image description

Who is Concordia Law grad J.B. Evans?'

Hear the story of one of our recent graduates – and a Jeopardy contestant! – who is loving his job as a law clerk in federal court.

Thinking about attending law school at Concordia University School of Law in Boise? Sure, you can read our printed materials and review our web site. But why not hear directly from one of our recent graduates – and Jeopardy contestant! – who is loving his job as a law clerk in federal court.

Meet J.B. Evans.

Q: Tell us a little bit about yourself – where did you grow up?  Did you always want to be an attorney? 

A: I was born in Boise in 1979. My parents are from Boise; my grandparents came to Boise in the 1920’s. I went from elementary through high school in Boise. I attended the College of Idaho from 1997 to 2001, graduating magna cum laude with degrees in political economy and history. I can’t say that I always wanted to be an attorney, but my friends jokingly referred to me as “the lawyer” in high school and college because I handled our money matters, decision-making, righting wrongs, and any negotiating.

One summer day after graduating, I was playing frisbee on my college campus when the dean walked up with a flyer for a job at Social Security. I shaved off my beard and applied. When I took the job as a Disability Claims Representative, I politely explained I’d only be doing it for one year, because I would be going to law school right after that. Well, one year became two, then three…. Then I spent the next 17+ years working for Social Security, not becoming a lawyer. Though I worked my way up through the ranks, receiving promotions and awards, I never liked it. I found government service, especially government management, incredibly stifling; the agency was wildly inefficient and no one seemed to care.  

About 13 years into my time there, I heard about Concordia Law’s part-time program. Because my position at Social Security was secure and, by Idaho standards, fairly lucrative, I wasn’t willing to quit my job to attend school full-time. Intrigued by the part-time option, I went to a Preview event, I took the LSAT, and I got a solid financial aid package. So in August 2014, I happily started at Concordia.

Q: What was the hardest part of law school for you? What surprised you the most? 

A: The hardest part was trying to balance work, school, and family. I worked full-time throughout law school and had an 18-month-old daughter when I started in 2014. The most surprising thing about law school was my success. I was told nobody gets straight A’s, so I expected to just quietly get through and get my license. Instead I thrived, which resulted in A LOT more responsibility. Life got very busy. I found myself on the editorial board of Law Review early in my 2L year, was elected as Editor-in-Chief at the end of my 2L year, and served throughout my 3L year. I was also a research assistant for a professor, which took extra hours every week. During my third year, I worked roughly 40 hours at Social Security and 50-60 hours per week on law school.  My poor wife and daughter got what was left of me: a tired and stressed-out mess. But despite being tired and stressed, I quickly fell in love with the law and being back in school. I found my studies fascinating, challenging, and rewarding.

Q:Unlike most law schools, class ranking at Concordia Law has no effect on scholarships, so we consistently hear from students that there is a great sense of camaraderie. Did you find this to be true? 

A: I wasn’t aware of that policy, but I can tell you that there was a lot of camaraderie and friendship at Concordia. Everyone would help each other. There was none of that stuff you see in the movies like The Paper Chase where kids are stealing books and concealing/falsifying notes, etc.  During my time at Concordia, the school offered a very positive environment where students cooperated and collaborated. 

Q: Did you participate in any activities like clinics, externships, etc., beyond the classroom? 

A: I did! Here’s a summary:

  • Idaho Trial Lawyers Street Law Clinic – a volunteer clinic held twice a month at the public library to help disadvantaged folks with legal issues. It was a great way to give back to the community, to learn more about the law and how to interview clients, and to network with local attorneys.
  • Concordia Law Housing Clinic – the coolest, most rewarding experience of law school. This fantastic externship program was supervised by Associate Dean Latonia Keith and local attorney Josh Taylor, whom I worked with to help clients facing eviction or other landlord-tenant problems. Representing those who couldn’t otherwise afford it gave me invaluable practice in a courtroom, taught me how to represent clients, and helped our community. I was lucky enough to run the clinic in the summer between my 3rd and 4th years. I loved it!
  • Helbling Benefits Externship – in the summer of my 2L year, I worked with a local attorney who practiced employment benefits law. Through a variety of projects, I learned about employment law and gained insight into a non-traditional legal career.
  • Mentorship Program – very valuable. My mentor, who works at a top-tier local firm, always took care to involve me in interesting opportunities. The mentorship also led to opportunities for pro bono work through my mentor’s firm. It was rewarding and interesting, and the relationships I built with my mentor and his colleagues continue to this day. I hope to work at that firm in the future and, if/when I do, the seeds were planted in the mentorship program.

Q: Do you feel that Concordia Law prepared you for your legal career?

A: Absolutely. I landed an amazing job right out of school. I work with a bright and talented group of attorneys and judges. Many of the clerks and judges in federal court come from top-tier law schools, so at first I was intimidated. Did I have the skills? Had Concordia gotten me ready? Ten months into the job, I can assure you that Concordia trained me well. I was especially well-prepared as a legal writer, which is crucial in my job.

Q: Now that you have graduated from Concordia, what are you up to? 

A: I am a term law clerk for Judge Joseph M. Meier in federal bankruptcy court in the United States District Court of Idaho. There were a lot of applicants for the job, so I am honored to be there and I love it.  Basically I sit in court and watch hearings and trials.  I draft judicial opinions for my judge and consult with him on issues as they come up.  It might sound hard to believe coming out of a bankruptcy clerk’s mouth, but there is never a dull moment.  I have had the opportunity to write for three different federal judges on issues of evidence, contracts, property, ethics, and more.  It’s amazing to learn the law by seeing it through the eyes of a federal judge and the top-notch attorneys that practice in our court. 

Q: The million-dollar question: what was it like competing on Jeopardy? Lifelong dream or a long-shot? Did your experience in law school give you an advantage? Did you get to chat with Alex Trebek? 

A: More like the $28,001 question! It was a lifelong dream to be on Jeopardy. I tried out for the teen tournament when I was 17 and almost made it on; I tried again in Vegas, Portland, Salt Lake City, and LA over the years. I had made it in the contestant pool twice before, which meant I waited 18 months for a call that never came. But this last fall, I tried out in Portland and made it into the contestant pool again. This time I got the call; I’d be heading to LA on December 4th! It was a crazy experience: the lights, the makeup, Alex Trebek, the chance to make a lot of money (or a fool of myself) on national TV.  I got my butt kicked for most of the episode before taking the lead with a big bet on the last Daily Double. All I had to do was answer one question for $28,001. Sadly I have a bit of blind spot for pop music. The category was female singers and the answer was Mariah Carey. I said Whitney Houston.  

In general, law school helped me build confidence so, in that sense, Concordia did help me get ready for the show. I was still more nervous than I have ever been, but I had a great time. It was surreal. I got to chat with Alex for about 1 minute at the conclusion of my game, and I can’t remember one thing we said to each other. I was still in shock from seeing my comeback lead slip away on the final question. It was a tough pill to swallow but an experience I will never forget. No regrets.

Q: What advice would you give someone considering going to law school? What would you want a potential law student to know about Concordia Law?

A: My advice would be to start strong, don’t let up, and always read everything they tell you to. When you are done, read some more. Law school is hard work, but it is also extremely rewarding. I also thought it was good to brief as many cases as possible.  I believe it is most rewarding when you really get engaged: with the subject matter, with your peers, with the professors, and with the community.  

At Concordia, students are going to find a supportive network of professors and administrators who are committed to helping you succeed and build a new career as an attorney and a community leader. In fact, I am happy to report I will be one of those professors starting this fall and working with some of the part-time students. Also, Boise is an awesome place to live and attend school. On a day like today, I could go skiing or golfing.  It’s mind-boggling to see this town keep growing and developing.

Q: How would you describe Concordia University School of Law in one word? 

Transformative.