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Hayley Botts

Hayley Botts

Hayley Botts brings an unparalleled enthusiasm to her study of the law and its application to serving those without a voice. From starting L.O.V.E (Lawyers Opposing Violence Everywhere), a student organization committed to minimizing violence through awareness and education, serving as a court appointed special advocate and interning with the Rockford Alliance against Sexual Exploitation, to leading her intramural basketball team to victory, Ms. Botts is already making a difference at NIU Law and in her community. Ms. Botts grew up in Macomb, Illinois and earned a degree in anthropology from the University of Iowa.

What was your experience as a first-year student like? I really enjoyed my first year at NIU Law. I was an extremely involved student and found that everyone has their own passion and does something different. I really got to know my classmates and students from Section 1 (the first-year class is divided into two sections), which made the stressful times much easier with people to lean on. I also really appreciated that the 2Ls and 3Ls were so friendly and helpful. I remember on my first day, a 3L came up to me in the student lounge and introduced herself and asked how my day was going and if I had any questions. This gesture allowed me to relax and step outside of my comfort zone. I also came to realize that traditional students were the minority, and that nontraditional students who took time off between undergrad and law school for work and families were in the majority. I really enjoy this aspect because it makes every student an individual and enhances the diversity in the classroom. Everyone is different and NIU recognizes that uniqueness. I also really like the opportunities that NIU provides. There are several student organizations and clubs that allow students to fulfill their passions. Additionally, there are many NIU events that are fun and allow students to relieve stress. I really do think that NIU has the students' interests at heart, and I appreciate the efforts from the faculty in bettering NIU Law in every way possible.

Sum up your first year in one sentence. My first year at NIU Law was the most frustrating, exhausting, and rewarding year of my life.

What was the most rewarding part of your first year? The most rewarding part of my first year was getting my grades back and knowing that I did fairly well. After studying countless hours for finals and having the fear of failing, knowing that I actually did well was extremely rewarding and satisfying.

What was the most challenging part of your first year? The most challenging part of my first year was my frustration with balancing class assignments. Midterms were stacked together within 3 weeks, which seemed very demanding. However, after taking finals, I have a better understanding of how to prepare for those weeks prior to any exams and how to organize my schedule.

Why are you thankful you chose NIU Law? I am thankful I chose NIU Law because I truly believe that I wouldn't be as successful as I am anywhere else, both inside and outside the classroom. Out of the 30 law schools that I applied to, NIU was by far the smallest in class size. The smaller class sizes provided a less intimidating atmosphere in which I was not afraid to say a wrong answer or speak in front of the class. Additionally, I got to know all NIU Law students and professors quickly and have come to appreciate that I am recognized by my name instead of just my face. Lastly, I am so thankful I chose NIU because of the networking opportunities. While there are several law schools in Illinois, NIU provides a legal network throughout the suburbs and even in Chicago. With several courthouses and hundreds of law firms within a short distance from NIU, the employment opportunities are endless and diverse. When applying for internships, I had offers from 4 different State's Attorney offices that were within a one hour drive of NIU. By having those kind of opportunities, I am able to excel in whatever area of law I wish.

What advice would you give to incoming first-year law students? Do not believe anything you watch, especially in The Paper Chase or Legally Blonde! NIU College of Law is not even remotely close to anything you see in the movies. First, the professors do not receive any joy or happiness from students' pain or failure. The professors' purpose for cold-calling is to challenge you and ensure that you understand the material. The professors at NIU are friendly and approachable—both inside and outside the classroom. Generally you can go to a professor's office regardless of whether it is during their office hours and they will be happy to help you. Moreover, our professors are overly understanding that students have commitments outside of school, such as family, jobs, etc., and try to be as flexible as possible with students. Further, the professors at NIU have credentials that would make Elle Woods' professors look like 1Ls. Most of the professors attended Ivy League law schools, practiced at some of the most prestigious firms throughout the world, and published some of the most referenced articles within the legal community.

Moreover, the students at NIU are competitive, not cutthroat. We do not manipulate each other by tearing pages out of books or intentionally give incorrect notes to a student that missed class. We are competitive in that we push each other to work and study as hard as possible to be the best lawyers possible. I would rather help a student in my class understand a specific concept because there is no benefit in watching them struggle.

In addition, there is no such thing as a "typical" law student. Many students at NIU did not come directly from undergrad to law school. Instead, they spent several years continuing their education, working, serving in the military, or raising families. Having such as diverse and unique student body makes NIU stand out among other schools.

Lastly, my general advice for incoming first-year law students is this: actually complete the readings and engage in class discussions (trust me—you will learn so much more, and the professor will learn your name much faster), use supplements in addition to class materials (such as Examples and Explanations), reach out to 2Ls and 3Ls (we are not that scary, I promise), go to professors' office hours, join the Academic Success Program (literally the most beautiful concept known to NIU law students), start creating your outlines for finals early (do not wait until the week before), and attend NIU College of Law events. In the next three years, you will become an expert at memorizing legal concepts, functioning on little to no sleep, reading 200+ pages per night, placing your Starbucks order at lightning speed, finding the best study spots around Swen Parson, and most importantly, believing in yourself.

What activities are you involved in? During my first year at NIU, I was a 1L representative for The Federalist Society, the Public Interest Law Society, the Criminal Law Society, the Student Bar Association, and Themis Bar Review. Additionally, I was president of Lawyers Opposing Violence Everywhere and a member of the Women's Law Caucus, Delta Theta Phi, and the Juvenile Interest Law Society. I was captain of the champion Law Ball intramural basketball team, semi-finalist for the 1L Closing Argument Competition, a witness for Mock Trial, and a Lexis ambassador. Outside of school, I am an active Court Appointed Special Advocate in Dekalb County.

As a rising 2L, I am president of Lawyers Opposing Violence Everywhere, secretary for the Student Bar Association, treasurer of the Public Interest Law Society, and president of the Criminal Law Society. I am also a research assistant for Professor Tan, a LexisNexis associate, and a circulation desk clerk in the Law Library. Lastly, I am a Themis Bar Review representative and continuing as a member of Delta Theta Phi.

What did you do this summer (externships, clerkships, internships, study abroad, etc.)? This summer I worked as an intern at the DeKalb County State Attorney's Office. I also interned with the Rockford Alliance against Sexual Exploitation Organization. Lastly, I assisted Professor Tan with several projects as a research assistant and I am working in the Law Library.

What was your summer experience like? As an intern at the DeKalb County State Attorney's Office, I found myself arriving early and leaving late every day because I enjoyed interning at the office so much. While I did not have my 711 license yet, I had the privilege of observing hearings and jury trials, writing Petitions to Revoke, researching statutes and courtroom rules, preparing jury instructions, assisting attorneys with court calls, tracking dispositions, documenting jail tapes and Child Advocacy Center tapes, and filling out orders. All of the attorneys and secretaries within the office were friendly and always willing to help. One of the best memories thus far is when the attorneys had a Nerf Gun war within the office. Not only was I able to use all of the information that I learned in the classroom and apply it to the courtroom, but I also networked with attorneys throughout Illinois. I hope to continue interning at the DeKalb County State Attorney's Office during my time at NIU and can only describe it as one of the best and most rewarding experiences I have ever had.

How did NIU Law prepare you to succeed in your summer position? NIU Law prepared me for my summer position by equipping me with the legal writing and research skills that I need. Further, NIU Law prepared me to excel in meeting deadlines, networking, and providing me with a realistic approach to the working world. I am motivated and assertive when working on projects, yet I ask questions when I am not sure what to do. Along with the legal knowledge that the professors gave me, I also gained skills such as paying attention to details, reading footnotes, "getting to the point," and appreciating everyone working together.

What is your goal after law school? After law school, I want to pursue a career as an assistant State’s Attorney and specialize in violent crimes against women and children, such as child abuse and neglect, sexual assault, and domestic violence.

This interview was updated in Summer 2016. 

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Undergraduate Institution:
University of Iowa

Undergraduate Major: Anthropology

Undergraduate Minor: Sociology and Psychology

Hometown: Macomb, Illinois

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