Baylea Kannmacher ’14 completed her law degree in just two-and-a-half years, a feat that she said William Mitchell made possible. She graduated with a J.D. from William Mitchell on Jan. 18, 2014, receiving the Student Award of Merit.
The William Mitchell Alumni Association presents the Student Award of Merit, along with a $2,500 scholarship, to a graduating student who has demonstrated strong personal character, dedication to the law school, leadership and commitment to the broader community, as well as strong academic performance.
During her time at William Mitchell, Baylea worked as a student attorney in the Reentry Clinic, the Child Protection Clinic and an externship for the Holistic Public Defender Clinic. She volunteered for the Blue Earth County Drug Court Family Law Clinic, and she volunteered with the Minnesota Justice Foundation, assisting with the Minneapolis City Attorney’s Office and the Ramsey County Public Defender’s Office. She also conducted a district court externship, working with Judge Robert Awsumb ’86.
For a full year, Baylea worked under Joanna Woolman to assist clients at the Reentry Clinic, a clinic providing legal services and assistance to women as they leave the state women’s prison in Shakopee, Minn. To support clients in the clinical program, Baylea combined practical wisdom with a holistic approach.
“The Reentry Clinic has helped me become the person I am today, but has helped me discover the lawyer I want to be in the future,” said Baylea. “My work really solidified my desire to work with people who need help and representation.”
In her work there, Baylea encountered women of many different personalities, and she tailored her assistance to each client. She worked with one client who was incarcerated and released, only to be re-incarcerated and released again, all inside of one year. Though it was difficult, Baylea found the experience very educational.
“I learned a lot of amazing lessons — the biggest one being a need to redefine ‘winning,’” she said. “For these women, it wasn’t necessarily about winning their case. Instead, it was about having their side of the story and their voice heard.”
Baylea also witnessed compelling success stories as she helped women who were poor, homeless, mentally-ill, or chemically-dependent to secure homes, jobs, and community support.
“Baylea is smart and engaging,” said Professor Woolman. “She has found a great balance of empathy and practicality with her work and clients. She genuinely cares about helping her clients.”
Throughout law school, Baylea went above and beyond. On top of these activities, she added teaching assistant, Litigation Society, Mitchell Mentor, and admissions ambassador to her resume.
She learned from both her peers and the alumni she encountered in the law profession, discovering that the William Mitchell community extends far beyond the law school itself. Baylea was also inspired by her professors, benefiting from their practical teaching style.
“I loved just being able to talk to them and pick their brains,” said Baylea. “They taught me skills and lessons that really helped me be prepared for the real world.”
Her professors saw in Baylea a devoted student, brimming with compassion.
“Baylea has a real talent for working with people in the criminal justice system — both in keeping them out of jail, and helping them as they leave prison,” said Professor Brad Colbert, who supervised Baylea in the LAMP and Reentry Clinic office. “Baylea’s dedication to her clients and her delight in representing them was a joy to behold.”
In the year to come, Baylea will be working as a judicial law clerk for Judge Joseph A. Bueltel ’87 in the Third Judicial District in Steele County, Minn. In time, she hopes to work her way up to a position in a public defender’s office, and she says she is up to the challenge.
No matter where her journey takes her, her professors were sure of one thing: Baylea will make a great attorney.
“Baylea represents the best kind of Mitchell student — someone who has practical experience and a deep and nuanced understanding of what it means to be a lawyer,” said Woolman. ”She is positioned to make a real difference in her career.”