SMU Dedman School of Law student Kristina Brooks grew up surrounded by music. Her father, Randy Brooks, wrote the popular Christmas song, “Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer.”
Brooks, a Dallas native, watched her father navigate licensing and copyright law as a songwriter and said that is what got her interested in media law.
“After my first year of law school I suspected I may like media law, and this clerkship was narrowly focused on that,” Brooks said.
Brooks is the winner of the first ever Stephen Philbin Clerkship in Media Law Award for her work as a legal clerk. The award is part of the Stephen Philbin awards given by the Dallas Bar Association each year to recognize excellence in legal reporting. Brooks accepted her award, which came with a $3,300 stipend, at a Bar Association luncheon in September.
Brooks’ clerkship lasted six weeks in the summer of 2016, and her time was split between working with The Dallas Morning News’ legal department at A. H. Belo, and at Jackson Walker L.L.P., a Dallas-based law firm that specializes in media law.
“I found Kristi enthusiastic about learning media law,” said Paul Watler, a partner at Jackson Walker. “It was not just another area of law to study, but one that had meaning and relevance to her.”
Brooks said that The Dallas Morning News has been a long-time client of Jackson Walker and that she witnessed daily interactions between the two organizations as she sat in on conference calls and worked on multiple projects.
“Part of the way that they are able to handle the workload in such a small legal department is by outsourcing, sharing, and asking for advice from Jackson Walker,” said Brooks.
Brooks graduated from Vanderbilt University with a bachelor’s degree in creative writing and is now in her third year of law school at Southern Methodist University.
Christine Larkin, General Counsel for A.H. Belo, and mentor to Brooks during the clerkship, explained the dynamics of working as a clerk in the legal department alongside professionals such as herself.
“It is a great opportunity to learn an area of law in a more sophisticated environment that one might not otherwise have had,” Larkin said.
During her clerkship, Brooks said she was exposed to both journalism and law as they converge in real time.
“We put together a meaningful program where she was able to see first-hand how and in what context a media law lawyer works,” said Larkin.
Each morning Larkin and Brooks attended the “headline rodeo,” working with journalists to determine appropriate headlines for the following day.
“It was interesting to watch breaking news happen and to see how stories develop while also being on the backside of the process,” said Brooks.
Elizabeth Philipp, Executive Director of the Dallas Bar Foundation, was involved in the selection process for the clerkship and said that Brooks stood out as a candidate because she possessed intellectual curiosity.
“This is a way of making sure that this generation of young lawyers is aware of the legacy of Stephen Philbin,” said Philipp.
The Philbin awards honor the late Stephen Philbin and his contributions as a leading authority in media law in Texas. His sister, Susan, established the awards in 1983 to honor the best legal news reporting in the Dallas-Fort Worth region in newspapers, magazines, radio and television.
“Media law was probably Stephen’s favorite part about his law practice,” said Philipp. “He loved when he would get a call from the newsroom, drop whatever he was doing and run down to the newsroom to sit and talk with the journalists.”
Brooks said she hopes to continue her path in media law following graduation.
The clerkship award will continue to be offered annually to law students across Texas.