can be limited if the problem is systemic,” she says. “Caseworkers are on the front lines, but lawyers are the ones interpreting the law and enforcing the legal standards and protecting people’s rights.” 

Michigan Law has allowed me to pursue a path that I am passionate about and that, in some small way, can make the world a better place.”

When she entered Michigan Law, Kates knew it would open the doors for great opportunities, which has already proven true. Working under faculty supervision in the 1L Advocacy Clinic, she was able to represent a seven-year-old as guardian ad litem in a custody proceeding. She also spent her 1L summer working in the Alaska Public Defender Agency’s civil division, where she focused on child welfare cases. “It was a unique blend of social work and the law—we were in court, but also meeting with caseworkers and negotiating for clients to get the services they need,” she says.

Receiving a scholarship was a significant factor in Kates’ decision to attend the Law School. “Without the prospect of significant debt, I have been able to make choices about summer jobs and post-graduate employment with fewer financial considerations,” she says. “It has been hugely freeing.”