Loyola University Chicago

The President’s Medallion

Kristen D. Totten

Kristen D. Totten

Over the past two years, Kristen has proven to be an exemplary legal scholar. She ranks 4th out of 238 students in her class and has also served as the assistant coach for the criminal law mock trial team. 

But Kristen is far more than a scholar and coach. She’s volunteered for the Center for Elderly and Disability Law; served as a Guardian ad litem as a part of the ChildLaw Clinic at Loyola; and worked with high school students to encourage them to think critically and aspire to reach their goals. 

Here, she talks about her experience on a mock trial team, why attorneys should help the less fortunate, and what it was like starting law school as a new mother.  

What’s your favorite Loyola memory?

My second year of law school I made one of Loyola's mock trial teams.  It was a new team with attorneys new to coaching and students new to mock trial. We were excited to be a part of the team, but we knew we had a lot to learn. We all worked together and learned more that season than I thought possible. From that moment on, I focused my law school experience on developing my advocacy skills toward a career as a trial attorney. 

Talk a little about a professor or mentor who inspired you.

I started law school as new mom, returning to school after an 8-year hiatus. I honestly did not know if I would be able to make it through the next three or four years of school. Then I attended my first class, civil procedure, taught by Dean Michael Kaufman. His engaging teaching style and the care he shows to his students made me eager for each class. I knew then I was in the right place and that I was capable of becoming an attorney.  

Tell us about your volunteer/service work and what it means to you.

Loyola provides so many opportunities for students to use their education to help others. I worked with clients in the Childlaw Clinic, where I saw the acute need for pro bono legal services. The experience taught me that as attorneys, we can use our knowledge to empower others by helping them know their rights and by providing representation they need but could not otherwise obtain.  

Any advice you would give students about how to get the most out of their education?

Involve yourself in activities that interest you. When you pursue what you enjoy doing, you naturally put in the effort it takes to develop skills in a meaningful way.

What do you hope to be doing 10 years from now?

I am fortunate to be heading to a great law firm here in Chicago.  I look forward to working in their litigation and white-collar defense practices. In 10 years, I hope to be working at that same firm as a part of a number of trial teams. I also hope that I will continue the volunteer efforts I took part in throughout law school and use my skills as an attorney to help others. 

Who are your favorite writers?

I love David Sedaris.  If you ever have the chance to see him live, his stories are even better when he reads them. Aside from him, I have more favorite books than favorite authors. To name a few: I love “The History of Love” by Nicole Strauss, “The Corrections” by Jonathan Franzen, “Empire Falls” by Richard Russo, and “Blink” by Malcolm Gladwell.  

Which living person do you most admire?

I admire so many family members and mentors, but of the people I most admire is my mom. She’s the type of person who reminds you—through words and action—not to put limits on yourself. Right now, my mom is running her alpaca farm and the crazy lives of two (nearly) teenaged boys while pursuing a degree herself. If I can be like her, I know I will be fine.