Award Selection Surprise, Pleasing

Leonard Pataki was pleased and surprised to be selected to receive the Distinguished Law Alumni Award for the Oklahoma City University Law Review.
The Pennsylvania native graduated earned his law degree from OCU in 1977.
He was involved in the production of Volume 2, Number 1 for the Law Review in 1977. The 1976 class had published the first edition.
‘‘Now the publication is up to Volume 31,’’ said Pataki, now with the Doerner, Saunders, Daniel & Anderson Law Firm. It also is produced more than once a year. It definitely is a feather in the cap of a law school to have a law review because it helps students write as well as attract professors.
It helped students analyze the legal aspect of the law as they surveyed Oklahoma law from A to Z. Comments on the impact of the law and how it fit into the overall scheme were part of the study.
Pataki grinned as he remembered the work required for the publication before it was sent to the printer.
Those were the days before computers and spell check, he said. Two people read the galley proofs. One person would read backwards to another find any mistakes. That proofreading style prevented reading words and phrases into the copy.
Pataki started as a research editor on the publication double-checking quotes and documents. He was managing editor in his last year of law school and found himself in a controversy with the Harvard Law Review staff.
The Harvard Blue Book is the standard for law review publications, he said. Classes were taught using the book. That year, Harvard was late getting their book out so copies were made of the previous year’s publication to be used in class.
‘‘I received a letter from Harvard reminding me of the copyright violation and there was a possibility of a lawsuit,’’ Pataki continued. ‘‘I wrote back saying that if they did sue, it would be the best publicity the Oklahoma City University Law School’s publication could receive. They never responded and there was no suit. It would have been interesting.’’
Being involved in law review publications becomes important for students when they realize their work is used by attorneys and sometimes is cited in court decisions.
Pataki said that he went to law school with the idea of getting a job when he finished. As a result, when he was invited to be part of the Law Review staff, he had no idea what to expect.
There was a lot of camaraderie among staff members, he recalled. Many times everyone worked together all night to meet publication deadlines.
Pataki has maintained an active contact with his alma mater and says OCU was a great law school even though classes were held in old military-style barracks on the campus at that time. They have since been replaced with modern structures.
It really was an experience in those classrooms with so many non-traditional students, he said. ‘‘I was sitting next to someone from the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation one day and the next day it was someone from a diesel truck shop. Both were earning law degrees.’’
That classroom experience coupled with the Law Review work provided Pataki with a background that would help him in his legal career.
‘‘I always have been interested in helping people solve problems,’’ he said. The publication provided an opportunity to study the law and how it applied. There also are the intellectual discussions about the policy of law that can be carried to greater depths. It is not possible to do this in private practice.
Pataki, who came from Pennsylvania, said he chose Oklahoma City University because it had the lowest non-refundable deposit — $50 — for law school.
‘‘I had no knowledge of Oklahoma when I applied,’’ he said.
Looking back, the honoree said he didn’t think he had done anything special with his work on the Law Review. He just did what had to be done.
But the lessons he learned as part of his participation included sharpening analytical and research skills and learning about a broader perspective of the law.
‘‘I learned how to analyze cases and decisions and better understand why a court ruled a particular way,’’ he said. ‘‘All lawyers do that, but this experience provides a jump-start coming into a law practice.
‘‘For me, it is an opportunity to more quickly experience that ‘aha! moment’ when I figure out what a court ruling means.’’

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