Family Law Student Matt Branson Has Fostered More Than 25 Kids
Juris Doctoral Candidate, Family Law | School of Law | 2017
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Where is UMKC taking you?
I am getting a law degree. UMKC has emphasis programs. I will be doing the family law emphasis and focusing on guardianship adoption and family law practice.
My wife and I have been doing foster care for about five years now. We’ve had 26 kids come through our home so far. We were at a foster conference that had a judges’ panel. Judge Kathleen Sloan on the Kansas side does childcare cases. She put a challenge out there and said we don’t have enough lawyers who want to do this type of work. If anyone is interested or has the ability to go to law school, please do. So my wife and I talked about it and decided it was something I could do.
Why did you choose UMKC?
I looked at some other law schools in the area. I wanted to stay local because licensures don’t transfer from state to state. UMKC far and above had the best family law program. I came in and talked to the Associate Dean, Barbara Glesner Fines, and she really sold me on it. You can tell a big difference between lawyers and professors who do it as an academic practice and those who have a passion for it. Glesner Fines really gets it. She said they have four faculty dedicated to family law, which you aren’t going to find anywhere else.
What led you to UMKC?
I was looking in the area and I had a friend who got his DDS here and he spoke highly of UMKC. He’s been a pretty successful dentist and so UMKC was on my list of places to check out.
What motto do you live by?
My dad always said: “if it’s moral, legal and it’s ethical, anything you can do to make a buck.” He also said: “Work hard at whatever you’re doing. Whatever’s out in front of you, go after it.” It’s always been a family motto.
What’s your favorite place at UMKC?
We do a lot of hanging out in the lounge. That’s where most first-year law students (1Ls) are. And the library of course. All 1Ls are on the first floor. As you move on, you’re no longer seen there. It has the lounge and the big classrooms. Since 1Ls don’t have a cubicle or office space, that’s where they are.
When the UMKC School of Law was built, they created lots of student offices. You’re guaranteed to have an office at some point during your time. Student offices are near professor offices so they’re not isolated. The offices are for studying. In your second and third year, you’re likely working a lot. When you finish 50 percent of your course-work, you can practice with a licensed lawyer overseeing your work. Most people when they finish their second year are either working at one of the clinics that UMKC School of Law offers or they are doing some kind of outside work.
Who at UMKC has influenced you the most?
Glesner Fines and the family law staff. They have real passion for the work. They started the family law clinic about 10 years ago, which is pretty rare to find in a law school.
What got you started on foster parenting?
We started looking at the options for adoption and did some research. For us, fostering seemed the way to go about that. If you’re thinking about local adoption, a lot of these kids are coming through the foster system. We thought, if they’re going to spend any time in the foster system, we’d rather have them spend time with us. We thought it was a place where we could help out.
Foster parenting involved a 10-week training course, for an hour a week to get certified. There were 40 people in our group. The more we got into it, we just thought there was a big need for people who are going to provide safe homes for kids in foster care because there seems to be a shortage.
What are your hobbies?
When I find the time, I’m a pretty big geek book reader. I read The King’s Killer series recently. They’re going to make a television show out of it.
I have a bachelor’s in philosophy and most of us philosophy guys love science fiction because it’s philosophy with characters.
Do you belong to any organizations?
I’m co-president of the UMKC Family Law Society and a member of the emissary team.
The Family Law Society is right up my alley for what I am passionate about. We serve the community in a lot of ways. We’re going to do a domestic violence awareness panel this fall during Domestic Violence Awareness Week. We’re putting on “In Her Shoes,” an interactive simulation where you get a character card and have to go from station to station to find out what happens to your character. We have a uniformed police officer come and work the “seek help from law enforcement” station, and have others at different posts. It lays out the challenges that women go through when dealing with domestic violence. We do a lot of work with local shelters Safehome and Rose Brooks Center. We’re going to be doing a feminine hygiene products drive because it’s one of the biggest needs of shelters.
Besides UMKC, what’s your favorite place to hang out in Kansas City?
My wife and I are at the K as much as we can. She’s actually a bigger baseball fan than I am. When we first started dating, she could name the lineup off the top of her head. We just recently went to the Kauffman Performing Arts Center for the first time and it was fantastic.
How has your college program inspired you?
Law is a really challenging program. Just when I think I have figured it all out, there is something new to learn. The program has really inspired me to learn and work like I never have before. UMKC Law really lets your explore the limits of your intellectual curiosity. It is an exciting—and sometimes unnerving— experience.
Since entering college, what have you learned about yourself?
I am better at time management and organization than I first thought! With the hundreds of cases that we have to read, I guess it just became a necessity.
What’s the best piece of advice you have ever received from a professor?
Professor David Achtenberg took a moment out of his lecture, and after a short pause, he stated that we were a talented class and challenged us to use that talent to help people. We all talked about how his sincerity really underscored his message. His expectation of us is something that I think we all carry.
What’s your greatest fear?
I was concerned when I first started law school that the work would always feel awkward and unwieldy. Every paper I handed in felt like it could be a “F.” Professor Wanda Temm really helped to convince me that this was a very common feeling and that it gets better. She was right.
Beyond that, I have a childhood fear of wolves. I know most adults fear the job market, debilitating illness or student debt. But for me….it’s really just the wolves.
What is one word that best describes you and why?
Happy. I am often smiling or humming in the hallways before class. I really enjoy my classes and classmates. I mean, what’s not to love? I think keeping my upbeat attitude is especially important going into the legal field. UMKC law professor Nancy Levit suggests as much in her book The Happy Lawyer, which I would highly recommend.