Kevin Beals

Kevin Beals

Class of 2016

B.A., English, creative writing emphasis
University of Washington

What did you do before law school, and what led to you pursue a law degree?

If you were to have asked me four years ago if I were going to pursue a career in law I probably would have told you that you were crazy. My first job after graduating from college was as a warehouse manager in wholesale marine electronics distribution. It actually turned out to be one of my first tastes of the law, as I had to constantly negotiate head-achingly complex customs codes, forms, and much more in a high-pressure, high-volume environment. 

When the Great Recession hit in 2008, like many others, I found myself unemployed for nearly a year and a half. Although it was hard to see while I was living it, this difficult time period taught me some incredible lessons I probably could not have learned otherwise. 

Thankfully, I eventually landed at a small electronics recycling company in Seattle. It was here that I not only got more experience with the law in my working environment, but also a perspective shift into its direct effects on the economy, the environment, and individual lives. Although I had been repeatedly told by friends, family, and other employers that I should become a lawyer, it was the company owner who gave me the final push. I am eternally grateful for all of his support.

What activities are you involved in at the law school or in the community?

Beginning with my work for the Access to Justice Institute’s Citizenship Project, I developed a love for public service early on in my law career. Working with immigrants from a wide variety of countries, language abilities, and ages has given me a huge appreciation both for the struggles of what so many people experience in their journey to the United States and the transformative power of even a few volunteers willing to help them along the way. A year and a half later, I became so invested in my students that I moved on to continue working with Neighborhood House’s Citizenship Program.

Shortly after beginning work for this program, I also began working for the King County Bar Association’s Neighborhood Legal Clinics as a clinic assistant. These clinics provide critical legal assistance for many who would never be able to afford it and is a crucial link for many others who have nowhere else to go. Operating similarly to a public general medical services provider, the KCBA’s Neighborhood Legal Clinics take on low- and no-income clients with a wide variety of problems, ranging from foreclosure and landlord/tenant issues all the way to criminal records sealing and small claims assistance.

Through this work, I eventually landed at my upcoming summer internship with Seattle Community Law Center, which provides Social Security and Disability legal assistance for homeless and low-income clients with physical and mental disabilities. I am extremely excited, humbled, and honored to finally be playing even a small part in a tremendously important and often overlooked function of society: taking care of those who all too often fall through the cracks. Not only does such work fulfill the school’s own mission of social justice, but it is truly a situation where the work itself is its own reward.

What have you found most valuable during your law school education?

It’s hard to overstate the exceptional caliber of the professors that I’ve had the pleasure of working with so far. Without a doubt, the professors I’ve had here are the best of any educational institution I have ever attended. Until attending the School of Law, I’ve never had so many professors who are seriously engaged, invested, caring, dedicated, and supportive of my educational and professional success. Through the rigor of the legal teaching process, I’ve been able to see the strong academic minds guiding us towards a greater understanding of not only our future careers, but also a greater sense of responsibility, perspective, and appreciation of the great privilege and honor of being an attorney.

What advice would you offer a prospective law student?

First and foremost, I would tell any prospective law student to think long and hard before making the decision to jump in. I don’t say that to scare anyone off, but because law school is a uniquely challenging experience, and carries with it a tremendous amount of responsibility and hard work, some serious self-reflection is necessary. Aside from the significant financial commitments associated with a legal education, it can also be emotionally, mentally, and personally taxing. Nonetheless, having said all that, the law is still both a noble calling and one of the last places where you can truly change the world in very visible and tangible ways.

Given the number of television shows and movies about lawyers’ lives, it’s easy to romanticize the lifestyle, and easy to see why so many people are drawn to it. Instead, I would tell any prospective law student to think about entering the legal profession similarly to entering the medical profession. Just as the consequences of a doctor’s actions can be life-altering for a patient, so too are an attorney’s actions for a client. We have both the power to hurt and to heal, and while it can be easy to focus on the potential financial rewards of the work, far more important are the rewards associated with bettering the lives of others.

Lastly, I would tell prospective law students to have a good understanding of who they are long before they enter law school, because those things are easy to lose in small degrees without even noticing it. Who you were before law school will be even more important after you enter law school, as it will be central to keeping a focus on what makes you happy, what gives your life meaning, and from where you’ll draw the strength necessary to push through the challenges ahead. With all that in mind, you will soon be embarking on one of the most rewarding and exciting experiences of your entire life.

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