DEAN'S COUNCIL SPOTLIGHT
Eulis Simien | Class of 1985 | Simien & Simien | Baton Rouge, La.
Tammy Simien | Class of 1992 | LSU Legal Affairs and General Counsel | Baton Rouge, La.
Although you graduated in different decades, both of you did so during the time that we refer to as the “high attrition years.” Was there a big difference in the way each of you experienced law school? How did you manage the stress of law school, and what, if anything, do you wish you had done differently?
Eulis: We both attended during the time that attrition was higher, so we had the same pressures to deal with in that regard. However, Tammy had some additional pressures. One of the biggest differences was that I was still single when I attended law school, though Tammy and I married just before my third year. By the time Tammy came to law school, we were married and had two children, with our third being born before her last year. That, of course, particularly during those olden days of the higher attrition rates, resulted in added pressure on her.
In addition, she had to deal with the added pressure of being not only a wife, but the wife of a full-time faculty member—one of “them,” as the students viewed the faculty. One of the funniest things to happen was that Tammy was walking outside the library and two students were in front of her, but did not know who she was, and they were talking about how they would never take a class from “that a**hole Simien.”
Tammy: Being married to a faculty member also created challenges with me having to deal with other faculty members in the classroom, when I had previously socialized with them and knew them personally. I had professors who would treat me like I was invisible in their class, others who called on me everyday (probably to make sure no one thought that the professors would be easy on me), and others who were “especially” nice in class (to the point of embarrassing me). Part of what I would do to handle the stress of law school was to make sure that I took the same daily 20-minute naps on the fourth floor of the library that I took when I was in grammar school. Both Eulis and I also practiced the same habit of staying focused on what was important to us. Despite the challenges, neither of us would change a thing.
Eulis, tell us about pursuing the LLM at Columbia University. The cultural differences between New York and Louisiana had to have made an impression. What was different about how you were taught at Columbia and how you were taught as a J.D. candidate at LSU Law?
Eulis: I really enjoyed my experience at Columbia, mostly because we got to live in Manhattan for a year. It is not a place I think I would want to live permanently, but for a year it was great. We kind of looked at it as an extended vacation in an exotic place. Of course, there was challenges that made it not truly an extended vacation. I had work to do for my studies and Tammy took a job to help support us, not to mention that we had to live on a student’s budget. But we tried to do as much as our finances allowed us to do. We got a great opportunity to see New York as well as other cities in the northeast that up until that time we had not experienced. On another occasion, we will share with you how we ended up with having a car in New York City—crazy I know.
The experience at Columbia was substantially different than my time at LSU Law, but difference was primarily because of the nature of my studies rather than because of differences in the schools themselves. The schools and the skills of the students were pretty similar. While at Columbia, I mostly spent my time doing research and writing and only had a couple of classes each semester.
One of the things that was different was the tremendously culturally diverse student body. We knew and became friends with people from around the world who were in the school. One of our friends was a woman from South Africa, who was studying in the U.S. but fully intended to return to help bring about change from South Africa’s apartheid governmental system. Another set of friends was a couple (with their two children) from Australia.
When we would get together for meals at one of the students’ apartments, we often ended up at our house because they enjoyed my Louisiana cooking. One night for a gathering of students, I was tasked with bringing some gumbo. To make it harder, I was told the gumbo had to be kosher so both the Jewish and Muslim students who would be attending could enjoy some with us. With a very serious shopping adventure, I pulled it off and most people said they enjoyed the gumbo.
Tammy, what lead you to your public law/health care practice? There have been so many changes to the structure of health care delivery in Louisiana since 2008, and your work as assistant general counsel for LSU Health Care Services must have put you right in the middle of it. What were some of the challenges?
Tammy: I was led into the area of public law with a special emphasis on health care issues by happenstance. One Sunday morning, I was reading the newspaper when I saw an ad for an in-house lawyer for the LSU-Health Care Services Division and I applied. That I found this job in the newspaper most certainly shows my age. I previously practiced employment law at a large defense firm in town and did not have any health care law in my background. Strangely enough, I was hired. At that time, LSU-HCSD operated seven of the public hospitals in the southern part of the state for which I acted as general counsel for all but the one in New Orleans. There were also others in the northern part of the state which had a different general counsel.
Being a hospital lawyer, I was exposed to new issues every day from what to do about the baby left in the ER or how should we discipline the 35-year employee who was caught stealing steaks out of the cafeteria freezers. Nonetheless, it was a truly great experience for me and provided me with a wealth of knowledge. Beginning in 2013, I assisted in the transition of several of the hospitals from state operations to private management. This change, among others, led me to my current position as Assistant General Counsel for LSU’s Office of General Counsel.
Eulis, you were a faculty member at LSU Law for a time—and rumor has it you were quite well-liked both by your students and your colleagues. What made you decide to leave academia and go into practice? You’ve also served as an adjunct professor from time-to-time since you left. How is that different?
Eulis: The story above notwithstanding, I do believe I was liked and respected by most of my students, though I was then—and still am now—not considered one of the easiest graders. I also got along with the others on the faculty, and we had great mutual respect for one another. I still consider some of the relationships I developed during my full-time teaching as some of my most valuable.
I truly love teaching, including the opportunity to have an impact on the future of our bar. My brother, who finished at LSU Law one year after me, started his own law firm and when he got to the point that he needed some help, I had to make a decision. After thinking long and hard about it, I, as Tammy says, “took leave of my senses” and decided to leave full-time teaching behind to go back to the crazier life of the practice of law.
Though I love what I do and have not regretted one minute of it, it was not because I did not have a love for teaching as well as research and writing. It was just an opportunity I could not pass up. But, to this date I still teach as an adjunct professor at LSU Law (for about 28 years since I left full-time teaching) and I still love being in the classroom.
Tammy, we heard that you really get into the spirit of Halloween. Who greeted trick-or-treaters at your house this year, and how were you costumed?
Tammy: Eulis and I previously lived in the Garden District where Halloween is huge. The vast crowd of kids who came for treats were from our neighborhood as well as from other South Baton Rouge neighborhoods. Eulis and I would start buying candy in September all the way through to the days before Halloween. The candy was placed in huge plastic storage tubs which were dragged out onto the porch right before the time for trick or treating began. Those tubs were just about emptied by 8 p.m. We did this for 17 years. However, our first Halloween in the Garden District was a true nightmare. We didn’t know about the hundreds of kids who would show up. We had just both a few bags of candy for what we thought would be for the neighborhood kids. Well, Eulis ended up going on three candy runs at Walmart that night and we still didn’t have enough. That night, we even went into our pantry, giving out pop tarts or whatever we thought the kids would accept. I have mainly dressed up as Snow White because I get so many hugs from the little children.
All of us here at LSU Law greatly appreciate your support. You have a scholarship in your name and you’re members of the Dean’s Council. The Eulis and Garda Simien Sr. Scholarship is an important award for one lucky student each year. What motivated you to create that scholarship?
Eulis: Particularly when I was student at LSU, being married in my last year, finances were tight for us. My parents did all that they could to assist me, and then us once we got married. We were inspired by the assistance that my parents gave to us, both emotionally and financially, to try to help students, particularly those in underrepresented groups, to meet some of the financial demands of attending law school. We feel so blessed to be able to provide some assistance to law students as they attempt to handle the financial burdens which come with pursuing this field.
What do you do to unwind?
Eulis: I don’t know how to unwind. I have two speeds, fast and asleep. I get bored when I am not on the go—though I do admit that I have a real passion for LSU football that carries over to other college football. But other than that, I don’t know what unwinding is. At this time, I still am very active in managing my law firm and acting as its chief litigator. I am still teaching as an adjunct, I am an ordained Deacon in the Catholic Church, and I participate in several volunteer roles. I will have plenty of time to unwind once my days on the earth are done and as I, hopefully, enjoy eternity with my Lord.
Tammy: Unlike Eulis, I love to unwind. Coming from New Orleans, my family and friends thought nothing of sitting at the dinner table for hours after the meal had been eaten talking about various topics. I also love to read even though I don’t get a lot of opportunity to do so. Additionally, I like shopping, going to the movies and trying out new restaurants with Eulis, our girls, grandchildren, or friends.