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Improvisation enhances lawyer’s skill set

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off-clock-logoAs a theater major at the University of Notre Dame, Katrina Gossett always thought she’d be spending more of her time performing than prosecuting. However, life took one of its unexpected detours, and today she’s a mid-level associate in Faegre Baker Daniel LLP’s business litigation group.

“I actually did mock trial in high school,” she said. “I did it more for the theater aspect, but I did play a lawyer, and I really enjoyed that. But I still didn’t think I’d ever be an attorney; I thought I was either going to be a teacher or in Hollywood.” She paused and smiled. “Actually, if Hollywood comes calling, it might be hard to turn that down.”
 

comedy-gossett-katrina-1col.jpg Katrina Gossett (IL Photos/Eric Learned)

When Gossett eventually ruled out teaching as a career path, she thought back to her time in mock trial and decided law school would be a good option for her.

But she couldn’t escape her roots entirely. When the ComedySportz World Championship came to Indianapolis in 2011, it inspired her to take improv classes and eventually to audition for the local ComedySportz team.

ComedySportz is an all-ages improv comedy show formatted like a sporting competition. There are two teams of “act-letes” who perform on a “field,” not a stage, while a referee mediates. As the night unfolds, points are scored and fouls are called – such as the infamous Groaner Foul, called against an act-lete whose joke is so stupid or “punny” that the audience audibly groans. Gossett explained that there are also winners and losers, although it’s hard to imagine anyone losing when the ultimate goal is rampant hilarity. ComedySportz operates in 24 cities in America and Europe and has been around since 1984, making the Indianapolis team part of a proud global tradition in gut-busting belly laughs. It’s not hard to see why Gossett was eager to join the fray. But that’s not to say that making the leap into improv was an easy decision. Even seasoned actors often have a smidgen of stage fright.

“Even though I did theater in college, improv terrified me,” Gossett admitted. “I was so afraid that I wouldn’t be funny enough, so I kind of held back. But I decided to stretch myself because I still have the theater bug in me, so I have to find ways to feed it.”

After enrolling in classes with ComedySportz, Gossett discovered that she actually had a lot of the skills needed to be good at improv, like the ability to think on her feet and to “just go for it.” Most importantly, she learned to stop worrying and just let it happen.

“I learned that you’re not actually trying to be funny,” she explained. “You’re trying to perform and the funny just happens. I think once you let go of the idea that you have to be funny at all times, then you can kind of breathe and actually do improv.”


comedy-gossett-15col.jpgKatrina Gossett performs with Ben Fraley, left, and D.J. Murray, center, at ComedySportz in Indianapolis.

Once she had plenty of practice under her belt, and bolstered by positive feedback from her classmates and instructors, Gossett auditioned for the team last May. She made the cut, and she has been part of the regular rotation since December. Despite juggling a busy schedule, this is what she wants to be doing.

“I decide I’m going to make time for it, and the time appears. It leaves me very little time for sleep and vegging out in front of the TV, but I’m having a blast doing it, and it’s where I want to spend my time outside of work.”

Even though this is a relatively new hobby for the attorney, her enthusiasm is contagious and it’s hard for even devoted introverts not to be a little captivated by the charm of improv. It’s difficult to resist the idea of being someone entirely different – several someones actually – each and every time you mount the stage.

“I love the freedom of it,” Gossett said. “There are no limits when you’re doing improv. You can be anybody. So I could be an old man, I could be a toddler, I could be an elephant that can talk. There are absolutely no restrictions. I also feel that, being a person who uses a wheelchair, a lot of people put limits on me and think that I can’t do this or that, and it’s an opportunity for me to step out of that.”

Perhaps unexpectedly, Gossett also thinks that the time she spends at ComedySportz actually complements her work as an attorney, noting that the skill sets involved often overlap.

“How to react and interact with other people, all of that is very important in litigation,” she explained. “You have to collaborate, you have to respond, be quick on your feet and be ready to answer anything in the courtroom.”

Gossett encourages anyone who is interested to give improv a shot. She claimed that most of the skills necessary to do improv can be learned and notes that ComedySportz offers classes at all levels, including those for beginners to help you “get out of your shell.”

“Besides,” she added, “you get to play pretend for a few hours, and how many adults get to do that?”•
 

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  1. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) End of Year Report 2014. (page 13) Under the current system many local registering agencies are challenged just keeping up with registration paperwork. It takes an hour or more to process each registrant, the majority of whom are low risk offenders. As a result law enforcement cannot monitor higher risk offenders more intensively in the community due to the sheer numbers on the registry. Some of the consequences of lengthy and unnecessary registration requirements actually destabilize the life’s of registrants and those -such as families- whose lives are often substantially impacted. Such consequences are thought to raise levels of known risk factors while providing no discernible benefit in terms of community safety. The full report is available online at. http://www.casomb.org/index.cfm?pid=231 National Institute of Justice (NIJ) US Department of Justice Office of Justice Programs United States of America. The overall conclusion is that Megan’s law has had no demonstrated effect on sexual offenses in New Jersey, calling into question the justification for start-up and operational costs. Megan’s Law has had no effect on time to first rearrest for known sex offenders and has not reduced sexual reoffending. Neither has it had an impact on the type of sexual reoffense or first-time sexual offense. The study also found that the law had not reduced the number of victims of sexual offenses. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/app/publications/abstract.aspx? ID=247350 The University of Chicago Press for The Booth School of Business of the University of Chicago and The University of Chicago Law School Article DOI: 10.1086/658483 Conclusion. The data in these three data sets do not strongly support the effectiveness of sex offender registries. The national panel data do not show a significant decrease in the rate of rape or the arrest rate for sexual abuse after implementation of a registry via the Internet. The BJS data that tracked individual sex offenders after their release in 1994 did not show that registration had a significantly negative effect on recidivism. And the D.C. crime data do not show that knowing the location of sex offenders by census block can help protect the locations of sexual abuse. This pattern of noneffectiveness across the data sets does not support the conclusion that sex offender registries are successful in meeting their objectives of increasing public safety and lowering recidivism rates. The full report is available online at. http://www.jstor.org/stable/full/10.1086/658483 These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of conclusions and reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. People, including the media and other organizations should not rely on and reiterate the statements and opinions of the legislators or other people as to the need for these laws because of the high recidivism rates and the high risk offenders pose to the public which simply is not true and is pure hyperbole and fiction. They should rely on facts and data collected and submitted in reports from the leading authorities and credible experts in the fields such as the following. California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 0.8% (page 30) The full report is available online at http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/Adult_Research_Branch/Research_Documents/2014_Outcome_Evaluation_Report_7-6-2015.pdf California Sex Offender Management Board (CASOMB) (page 38) Sex offender recidivism rate for a new sex offense is 1.8% The full report is available online at. http://www.google.com/url?sa= t&source=web&cd=1&ved= 0CCEQFjAA&url=http%3A%2F% 2Fwww.cdcr.ca.gov%2FAdult_ Research_Branch%2FResearch_ documents%2FOutcome_ evaluation_Report_2013.pdf&ei= C9dSVePNF8HfoATX-IBo&usg=AFQjCNE9I6ueHz-o2mZUnuxLPTyiRdjDsQ Bureau of Justice Statistics 5 PERCENT OF SEX OFFENDERS REARRESTED FOR ANOTHER SEX CRIME WITHIN 3 YEARS OF PRISON RELEASE WASHINGTON, D.C. Within 3 years following their 1994 state prison release, 5.3 percent of sex offenders (men who had committed rape or sexual assault) were rearrested for another sex crime, the Justice Department’s Bureau of Justice Statistics (BJS) announced today. The full report is available online at. http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/press/rsorp94pr.cfm Document title; A Model of Static and Dynamic Sex Offender Risk Assessment Author: Robert J. McGrath, Michael P. Lasher, Georgia F. Cumming Document No.: 236217 Date Received: October 2011 Award Number: 2008-DD-BX-0013 Findings: Study of 759 adult male offenders under community supervision Re-arrest rate: 4.6% after 3-year follow-up The sexual re-offense rates for the 746 released in 2005 are much lower than what many in the public have been led to expect or believe. These low re-offense rates appear to contradict a conventional wisdom that sex offenders have very high sexual re-offense rates. The full report is available online at. https://www.ncjrs.gov/pdffiles1/nij/grants/236217.pdf Document Title: SEX OFFENDER SENTENCING IN WASHINGTON STATE: RECIDIVISM RATES BY: Washington State Institute For Public Policy. A study of 4,091 sex offenders either released from prison or community supervision form 1994 to 1998 and examined for 5 years Findings: Sex Crime Recidivism Rate: 2.7% Link to Report: http://www.oncefallen.com/files/Washington_SO_Recid_2005.pdf Document Title: Indiana’s Recidivism Rates Decline for Third Consecutive Year BY: Indiana Department of Correction 2009. The recidivism rate for sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05%, one of the lowest in the nation. In a time when sex offenders continue to face additional post-release requirements that often result in their return to prison for violating technical rules such as registration and residency restrictions, the instances of sex offenders returning to prison due to the commitment of a new sex crime is extremely low. Findings: sex offenders returning on a new sex offense was 1.05% Link to Report: http://www.in.gov/idoc/files/RecidivismRelease.pdf Once again, These are not isolated conclusions but are the same outcomes in the majority of reports on this subject from multiple government agencies and throughout the academic community. No one can doubt that child sexual abuse is traumatic and devastating. The question is not whether the state has an interest in preventing such harm, but whether current laws are effective in doing so. Megan’s law is a failure and is destroying families and their children’s lives and is costing tax payers millions upon millions of dollars. The following is just one example of the estimated cost just to implement SORNA which many states refused to do. From Justice Policy Institute. Estimated cost to implement SORNA Here are some of the estimates made in 2009 expressed in 2014 current dollars: California, $66M; Florida, $34M; Illinois, $24M; New York, $35M; Pennsylvania, $22M; Texas, $44M. In 2014 dollars, Virginia’s estimate for implementation was $14M, and the annual operating cost after that would be $10M. For the US, the total is $547M. That’s over half a billion dollars – every year – for something that doesn’t work. http://www.justicepolicy.org/images/upload/08-08_FAC_SORNACosts_JJ.pdf. Attempting to use under-reporting to justify the existence of the registry is another myth, or a lie. This is another form of misinformation perpetrated by those who either have a fiduciary interest in continuing the unconstitutional treatment of a disfavored group or are seeking to justify their need for punishment for people who have already paid for their crime by loss of their freedom through incarceration and are now attempting to reenter society as honest citizens. When this information is placed into the public’s attention by naive media then you have to wonder if the media also falls into one of these two groups that are not truly interested in reporting the truth. Both of these groups of people that have that type of mentality can be classified as vigilantes, bullies, or sociopaths, and are responsible for the destruction of our constitutional values and the erosion of personal freedoms in this country. I think the media or other organizations need to do a in depth investigation into the false assumptions and false data that has been used to further these laws and to research all the collateral damages being caused by these laws and the unconstitutional injustices that are occurring across the country. They should include these injustices in their report so the public can be better informed on what is truly happening in this country on this subject. Thank you for your time.

  2. Freedom as granted in the Constitution cannot be summarily disallowed without Due Process. Unable to to to the gym, church, bowling alley? What is this 1984 level nonsense? Congrats to Brian for having the courage to say that this was enough! and Congrats to the ACLU on the win!

  3. America's hyper-phobia about convicted sex offenders must end! Politicians must stop pandering to knee-jerk public hysteria. And the public needs to learn the facts. Research by the California Sex Offender Management Board as shown a recidivism rate for convicted sex offenders of less than 1%. Less than 1%! Furthermore, research shows that by year 17 after their conviction, a convicted sex offender is no more likely to commit a new sex offense than any other member of the public. Put away your torches and pitchforks. Get the facts. Stop hysteria.

  4. He was convicted 23 years ago. How old was he then? He probably was a juvenile. People do stupid things, especially before their brain is fully developed. Why are we continuing to punish him in 2016? If he hasn't re-offended by now, it's very, very unlikely he ever will. He paid for his mistake sufficiently. Let him live his life in peace.

  5. This year, Notre Dame actually enrolled an equal amount of male and female students.

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