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UHLC student Erin Kelly excels as health law legislative fellow

April 30, 2024 – University of Houston Law Center student Erin Kelly found a dream opportunity working as a Health Law Legislative Fellow for the Texas Senate Health and Human Services Committee. Passionate about improving food regulations in the country, Kelly had the opportunity to contribute to the revision of several food laws during her fellowship.

With prior experience working under a celebrity chef and managing a micro-farm, Kelly has a strong foundation in the culinary field.

Since embarking on her legal education journey at UHLC, Kelly has achieved notable milestones, such as working as a Health Law Legislative Fellow for State Sen. Lois Kolkhorst and earning a finalist position in the 2023 Blakely-Butler Moot Court Competition.

HLPI offers state legislative fellowships for students to work with lawmakers in Austin, Texas. The fellowships provide students with a unique opportunity to participate in health policymaking at the state level and to forge strong networks with policy leaders. Fellows research issues related to health law, analyze health policies, and contribute to the development of legislation. For more information on the fellowship, email

Connor Schlacks

Erin Kelly (right) with Senator Lois Kolkhorst

UHLC student Erin Kelly

How was your experience working with the Senate Health and Human Services Committee in Lois Kolkhorst’s office as a Health Law Legislative Fellow? How has/will this experience help you?

Working on the committee felt like my dream job. It was fast-paced, and every day, I amassed new assignments. The committee director really supported my interests and goals and offered me a lot of work in different areas of health law legislation. I even had the opportunity to work on changing a few food laws!

The committee, the senator, and her entire office worked tirelessly for 140 days to pass bills that positively impacted millions of Texans. It was an honor to be a part of that team. I can’t wait to return next session!

The experience helped shape my understanding of new areas of health law. For example, prior to the session, I did not have a firm understanding of genetic information law. After working on a genetic bill for months, I ended up securing a research position at the Law Center under the tutelage of Professor Jessica Roberts. That opportunity will open doors to many more research opportunities in the future.

How and when did you discover your interest in the law, specifically health law?

It was during the pandemic, actually. I am sure that was the case for many of us. I lost all three of my jobs: running a micro-farm, working under a celebrity chef, and working as a health coach

(in training) under a physician. Even the gardens shut down: I volunteered as a culinary and gardening teacher in elementary schools. Oh, and I was in school full-time completing my undergrad at UNC Asheville. Due to the pandemic, I was now on an indefinite spring break while the world shut down. At a complete standstill in my life and not sure what to do, my now husband asked me what my dream job was. I didn’t skip a beat, and said, I want to change food laws in our country. He laughed and said, you might have to go to law school to do that. The next day, he sent me Mike Kim’s “The LSAT Trainer” in the mail. He lived in Texas, and I lived in North Carolina. He called and said if I was going to go to law school, I needed to read that book!

I had spent decades working with people to achieve better health outcomes through access to healthy food. Now I was going to help them on a different level. Once I made that decision, the floodgates opened: While studying to take the LSAT, I started diving headfirst into food policy and legislation, farmer and producer rights, healthcare systems, and nutrition initiatives on the national level. I spent the next two and a half years advancing my understanding of health law, food law, and policymaking, as well as the legal field as a whole through international legal internships. At one point, I was waking up at different hours for meetings that were based in Bangkok, Thailand, Warrington, England, Brooklyn, New York, and Dallas, Texas. I was working around the clock trying to learn everything I could about this fascinating area of law. I haven’t even scratched the surface!

What led you to pursue your legal education at the UHLC?

The UHLC checked all the boxes I wanted from a legal education. I wanted a law school with a strong reputation, particularly in health law. The Law Center’s health law program was repeatedly the highest-ranked in the state and one of the top in the country, which made it a pretty easy decision for me. I am also interested in understanding the intersection between health and criminal outcomes, so knowing I could experience the Death Penalty Clinic in the country's leading execution state solidified my decision. Since starting law school, I have found many other cool programs the Law Center offers that I had no idea about when applying.

What are some of your favorite memories/professors here so far?

The professors at the Law Center are incredible. The energy and entertainment they bring each day is like watching a Broadway show. I get really into the class discussions.

Professor Dow approached Contracts the way I imagined all classes would be taught, given my Hollywood understanding of law school. I called Contracts my legal existential crisis class. He forced my brain to stop thinking in binary terms and to assume any outcome could be correct if the elements of a Contract were met and argued well.

Conversely, Civil Procedure clearly has a right and wrong answer, which I loved! Professor Ragazzo rewired my brain in a different way. I was so out of my comfort zone, beyond overwhelmed with the material and workload, and he only demanded more each day. That, in turn, made me a faster and sharper reader. I stopped getting lost in the weeds. And I took his advice very seriously: GET SLEEP! If you’re falling asleep in class, you’re missing everything! I was admittingly yawning a lot in his class. I even cried after my first on-call with him, due to excess exhaustion. Despite that, it was still one of my favorite classes!

I am deeply grateful for Professor Heard’s professional mentorship and teaching methods, which utilize a multi-module reinforcement scheme. It’s a game-changer in how I learn the material. Since starting law school, every opportunity I have experienced, such as working in the Senate Health and Human Services Committee, Moot Court, and the Death Penalty Clinic, has required the skills taught in her LSS class. My legal writing has vastly improved due to her challenging writing assignments. Whenever I think I have submitted a masterpiece, she has more edits for me! Haha!

Most importantly, Professor Roberts is my academic mentor and research professor. Working with her is easily the highlight of my academic career. She is beyond brilliant, and her approach to health law is critical in today’s legal landscape. Her guidance and support have shaped my law school experience beyond what I could have imagined when starting in the Fall of 2022. I am excited to continue working with her on whatever project she throws at me well past graduation!

Did you enjoy competing in the 2023 Blakely-Butler Moot Court Competition? What was that experience like and how has it helped you in the pursuit of a legal career?

I definitely enjoyed competing in the competition. It helped that I had the best partner imaginable, Aaron Holmes, who really guided me through the process of the competition.

Watching him prepare and present his argument was awe-inspiring. He is truly a gifted speaker, writer, and soon-to-be attorney. He won “best speaker,” so the judges agreed with me!

The experience itself was a bit nerve-wracking at first. I had only completed my first semester of law school, so I had to do a ton of research on appellate advocacy and learn how to write a brief!

However, the experience has already bolstered my legal career opportunities. It gives employers an opportunity to mention my Moot Court finalist designation on my resume. I think it helped me secure my summer position.

What’s the most valuable lesson you’ve learned here at the UHLC?

Attending law school is a daily exercise in humility. Everyone around you is brilliant and brings a depth of experience you cannot relate to. However, it’s an absolute privilege to be here. I hope to never lose sight of that. Even on nights when I am so tired, when I can no longer read the words in my case book. Due to that privilege and the inevitable success it will bring, I have a duty to pay it forward and to help those who lack access to entry.

What advice would you give to someone considering going to law school?

I know for some people the path is laid out and feels concrete. But my advice to everyone would be: don’t come in with a plan. Let the experience guide you. Once you're here, you will find out what truly interests you and what you’re good at. Law school breaks you down and rebuilds you. I do not think you come out of this the same person. I don’t think you’re supposed to. How can you know what path of the law you want to take on the first day of class if you’re not even the same person when you graduate?

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