Rana R. Lehr-Lehnardt lives in Liberty, Missouri, where she is a professor at the University of Missouri—Kansas City School of Law. She teaches courses in international human rights, comparative law, introduction to the common law system, and legal analysis and writing for international masters of law students. She earned her bachelors degrees in journalism and French at Brigham Young University, as well as her J.D. from BYU’s J. Reuben Clark Law School. Rana also holds an L.L.M. degree in International Human Rights from Columbia Law School. Thank you, Rana, for introducing yourself to us!
What have you done since law school and where do you work now?
After law school I accepted an associate position at Ballard Spahr LLP’s Salt Lake City office where I worked for only a few months until I accepted an offer to clerk on the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals for Judge Terrence L. O’Brien. Near the end of the clerkship, I gave birth to my first daughter. Shortly after the clerkship, we moved to New York City for my husband to clerk on the Court of International Trade. The first year in New York City, I lobbied for an NGO and attended various conferences at the United Nations. It was a great experience getting to participate in the international policy and lawmaking arena. The second year in New York City I attended Columbia Law School where I completed a masters of law degree in which I focused on international human rights. While at Columbia Law School, I participated in the human rights clinic and researched and interviewed juveniles sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. For another project, I traveled to Bolivia to conduct interviews and determine the country’s progress toward the UN Millennium Development goals. I then worked for the program on Freedom of Religion and Belief at the American Civil Liberties Union in Washington, D.C. After the birth of my second daughter, I worked only on a project-by-project basis for my former boss. In 2009, we moved to Liberty, Missouri. Since January 2010, I have been teaching law at University of Missouri—Kansas City School of Law.
|Rana in China with her students who took her on a bike ride around a national park|
What do you enjoy most about what you do?
I love teaching and working with students. I work with international masters of law students and appreciate the opportunity to get to know their culture and their hopes for the future. I also enjoy introducing them to some U.S. culture by inviting them into my home for parties, i.e., Halloween, Christmas, and Easter.
|Rana with her international students at the annual Halloween party she hosts|
Has your path in law differed from your original expectations? If so, in what way?
I am not sure how I imagined my path in law. Law is a second career for me. My first career was as a journalist. I went to law school to learn more about human rights and to learn how to change unjust laws. I never expected to live in Missouri and thought moving here would mean the end of pursuing career opportunities in human rights issues. But it is here in Missouri where I have been given the opportunity to teach law, something that would have been much harder in Washington, D.C. I have learned that career opportunities can present themselves where we least expect them.
What are your future professional goals?
A little while ago, I realized that I could be happy in many career paths. Because both my husband and I are attorneys, we have both taken leaps of faith, sometimes moving to benefit the other’s career. In each case, so far, the spouse who agreed to move with no job prospect ultimately found a position that far exceeded expectations. I find flexibility is more important in my career path than a specific professional goal.
How do you juggle your personal and professional lives?
I juggle my personal and professional lives very imperfectly. I have consciously made career choices to balance my professional and personal life so that I wouldn’t have to juggle as much. I don’t know if I will ever have the career I could have had, but I hope that I will have the career that will allow me to be happy and fulfilled in both my personal and professional lives.
Certain career choices I made that helped me to balance personal and professional lives are as follows: After my clerkship, when my first child was three months old, I chose not to search for a job. I stayed home with my baby that next year, except for a few conferences at the United Nations. After my second child was born, I quit my job at the ACLU and only worked on a few projects during the next couple of years until my third child was born. During this time, I also volunteered for an asylum NGO. I tried to continue doing just enough to stay connected to the human rights community. When we moved to Missouri, an opportunity presented to begin teaching law as an adjunct professor at University of Missouri—Kansas City School of Law. I don’t think I would have able afforded this opportunity if I had not dedicated time during the previous few years participating in projects that gave me experience and resume fodder. Starting as an adjunct then lead to my current position as assistant teaching professor of law. Even my time at the law school has been one of choices to help me balance personal and professional lives. My first five years at the law school I was technically teaching part-time, so I was able to be home when my son finished preschool and my girls finished school. I was also home on Fridays with my preschool son. And most importantly, I was home with my children during summer and winter vacations. Now that my three children are all in school, I requested full-time status. My full-time status is not tenure track, but I believe that if we are diligent and balanced, opportunities will present when they are best for you and your situation.
Tell us about your family.
I am married to a wonderful, supportive husband, Mark B. Lehnardt. We have three children, ages 11, 9, and 6. School evenings are full of homework, ballet, piano, violin, soccer, art, church responsibilities and activities, and mediating arguments.
|Rana with her family at one of their favorite places--the beach!|
What advice would you give to other women either interested or already working in the law?
Remember that everyone’s path is different. I struggle not to compare myself to other women attorneys. So often I will look at what another woman attorney has accomplished and I feel like a failure. I have to remember that I am happy with the balance I have achieved. I would like to progress in my career, but I also want to continue being present for my children, taking time to care for my body (running, stretching), cooking healthy and delicious food, and serving others.
My advice to others interested or working in the law is based on what a previous bishop said to me, “Get into the best law school [or job] you can and give ‘em hell.” I add to that advice, don’t give yourself hell. Determine what will make you happy, seek guidance in finding your balance, and pursue your own path. Don’t compare yourself to others as your path is your own.