Meet Kali Venable ’25L, Journalist Turned Law Student Before law school, Kali Venable worked as a public safety reporter, and later as an investigative and environmental reporter at a daily newspaper in central south Texas.
Originally from Houston, Texas, Kali Venable ‘25L graduated from The University of Texas at Austin with a bachelor’s degree in journalism and certificate in creative writing. Before law school, she worked as a public safety reporter, and later as an investigative and environmental reporter at a daily newspaper in central south Texas. Her work has appeared in the Victoria Advocate, The New York Times, and Texas Monthly, among others. After deciding to pursue law, Kali left journalism to write for a law firm in Houston that represents plaintiffs in complex personal injury cases throughout the U.S. At the firm, she primarily interviewed clients and witnesses, drafted petitions, and drafted settlement brochures. Outside of class, Kali loves to hike, fish, cook, and write short fiction.
What led you to working in journalism prior to law school?
I have always loved storytelling and felt strongly about accountability, as well empowering people to engage with their communities and make educated decisions for themselves and their families. A good story can do all the above, and I felt privileged to tell so many different types of stories. Journalism also allowed me to interact with people from all walks and forced me to observe society through a sort of third-party lens that made me challenge my own bias. I enjoyed that challenge because it broadened my perspective and fed my curiosity. Not to mention, the chaos of the newsroom and the rush of deadlines meant I rarely had a dull day on the job.
What was your favorite piece of journalism to write?
Picking a favorite story is hard, but my favorites were probably the toughest to report, logistically and emotionally. I spent nearly a year reporting on the death of a 32-year-old man who died at a county jail in my coverage region after undergoing rapid methadone detox. The authorities gatekept records from both me and the family for months, so I had to do a lot of shoe leather reporting. That story sticks out because the system wronged him and his family in so many ways, and there was no accountability for the inadequate medical care at the facility nor for his preventable death. I still think about him and his family all the time. Maybe favorite isn’t the right word, but that is one of the stories that sticks out because it reminded me of why I became a journalist in the first place.
Why law school?
I covered a lot of issues as a reporter that made me question my impact. I still believe wholeheartedly in the central role a free press plays in a functioning democracy, but I increasingly struggled with my desire to do more. The more I covered issues that I care deeply about, the more I started seeing how I could help solve them by practicing law. In a way, I do not think my goals have drastically changed, just the medium through which I plan to achieve them.
What was your main reason for choosing W&L Law?
Community and size. Prior to W&L Law, I had only attended large public schools. When I decided to go to law school, I wanted the opposite: a small school that would allow me to immerse myself in my studies. W&L is one of the smallest top-tier law schools, and I think the class size creates an immediate sense of intimacy and collegial environment that you won’t find anywhere else. The strong sense of community was palpable when I visited, as well as when alumni shared their experiences with me. I would urge anyone considering W&L Law to visit, because not only will you get the warmest of welcomes, but you will also find that Lexington is an incredibly beautiful and peaceful place to be for law school.
How did you find out about W&L Law?
Prior to the application process, I did not know a lot about the law school but knew people who went to undergrad at W&L and loved their time in Lexington. I did a lot of research on different schools during my application process and had a gut feeling about W&L Law when I came across the program, which is what initially led me to apply.
How has your past work experience prepared you for law school?
I am very grateful to have a lot of writing and research experience under my belt because so much of law school is rooted in these skills. While legal writing is different from journalism in many ways, there are more similarities than I expected. Journalism also gave me a grasp on how governmental branches, agencies, and programs impact real people, which has made me more inclined to have a sense of healthy skepticism that I do not think I would have had I taken a different path. Lastly, I’d say any work experience under difficult conditions builds resiliency. It is no secret that local news is struggling and the obstacles that I encountered in the field definitely taught me time management, resourcefulness, and the value of self-worth.