Dakota Hawkins is on the verge of fulfilling his high school dream of entering the legal profession.
During a Seven Innings interview with the Enterprise as a senior catcher for Bastrop High in 2011, Dakota Hawkins said his career ambition was to become an attorney. When asked why, he replied, "Because I like to argue, and I like to win the arguments.”
Hawkins never wavered from his career path as he graduated from LSU's renowned Paul M. Hebert Law Center on Friday, June 1 with his Juris Doctor, a Degree in Comparative Law Studies, and specialized Energy Law and Policy Certificate.
"This has been my plan since high school," Hawkins said. "I'm really doing the only thing I have ever wanted to do."
Hawkins received his bachelor's degree in Political Science with a minor in Criminal Justice from ULM prior to attending law school. During his time at ULM, he served a stint in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserves as a 0311 Infantry Rifleman, assigned to the 1st Battalion, 23rd Marines.
Needless to say, there were many sleep-deprived nights for Hawkins as he met the demands of the three-year law program.
"There were a lot of long nights, for sure," Hawkins said. "The first year is the most challenging. After that, you kind of figure out the lingo, the typical process, and what the teachers are really wanting you to take from each case or statute."
In law school, there is no catching up.
"If you're not doing something, there is probably something you should be doing," Hawkins said. "It's constant work, but there has to be a balance or you burn out."
Hawkins says time management is the biggest key to getting through law school.
"I'm pretty good at time management, but law school is different," Hawkins said. "They give you such a large amount of material to learn and then learn how to apply."
Unlike the more traditional courses, there is only one test per semester in law school.
"There are no mid-terms or periodic tests," Hawkins explained. "Everything you learn is pretty much going to be tested on one four-hour exam. It's all or nothing.”
"I have never been a strong writer. Learning the material, applying it to a set of facts, and expressing myself clearly and succinctly on one test was probably the biggest challenge for me as far as academia."
Hawkins eventually learned to balance the workload with some "me" time.
"I think I managed my time pretty well," Hawkins said. "I allowed myself to have some fun and do a few extra-curricular activities."
In his spare time, Hawkins served as Senior Articles Editor for the Journal of Energy Law & Resources where he was selected for publication for an article he authored discussing the law of Lesion and its application to Mineral Rights, and served as President of The Federalist Society (a legal society founded on the principles that the state exists to preserve freedom, that the separation of governmental powers is central to our Constitution, and that it is emphatically the province and duty of the judiciary to say what the law is, not what it should be).
On the fun side, he was a two-year defensive captain at middle linebacker and defensive end in the Paul M. Hebert Barristers' Bowl, LSU Law School's annual full-contact football game. In addition, he was head coach of the annual LSU Law powder puff football team.
Since playing his last baseball game seven years ago, Hawkins has moved on to slow-pitch softball.
"I have thrown the baseball around the yard with Micah a couple of times," Hawkins said, referring to his younger brother. "I've played some softball in the intramural leagues. I guess that's what you do when you get too old for baseball. Luckily for me, a lot of the firms have softball teams."
For Hawkins, one of the perks of living in Baton Rouge was being able to attend some LSU games.
"I follow LSU baseball and football pretty religiously," Hawkins said.
During his time at ULM for his undergraduate studies, Hawkins spent several summers doing pipeline work with his father.
"I think having the background I have in law school helped me land a job," said Hawkins, the son of Michael and Kim Hawkins of Bastrop. "They like to have people with real world working experience, and my experience ties into the work I will be doing in the legal field which is an added bonus."
Hawkins has accepted an offer to join Bradley Murchison Kelly & Shea LLC as an associate, starting in August after completion of the Louisiana Bar Exam.
"They have offices in Shreveport, Baton Rouge and New Orleans," said Hawkins, who worked in the firm's Baton Rouge office as a legal clerk. "I'll be working in the Shreveport office."
Hawkins says Bradley Murchison Kelly & Shea handles a vast range of legal issues.
"They primarily do oil and gas work, business litigation, and any number of commercial transactions," Hawkins said. "The firm does everything from medical malpractice, to insurance, to title work. Basically, the firm has a hand in everything minus criminal and family matters."
At some point down the road, Hawkins hopes to become a litigator.
"What I want to do long-term is litigation work. I hope to find a mentor within the firm that I can learn from and that will let me in the courtroom at some point," Hawkins said. "There's not a lot of litigation on the civil side of the law anymore, but I would like to litigate at some point."
Despite his desire to try a case, choosing the civil branch over the criminal element was an easy choice for Hawkins.
“My background is in oil and gas and a large focus of my studies were in the energy sector of the law, and it helps that the pay on the civil side of the law is better as well,” Hawkins said.
Before he can start reaping the financial benefits of the legal profession, there is one more test to pass. Hawkins is scheduled to take the Bar exam in July.
"I am studying for the Bar day and night," said Hawkins, who has remained in Baton Rouge since graduation. "I worked in my firms Baton Rouge office until close to finals, but I put work on pause and will begin working again, in the Shreveport office, in August. I am not risking not passing my first time."
Finishing law school was just the first obstacle on the course, followed by the Bar exam.
"I'm finally starting to feel like it was worth it," Hawkins said of seven years of college. "I've put in the time and look forward to starting my professional career. I would like to say thank you to my friends, family, and all of the great educators I have had along the way."