Robin Kirk is a 27 year old from Oklahoma. She is currently in her last year of law school at the University of Oklahoma College of Law. Prior to law school, Robin worked in political advertising as a copywriter/executive assistant/director of operations. She received her Bachelor of Arts in Campaign Strategy and Communication from Belmont University in 2012. Robin hopes to practice law in the civil rights or criminal defense areas. She views a law degree as a weapon for justice and hopes to make as positive of an impact as she can once she (hopefully) passes the Oklahoma Bar in the summer of 2018. She has a Corgi mix named Julian and loves mid century modern architecture.
Name: Robin Kirk
Company: OU Law, Former VP of OUtLaw (LGBTQ
student club), intern at ACLU of Oklahoma
SHEroines: My mom, Hillary Clinton, Ruth Bader Ginsberg, Margaret Atwood, Lady Gaga, Princess Leia.
Tell us about yourself: who are you, where are you from, what do you do?
I’m a 27 year old law student from Edmond, Oklahoma. I have intermittently interned for the ACLU of Oklahoma since May of 2015. I’m about to start an internship with the Oklahoma County Public Defender’s Office in the drug court/mental health court division.
What was your path to SHE leadership?
I grew up in a middle class family in a suburb of Oklahoma City. My upbringing was a blessed one and a privileged one. I know that a large reason I have had successes is because achieving those successes is a lot easier for someone of my background. I’m a white female who has never faced poverty. That doesn’t mean success should not be recognized, but that there should also be a recognition of the opportunities that were constantly available to me.
Growing up in a suburb in Oklahoma, I was raised in a conservative environment where there was an assumption of a what woman’s “place” was. Luckily, that assumption never truly affected me. I believe that is largely due to my mom, who has always been a strong woman with her own opinions. But I also believe it is something deeply ingrained in my being. I was a tom boy who never understood why it was weird for me to wear boys’ basketball shoes. I was a sixth grader who did a history report on the All-American Girls Professional Baseball League (obviously I had watched A League of Their Own a few times by that point). I grew up wanting to be an astronaut. Limits based on my gender were not of my concern. That’s not to say that societal gender roles didn’t influence me. I did grow up with the idea that I needed to find my own perfect prince to achieve true happiness. I did have an eating disorder in high school. And I still fin myself subconsciously looking at men as superior authority figures.
I went to college at Belmont University in Nashville, Tennessee. I joined a sorority, Alpha Gamma Delta. I definitely did not fit the sorority girl “type,” but I was looking for a way to make friends at a new place and my own efforts weren’t working out well. I found so much more than friendship. A lot of people don’t understand that sororities have the ability to cultivate strong feminists. Some of the strongest feminists I know are my sisters. And when you look back at the history of Alpha Gamma Delta, the founding members were women trying to create their own
space. I don’t know many things more feminist than a woman trying to make her own space in the world. My point in saying all of this is that I left Alpha Gamma Delta as a strong feminist and I believe I wouldn’t have gotten there, or at least not as quickly, without my sisters.
While in school, I studied Campaign Strategy and Communication. I was, and still am, very politically minded. I was interested in campaigns because I believe voting is a very simple and powerful way to let your voice be heard. You can ask any of my friends, going to the polls on election day is my favorite activity. I worked/interned for a couple campaigns, a political action committee, and the Tennessee Democratic Party. I also interned for a media firm that focused on political advertisements and strategy.
After graduating, I worked for that media firm for a little over two years before moving on. For about six months, I worked at another advertising firm that was not politically focused. While there, I realized that my work wasn’t fulfilling my desire to contribute to my community. Around that time, I decided to go to law school. I felt like a legal education was the right path for me because there are so many opportunities to make positive change with the power of a JD behind you. While I’ve been in law school, I have interned for the ACLU of Oklahoma and Demos, which is a nonprofit organization that focuses on racial equity and voting rights. I’m about to start an internship at the Oklahoma County Public Defender’s Office in the mental health court/drug court division. All of these experiences revolve around my desire to be a voice for people who cannot adequately speak up for themselves because society has not given them that privilege. My post-graduation plans are not set in stone, so I don’t want to delve into those at this time. But, I hope to be working in the public interest field.
What is your personal leadership theory, and what would you say are three of the most important virtues to have as a leader?
My personal leadership theory is sort of an anti-leadership theory. I don’t really view myself as a leader. And honestly, being a leader is not one of my goals. My goals are more focused on contributing to my community in a positive way. I don’t feel a need to hold the microphone, but I want to be in the crowd if that makes sense. To me, a small voice can have a large impact. There is nothing wrong with being a leader. But having that as a descriptor is not a goal for me personally. In my opinion, it seems “leadership” is something that is shoved upon people and devalues the members of society whose voices are still vitally important. A whisper can go a long way toward progress, which is more important than being a star or calling all of the shots.
In my opinion, the three important virtues a leader should have are (1) the ability to listen, (2) the ability to admit when you are wrong, and (3) the ability to compromise when appropriate while also standing up for issues that do not have room for compromise.
What about being a SHELeader brings you the most joy?
As I said, I don’t really view myself as a leader. But, I do view myself as a woman who has been gifted with the privilege of becoming an attorney (well, not quite yet, but hopefully!). I think what brings me the most joy as a future female attorney is my ability to make someone’s life a little better. Law is a language of its own. When I find myself being able to speak that language, it brings me a lot of joy knowing I can use it to make my community a better place.
What’s the most difficult part of being a SHELeader?
The most difficult part of being a female attorney or a woman in general is trying to attain respect without being labeled as bossy or worse. I don’t really mind being labeled if I am getting something done. But sometimes those labels hinder your effectiveness. I have competed in negotiation competitions where I negotiated for a pretend client. And I have been told at a competition that I have a “strong personality.” Now, I know I can come off strong, but I remember during that negotiation feeling that I stood my ground without coming off as too aggressive. My opponent thought was much bubblier than me, and I think the contrast really hurt me. There is nothing wrong with her being bubbly, but I don’t think there should be anything wrong with me being the opposite. At the end of the negotiation, we came to a good deal for both of our clients. That is all that should have mattered, but it wasn’t.
What’s the most exciting thing happening under your leadership right now?
I don’t really know what is the most exciting thing happening under me currently, if anything. But if I get the position I am aiming for after graduation, I will have the opportunity to make some real changes in the state of Oklahoma and that truly excites me.
What has motivated you the most in your leadership journey?
I believe that my only true purpose in my professional life is to make life better for those round me. That is my constant motivation. How can I make my community better? How can I make tomorrow better than today? I think I fail to live up to that purpose a lot. Still, it is what motivates me.
If you could go back in time and offer yourself sixty seconds of advice, what would you say?
Always ask questions. Don’t be afraid to rebel. Remember to laugh. Surround yourself with strong women, because they will bring you the most joy and push you to be a better person. (I don’t know if my past self needs that last bit of advice, because I think I typically did/do a good job of that, but I also don’t want to chance it!)
What are you looking forward to the most in your personal or professional future?
For my professional future: Making change.
For my personal future: Cultivating my friendships and continuing to grow as an independent