Emily Nelson
David Scrivner and Matt Jansen

Kate Conlow was deputy managing editor of The Iowa Review—“the best literary magazine in the country, where I got to work with amazing Pulitzer Prize-winning authors”—when on a whim she decided to walk over to the University of Iowa College of Law to attend a prospective student open house.

“I didn’t know what being a lawyer was. I thought it was all CSI and what I had seen on TV,” Conlow says. “I was really nervous when I walked in here, but everybody was super kind. And I realized it’s not what I thought. It’s the writing and editing and critical and creative thinking that I love to engage in, plus community involvement. It was like the stars aligned. I realized it was a perfect fit for the way I think and what I like to do.”

After graduation, Conlow will spend the next two years clerking on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. She says she is grateful she took that walk to the College of Law several years ago.

“Being able to attend law school at the university where my dad and my brother both went, where my husband’s family had gone (my husband went to the Iowa Writers’ Workshop), being able to kind of join the family legacy and attend the University of Iowa College of Law was really meaningful in that regard as well.”

Kate Conlow

Hometown: Des Moines, Iowa

Degree: Juris Doctorate

What’s next: Clerk on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in Cedar Rapids, Iowa

What has surprised you about your time at Iowa?

Once I kind of learned about the law school culture across the board in the United States, what was amazing about the College of Law here at the University of Iowa is just how collegial my class was. We were all on Zoom the first year and that’s how we got to know each other, but we had this mutual bonding experience and I’m really pleased because three years later, my graduating class is really close. We really care about each other and each other’s well-being and success. And that is incredibly valuable, to have kind of the opposite of competition—support and collegiality and caring—in a law school environment.

What was your most memorable experience at the University of Iowa College of Law?

Definitely my experience on the Iowa Law Review, which is our flagship legal scholarship publication. It’s one of the top-ranked law journals in the country and we get cited a lot by the federal and state courts and other scholarship. I got to work and learn about it my second year in law school as a student writer, and then during that year, I got to work and write my law review note, which is a shorter article, a piece of scholarship that many Iowa law students write. And it was just so great to get to dive into a topic of my choosing and really nerd out, specifically about antitrust.

And then in my third year of law school, I was editor in chief of the Iowa Law Review. I had the best editorial team, and after a decade of working in publishing, it was a really rewarding way to cap off my career as an editor and writer and look to the future of being a lawyer.

University of Iowa law grad Kate Conlow looking through an issue of Iowa Law Review, a journal on which she served as editor in chief

What were some of the challenges you faced during the COVID-19 pandemic and how did you overcome them

As law students, we take our work and our studies incredibly seriously. So, the idea of getting sick or dealing with sickness or tragedy was incredibly difficult. My first year, I could not travel to a funeral and I couldn’t be with my family over Christmas or the high holidays—my husband’s family is Jewish—so not being able to take breaks and travel and see my family during the breaks as I reset for second semester was really, really tough, in a way that I probably still haven’t completely processed.

But luckily, I have a supportive community here at Iowa Law. Dean (of the College of Law Kevin) Washburn and (Associate Dean of Student Affairs) Carin Crane hosted town halls regularly the first year and are continuing that tradition, and they were a great way to get together and be together during an isolating time. I also had my husband as support, as well as great neighbors. So, community and family went a really long way.

What are some experiences you may not have gotten if you hadn’t gone to Iowa?

One of the things that drew me to Iowa Law was our emphasis on pro bono work and giving back to the community. People only wear cords at graduation based on their pro bono service hours, and I think that says a lot about the culture at Iowa Law.

I also think that the people here are very humble. The law can be very hierarchical; it can be kind of classist. And I never feel that way here at Iowa Law. We all treat each other equally and support each other equally.

How would you describe the Hawkeye community?

I’m kind of quirky and weird and a nerd, and that is very much embraced here. People really respect who you are and your interests. Getting to dig into exciting antitrust law projects and have people be really enthusiastic and supportive of it, even though they aren’t interested in that at all, that is the Hawkeye spirit that I have experienced.