Prior to her journey at the Knudson School of Law, Werdel earned her bachelor’s degree from South Dakota State University. Werdel, who looks forward to practicing law in her home state, chose to pursue her law degree from USD because she wanted “to be able to learn the law from people who have practiced it in South Dakota.”

At the core of Werdel’s decision to attend law school was her passion for helping people.

“I am a people person at heart, and being able to be that aid for someone who needs it is really what drove me to attend law school,” she said.

While a student at the Knudson School of Law, Werdel has been involved in several organizations, including Women in Law, Delta Theta Phi, the Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Board and the Marjorie Breeden Society. Werdel also participated in the WORKS Clinic, which offers free services to qualifying individuals and provides law students training in the areas of family law, alternative dispute resolution and client relations.

Aligning with her passion for helping people, Werdel also served as a mentor to first- and second-year law students through the First-Generation Law Society.

“Being able to be a resource to younger law students allowed me to take from my past experiences to help them have a better experience going forward,” said Werdel.

After graduation, Werdel plans to work with a local solo practitioner in Highmore, as well as with the state’s attorney in rural counties across the state.

We asked Werdel about her time at the USD Knudson School of Law, and this is what she had to say.

What is the most important lesson you learned in law school?

I learned to give myself and those around me grace. Law school is challenging and there can be moments where you feel like you’re drowning; it’s important to remember that it will pass, and you are doing your best. It is also essential to know that everyone’s law school experience is unique and different so extend that grace to those around you.

Who models excellence, service and leadership in your life?

Someone who models excellence, service and leadership in my life is Attorney Emily Sovell ’01. I have had the opportunity to work with her for four summers, and to say she embodies the USD mission is an understatement. She is knowledgeable, passionate about her work and truly cares about those around her. Not only is she a fantastic attorney, but she is a great person.

What is the most valuable skill you gained through law school that you will take into your career?

The skills taught to me through the ADR Board and the ADR class. ADR aims to lessen the congestion in the court by using alternative means such as negotiations, mediations or arbitrations. The skills exemplified by my participation in class and my engagement in the board will be so valuable in my future career.

What was your favorite class in law school and why?

I couldn’t pick a singular favorite, but I really enjoyed Family Law taught by Professor Hannah Haksgaard and Children in the Law taught by Professor Wendy Hess. Both of the class structures and course materials worked very well with my learning style and my interests. I could not recommend these classes enough.

Who or what makes a good lawyer?

A good lawyer is someone who is knowledgeable, has passion for their work and has compassion for those around them.

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