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Karla Hall Shares how her Road to the CPD Went Through Urbana (OH), a TV Sitcom, and OIP

After five years with the Ohio Innocence Project (OIP), Karla Hall joined the College of Law’s Center for Professional Development (CPD) last September as Director of Externships and Public Service. Hall, a 1990 graduate of the Ohio Northern University College of Law, is now well into her first year at the CPD and has enjoyed her transition from OIP to the CPD.

“I really like this position,” Hall said. “I love working with the students. I love the enthusiasm and the energy that students bring. I also really love working with the employers. I get to work with pretty much every (type of) lawyer there is who is not a judge, and I really enjoy that.”

Gaining Practical Experience

Through the College’s externship program, 2L and 3L students are able to spend a semester working at a variety of placement sites, including government agencies, non-profit organizations, and even local Fortune 500 companies. Students spend 100 hours at their placement site, while also partaking in a weekly course taught by Hall.

While students are not required to enroll in the externship program, Hall is a major advocate of the program. She recognizes people choose to attend law school for many reasons, but students often don’t realize how many different types of law they can practice. Thus, doing an externship allows them to “try on a practice of law.”

“I can’t understand why anyone would not want to do an externship,” she said. “We have externships in every facet of the law that there is, essentially, and, if not, I’ll go out and try and find one. If there’s some unusual type of law or some unusual situation you’re looking for, I’ll do my best to help you find a place where you can try that on.”

While not everyone chooses to partake in the externship program, Hall advocates students getting practical experience after their 1L year.

“Externships aren’t the only ways to get practical experience here,” she said. “I would absolutely urge every 2L and 3L student to make sure that they are getting some practical experience in addition to their academic education.”

As for the classroom component, Hall said she enjoys it, but is still evolving into the teaching role. Last semester she taught from the existing syllabus, she said. But after talking with students at the end of the semester, trying to learn what her students found most and least valuable, she completely redesigned the syllabus this semester.

Hall joined the CPD last semester, filling the role of Angie Jackson who was with the CPD for the 2011-12 school year. It marked another stop on Hall’s legal career path, one that was born out of – oddly enough – a 1980s sitcom.

Road to the CPD

Hall grew up in Urbana, a small town about 90 minutes northeast of Cincinnati. She attended Miami University from 1983 to 1987, following in the footsteps of two of her sisters. After earning a sociology degree with a social work minor, she planned on a career as a social worker out of college. Just prior to graduating, she was offered her first social work job, where she was going to be paid a mere $14,000. Even back then, it would have been “incredibility difficult” to live on that salary, Hall said. So she began contemplating alternative careers.

Hall recalls watching “The Facts of Life” with her college roommate, a sitcom about a fictional all-girls boarding school. In one episode, a lead character, Blair Warner, took the LSAT. Hall and her roommate decided that Hall would take the LSAT as well, and if she scored better than Blair, she would attend law school. If not, Hall would pursue a social work career after all. Of course, Hall did better than Blair on the LSAT and she headed to law school. But she took the test in May, and considered waiting a year to attend law school, since it was late in the application process.

One of her sisters was working in Ada, Ohio, a northwest Ohio town that is home to Ohio Northern University. She offered Hall a place to live for her first year if she was admitted there. Despite applying in June, Hall was not only admitted, but even was offered a scholarship, and her decision was an easy one.

Hall loved law school and, upon graduating and passing the bar in 1990, she began a federal clerkship with the Honorable S. Arthur Spiegel, United States District Court for the Southern District of Ohio in Cincinnati. She spent two years with Judge Spiegel, during which she was introduced to Adam Hall, who eventually became her husband. Hall is now the head of litigation at Frost Brown Todd.

After the clerkship, Hall expected to work for Dinsmore & Shohl, where she spent a summer during law school, but ended up practicing at Helmer Martins & Neff. She and her husband were both working rigorous schedules and, while they enjoyed their jobs, they planned to expand their family and decided one of them should make a job change to be available for their future children.

Hall took a position with the federal courts again, serving as the chief law clerk to the Honorable William O. Bertelsman in Covington, Ky. Judge Bertelsman is the senior judge of the US District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. She enjoyed this job as well, including its more predictable hours. After five years, however, she decided to be a stay-at-home mom until her children went to kindergarten.

When her youngest finally entered kindergarten, Hall began looking for employment and wound up at OIP. She had never practiced criminal law, but enjoyed her five years with OIP and working with director Mark Godsey.

“I really loved the people and the work that they do there, it’s so inspiring,” Hall said. “However, you care so much it also can be very draining on your emotions.”

Now that she is settled in at the CPD, Hall envisions remaining as the externship program director for the foreseeable future and continuing to thrive in the position. She is still very family-oriented, spending a lot of time at youth sporting events for Carter (16), Ellen (14) and Evan (11). She also loves to play tennis and play paddle tennis on her own, as well as travel with her husband when they have time. As her children get older and go off to college, Hall hopes to become more directly involved with the charities about which she is most passionate.

By Jordan Cohen, ‘13