Louisville Law research assistants form strong professional networks, connect with faculty

Recent graduates Leah Spears (’18), Jake Grey (’18), and Chelsea Dermody (’18); current students Logan Wood (’19), Samantha Hall (’20), Zachary Trinkle (’20), Jimmy Golden (’20); also pictured, Justin and Anne Walker.  Photo by Seth Todd (’18).

On a recent Saturday night, Professor Justin Walker didn’t know where his wife was driving him. She’d told him a month ago to keep this evening free on his calendar, but she wouldn’t tell him why. When they arrived at Kingpin Bowling Alley, he was delighted. And when he saw that his past and present research assistants had planned a bowling reunion for him, he was thrilled.

“They know me well!” says Walker. “They know I love bowling. And they know I love spending time all together!”

Walker and his research assistants are a team, says third-year student Logan Wood. “It’s all for one and one for all,” she says. “We work really hard for Professor Walker. But we learn a lot, and we have a lot of fun. We’re always there for him when he needs us, and he’s always there for us.”

Walker and his current research assistants — Logan Wood, Kirk Smith, Samantha Hall, Zachary Trinkle, Emily Pinerola and Jimmy Golden — work together in many ways. They find cases and secondary sources for his articles. They cite check. They give him advice on how to improve his class. They assist with class logistics. And they help with the law review article submission process.  

“They help me help my students. And they make me a better scholar. They’re absolutely invaluable,” says Walker. “I view them as colleagues, and I can’t imagine this job without them. They’re not only great students and great research assistants — they’re extraordinary people. I’m very lucky to get to work with them.”

One of Walker’s goals for his research assistants is team-building.

“It matters to me that they work with each other, as much as it matters to me that they work with me,” he says. “I want them to help each other, learn from each other, and form a small professional network for each other that will outlast law school.”  

Walker’s research assistants have just begun to graduate, but the recent grads are already making a difference in the legal community. Two of them clerked on the same federal court and helped each other be better law clerks. Another two met their employers through Walker and work at jobs they enjoy and find rewarding. 

“I’m proud of them all. Every one of them. Carly Phelps and Anna Beilman clerking for legendary federal judges, Brandon Guernsey a prosecutor in Spokane, Neil Barton doing great at Stites here in town, Jake Grey at his plaintiff-side dream job — he brought in his first client on his first week — Chelsea Dermody doing exactly what she hoped to graduate and do at an excellent labor law firm in town and Leah Spears doing superb work in Frankfort to make government more responsive, more accountable and more efficient. They’re Louisville Law at its best. And they show where you can go with a Louisville Law degree.”  

Leah Spears, who graduated in May 2018, was the main organizer of Saturday’s surprise bowling party. She’s one of five research assistants to co-author an article in an academic journal or bar magazine with Walker, and the two have also run in 10 5K races together. She knew he liked bowling because in his first year at Louisville Law, he and his research assistants joined a bowling league.

“I had read Bowling Alone back in college,” says Walker. “The book’s argument is that democracies need bowling leagues. Well, not exactly. But its point is that many Americans have become disconnected from friends and neighbors because they substitute TV watching for more social things, like bowling leagues. And ever since then, I guess I always had on my bucket list to be in a bowling league.”

The bowling team, called Motion to Strike, lasted three seasons before switching to pub trivia this year.

“We were pretty terrible. We didn’t win a single match for the first two seasons,” recalls Walker. “On Saturday, Zach threw four strikes in a row and bowled a 181. I wish we’d had him in the league!”

Logan Wood remembers the night Motion to Strike broke its losing streak.

“It looked like we were going to finish the final season winless again. But on the second-to-last week, we finally won. Professor Walker joked that he was so proud of that win he was going to put it on his resume.”