Skyler Arbuckle, Class of 2022

1. Tell us about yourself.

I'm a 3rd-year student from Houston, TX. I attended Howard University as an undergrad where I played volleyball and majored in Allied Health Sciences. Upon graduation, I thought I wanted to go into healthcare, but I had a swift change of plans after being rejected multiple application cycles from various graduate programs. While mapping out my next steps, I decided to accept a temporary receptionist position at a boutique law firm in Houston named Gibbs & Bruns LLP. I had no prior knowledge about the law, attorneys, or the legal profession. My temporary position as receptionist blossomed into a full-time position as the firm's Recruiting Coordinator where I recruited law students and lateral associates. During my tenure at Gibbs & Bruns, I had an excellent opportunity to work with incredibly talented and accomplished attorneys who inspired me to enter a field I never imagined. I decided to apply to law school and was accepted the first time. The rest, I suppose, is history.

2. Why did you decide to come to SMU Law?

I decided to attend to SMU for several reasons. First, I knew I wanted to practice in Texas, and SMU has a history of producing brilliant attorneys. The practical learning opportunities, such as the Corporate Counsel Externship and Federal Judicial Externship programs, and outstanding faculty members, made SMU stood out. Additionally, I had an amazing conversation with Professor Jessica Dixon Weaver before my admission, and she completely sold me on SMU. Second, a large portion of my family lives in Dallas, and I knew it would be paramount to have a strong support system to help me get through the rigors of law school. Third, my family's ties to SMU, Dallas, and Texas are deep and very personal, so, all things considered, SMU was the perfect fit.

3. What has been your favorite class and why?

I enjoyed some of my first-year classes the most. Legal Research & Writing was one of my favorite classes as a 1L, and while the course was initially very intimidating, my professor, Dr. Beverly Dureus, made me fall in love with legal writing. She encouraged me throughout the learning process and made a subject that can be difficult to understand and even more difficult to teach enjoyable. I also enjoyed participating in the Federal Judicial Externship course where I had the pleasure of externing with Judge Irma Ramirez. Judge Ramirez is an exceptional judge and even better mentor. She gave me projects that challenged my understanding of legal issues and took time to educate me. For my upper-level courses, I enjoyed Trial Advocacy. My professors, Rachael Jones, Blake Bailey, and Susan Halpern made the class fun. By the end of the class, I walked away with invaluable oral advocacy skills that I know will serve me well in practice.

4. When you are not in school or studying, what do you do for fun?

I love to work out! It's an activity I made sure I incorporated into my daily routine before law school, and it is certainly something I'll make sure I make time for even after I begin practicing (shout out to my Contracts professor, Professor Greg Crespi, for demanding we made time during 1L to get daily exercise). I also really enjoy hanging out with my rambunctious schnauzer puppy, Louie, sampling food and wine pairings, and making charcuterie boards.

5. What extracurricular activities have you enjoyed most and why? (SBA, moot court, etc.)

I've enjoyed serving as president of the Black Law Students Association (BLSA) to help encourage and provide a community for Black law students at SMU. Oftentimes, Black students enter law school oblivious to the challenges and rigors of law school. BLSA serves as an on-campus support system to help our members reach their full potential in law school and beyond. I also enjoyed serving as a student research assistant to former Senior Associate Dean and University Distinguished Professor, Dean Lolita Buckner Inniss. Dean Inniss is one of the most brilliant people I've ever met and working with her was an incredible experience. Her dedication to scholarship and engaging in critical legal inquiry were nothing short of inspiring. It was an honor to serve as her research assistant.

6. How has law school challenged you most?

Law school has challenged me to re-evaluate my expectations of being "perfect." Perfect law students do not exist, and perfect lawyers don’t exist either. I think some of the best lawyers are lawyers who remain resilient when faced with challenges, mistakes, setbacks, and even failure. That same resiliency allows them to see past their shortcomings so they can learn and become better at practicing law. If I want to be regarded as one of the best in this profession (and I do), I must be resilient, and I think building that resiliency starts with letting go of the idea of being perfect and embracing challenges as an opportunity to learn.

7. What has been your most memorable law school moment so far?

My most memorable law school moment was my acceptance into law school. I remember I had just gotten off the elevator at work and was headed to my office when I received a phone call from the Dedman Law admissions department informing me that I had been accepted to law school. SMU was the first law school to notify me of my acceptance, and I remember feeling an overwhelming sense of accomplishment, gratitude, and relief that the best was yet to come for me and my journey.

8. What do you plan to do post-graduation?

As of now, I have no plans post-graduation. I know, without a doubt, I want to be a litigator. I'd love the opportunity to serve as a term law clerk for the federal judiciary as I enjoyed interning and externing in federal chambers. It was an excellent opportunity to engage with different practice areas while also practically applying legal concepts I learned in law school. For now, I'm committed to remaining flexible until I find a great fit to begin my career post-grad.

9. Have you had any important mentors during law school? If so, who?

I have had some incredible mentors during law school who have helped shape and mold me into the lawyer I hope to be. Dedman Law Alumni Vicki Blanton and Jasmine Tobias have motivated me with their words of wisdom and constant reassurance. Jasmine Tobias is incredibly genuine in the way she mentors me, and her encouragement has helped me get through some serious periods of doubt and uncertainty. Vicki Blanton has been such a huge source of support and encouragement as I've matriculated through law school. As her mentee, she stresses the importance of constantly striving to make my best better and seeking mentors who can serve as my confidant, coach, or champion. I'm blessed to say that in Ms. Blanton, I have all three--she's my confidant, my coach, and my champion. Several of professors and faculty have also served as mentors, including Professor Beverly Dureus, Professor Jessica Dixon-Weaver, Dean Lolita Buckner Inniss, and Dean Erika Fadel. Each of these women poured into me throughout my journey here at SMU, and I'm so thankful to have had them in my corner supporting me in all my endeavors. Additionally, Judge Sam Lindsay and Judge Irma Ramirez are my mentors and the admiration and respect I have for each of them cannot be overstated. They are both outstanding members of the judiciary, and it was an honor to intern and extern in their chambers.

10. Where do you see yourself in 5 and 10 years?

To be completely transparent--I don't know yet. If someone were to ask me ten years ago where I saw myself in five and ten years, I assure you the answer would not have been in law school on my way to becoming a lawyer (I just knew I was going to be a medical professional). My overarching goal is to excel in whatever I ultimately choose to do. I pride myself on hard work and a commitment to excellence in all I do. If nothing else, I want to meaningfully contribute to the legal field, inspire and encourage others, and leave an indelible mark on the profession.