Justice C. Shannon Bacon (right) and Judge Mowrer lead a presentation about their law school experience to ENMU students. The Chase photo: Kennedy Jones
On Oct. 17, Eastern New Mexico University was hosted a conference starring a two-person panel. The pair behind the table was none other than New Mexico State Supreme Court member, Justice C. Shannon Bacon and New Mexico District Court Judge Donna J. Mowrer. The pair kickstarted their listeners’ mornings with an excited energy and a notable eagerness to answer questions.
“Being a lawyer leads you down an adventurous path,” said Bacon. “Lots of [responsibility] comes from the Supreme Court and other positions in law, but we also get to do fun stuff like this too! Travel around the state, talk to people and inform the public about the judiciary in court that we do.”
Both speakers possess extensive educations and experience regarding law. Justice Bacon attended Creighton University in Omaha, Neb., while Judge Mowrer attended University of New Mexico School of Law in Albuquerque, N.M.
“Judge Mowrer and I both came from backgrounds that lent themselves to law school,” said Bacon, describing the overall experience of law school. “The language there is completely different. You spend a lot of time that first year kind of being broken down and learning how to have the critical thinking of a lawyer.”
It was all optimism when Bacon and Mowrer were speaking on the importance of the equal ability and opportunity for students from all walks of life to thrive in law school. Both women agree that diversity is increasing in law schools, and they also agree on the different mindset you must train yourself to enter in order to succeed in law school. Mowrer, a once-practicing probation officer, lends to her audience her proof of this belief through a story of her time at UNM Law.
“The first quiz was a take-home quiz and you take it home and answer the call of the question,” said Mowrer, reminiscing on her days in law school. “The call of the question was ‘write a memo to the judge.’ In my mind, I’m thinking, ‘I’m a probation officer. I’ve been writing memos to the court for ten years. This is a piece of cake!’ … She hands the paper back, has it turned over for every student, … I got a four [the lowest on her grading scale out of eleven].”
Mowrer expressed her despair at her grade on the first quiz, telling the audience how she even confronted her professor for answers about what she did wrong.
“She looked me in the eyes and said, ‘It wasn’t like you did anything wrong, you didn’t write like a lawyer.’ I wrote like a probation officer,” said Mowrer.
Instances like this Mowrer says helped her recognize and accept the need to ‘reframe [her] way of thinking’ to succeed in law school. The pair stressed the accessibility to a wide array of careers through the possession of a law degree.
They also covered the inner workings of happenings at the state level, and the stages a case would follow to get through the courts at the state level judiciary branch. This information is less-widely known due to the fact that most people instantly think solely of the Supreme Court when they think of the judiciary branch of government, if they think about it at all.
“78% of all litigation in the country goes to the state courts,” said Bacon. She said the Supreme Court is less than one tenth of 1% of all cases in the United States.
Out of the bountiful amount of information Justice Bacon and Judge Mowrer presented in their presentation Thursday, they stressed that so many things can be delivered through possession of a law degree, diversity in law school is applauded (even sought after), and that judiciary work is hard work. It deals with the meticulous, deliberate, emotionally-straining processes of the law. However, judiciary work, and work in law in general, is fruitful as well. The air of ambition and inspiration to reignite a pursuit of knowledge and education that this pair left behind is only one example of the skills that accompany a life in law.