April Ward Farris has achieved things many students would only imagine in their wildest dreams – attending Harvard Law School, serving as managing editor of the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy, clerking for the Department of Justice and working for one of the most prestigious law firms in the state of Texas. But she’s never forgotten where she comes from, beginning in the small town of Big Spring, Texas.
She’d wanted to be a lawyer since high school, when she was fascinated by the study of politics and the presidency of Ronald Reagan.
“I planned to go to law school because I believed that a law degree would provide me with the intellectual background and a platform of credibility necessary to make a difference on the national issues I cared about,” she said.
Ivy League edge
When it came time to choose a college, ACU was already on her radar. She received a Presidential Scholarship and enrolled as a student in the nationally accredited Journalism and Mass Communication department. While working toward her degree in Integrated Marketing Communication, April engaged in classes that ranged from JMC courses to history classes on Islam and the West, a varied course load that she says gave her an advantage in applying to an Ivy League law school.
“I think having a public relations major may have actually helped in the law school admissions process. I think the law schools like having students with a diversity of backgrounds,” she said.
She also found excellent preparation for the rigors of study at Harvard Law in one of the JMC department’s toughest courses, Communication Law. Dr. Kenneth Pybus has a reputation for teaching a “brutal” course on the subject, April says, but the skills she gained as a result were invaluable.
“Communication Law certainly helped me master the intensive study skills I would need to carry me through my Harvard Law School coursework, and it also familiarized me with important First Amendment legal principles that I later studied in great detail at Harvard,” she said.
April considers ACU not only her alma mater, but also a training ground for students preparing to enter competitive areas in graduate school or in the workforce.
“ACU has a unique set of qualities that makes it an ideal school for a person setting sights on an Ivy League law or graduate program. The school is large enough to offer a diverse and stimulating array of courses, but small enough to allow for participation in a number of extracurricular activities and the pursuit of leadership opportunities. ACU’s professors are also committed to teaching, and they take an interest in promoting their students’ future success,” she said.
Familiar theme: Change the world
When she arrived at Harvard, April found familiar themes that reminded her of her ACU experience – most notably, an emphasis on using her degree to positively affect society.
“ACU inspired me with the desire to change the world, and it equipped me with the knowledge and the spiritual foundation I needed to pursue the next step in that plan. When I visited Harvard Law School, the dean informed us that if we wanted to change the world, we had arrived at the right place. That speech seemed to bring everything full circle for me,” she said.
While at Harvard, her most rewarding experience came from her participation in the university’s Gender Violence clinical, which focused students’ legal skills on advocating for victims of domestic violence and increased technological monitoring of their abusers.
“I was able to channel my research and advocacy techniques into concrete legal policy that would provide meaningful legal protection for victims,” she said. “It is incredibly heartening to know that domestic violence victims can rest at night with the knowledge that their protective orders are no longer merely pieces of paper.”
At Yetter Coleman LLC, April finds that she’s constantly challenged and inspired. That’s what she’s come to expect, however, from herself and from her environment. Whether at ACU, Harvard Law School, or a prominent law firm, she always finds a way to try to change her corner of the world.
“Being a lawyer gives me the opportunity to put that mission into action,” she said.