Meet a Faculty Member: Jaime Lee
In addition to practicing law, Jaime Lee, assistant professor and director of the UB School of Law’s Community Development Clinic, practices surfing and slacklining. Given her drive in the classroom, in the community and in her free time, Lee can hardly be called a “slacker.” Below, University of Baltimore magazine asks Lee to diver deeper into details about her unusual hobbies.
Q: What came first: a love of law, slacklining or surfing?
A: First came an awareness of the power of the law to change lives. Some years later, I began to appreciate the power of the waves, and that’s when I experienced my first “surf smile,” or the unique euphoria that comes from skimming along on the surface of the ocean. Most recently came the joy of balancing on the line, although I fall off it as much as I stay on.
Q: How long did it take you to become comfortable at your hobbies?
A: Ask me again in 10 years—perhaps by then I’ll be proficient in one of them! I first tried surfing about 10 years ago. Hooked, I’d book a lesson and drive three hours to the beach, only to find the ocean flat. I decided I needed to go to where the waves are and have since taken many trips to a wonderful [instructional] surf camp in Costa Rica. It was probably during my second trip there that I had my first full ride.
I started slacklining a few years ago. [It’s not technically] a tightrope but a slackline, which is relatively bouncy, a few inches wide and only about two feet off the ground. I’m comfortable jumping on[to it] and walking backwards, but I’m still working my way up to doing yoga poses on the line.
In terms of comfort level, I’ll probably never lose the fear of getting tumbled by the waves or of ricocheting off the line. But in both cases, the fun overrides the fear.
Q: Are people surprised when they find out your hobbies?
A: When surfing comes up in conversation, the other person has also usually tried it. You might be surprised by how many people are hooked. There are other UB faculty who surf, although I won’t name names.
[Slacklining] doesn’t often come up in casual conversation, but people walking in the park sometimes seem surprised. On occasion, passersby stop and ask to try it, and it’s fun for me to teach them.
Q: What’s your biggest hobby-related achievement?
A: My [surf] instructor once brought me to the beach where more advanced surfers go. I was still surfing small waves there, but they were distinctly stronger and faster than at the beginners’ beach. I experienced my most exhilarating “drop” (matching the speed of a wave so you can ride your board across the rolling surface of the sea) into a wave there. That’s the kind of feeling that spurs you to get back out there again and look for the next perfect ride.
Q: Where’s your favorite surf spot?
A: If I were a true surfer, I wouldn’t tell you my favorite spot because I’d want to keep my waves to myself. But I’m just a vacationer, so I can say that Vista Guapa Surf Camp in [Jacó,] Costa Rica is one of my favorite places on earth. It’s a beautiful, welcoming, family-run B and B with very friendly instructors and delicious, home-cooked breakfasts.
Q: And where do you practice slacklining?
A: I bring my slackline to Vista Guapa when I go, but I also string it up in the park near my house (in the Capitol Hill neighborhood of Washington, D.C.). And as the photo [at right] shows, the opportunity to get off the ground occasionally presents itself in other places as well.
Q: What’s your favorite aspect of your hobbies?
A: Both are intensely challenging experiences, mentally and physically, yet at the same time are incredibly entertaining activities. And both can be shared with friends.
Q: Do you consider yourself a daredevil in the courtroom as well?
A: I have to laugh at your question, because I absolutely don’t consider myself to be a risk-taker. I’m a lawyer, after all, and a transactional lawyer at that!
Q: Do you prefer a business suit or a swimsuit?
A: I’m quite happy in both. I feel very fortunate in that way.