Law Students of the Year: Katie Steefel, University of Denver

Katie Steefel didn’t learn to read until the third grade. Attending speech therapy and testing into the lowest reading group, Steefel was extremely self-conscious about her abilities.

Fast-forward 15 years: Steefel is now a third-year at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law and has accepted a post-graduate position as a law clerk for a justice in the Colorado Supreme Court.

It’s just the latest move in an already impressive career. She received her undergraduate degree from Georgetown University. Prior to law school she was a journalist in Chile, focusing on social movements. She is an avid runner and volunteer, and is a Denver Law Chancellor’s Scholar.

Steefel says she was lucky — a strong family unit, high-quality public schools, and access to numerous resources ultimately helped her overcome her challenges.

Steefel’s experiences had a profound impact on her, motivating her to be both be a voice for the marginalized and to find ways to build community and establish supports wherever she is. She has spent many hours externing and volunteering at nonprofits and government agencies, and helped to establish a new student group – the Education Policy and Advocacy Group – to facilitate students establishing relationships with each other and practitioners dedicated to such work.

As the leader of Denver Law Review’s annual symposium, she brings a range of professors, practitioners and community leaders to discuss the role of justice reinvestment as a potential solution to the mass incarceration crisis.

Additionally, Steefel led a group of students to develop The Pledge for the Public Good. The Pledge aims to show how all areas of the law involve the public good, and to help students understand the moral dimensions and social context of the law across subject matters. Faculty members who sign the pledge — more than 60 so far —incorporate a discussion concerning the social context of cases and utilize other tools to lift up the public good in their classes.

Steefel also helped launch a series, Analyzing the Law Through a Racial Justice Lens. The series aimed to foster a dialogue within the Denver Law community about the intersection of legal and racial issues, to teach students how to analyze various topics in terms of race, and to encourage future lawyers of all identities to think about how race affects our society and legal system.

Steefel is one of 25 future lawyers honored in the National Jurist’s 2017 “Law Student of the Year” feature. Find more honorees here

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