Meet a Faculty Member: Jaime Lee
Jaime Lee doesn’t balk at risk-taking. Part of her job as assistant professor and director of the UB School of Law’s Community Development Clinic is to guide students in using the law to help community associations, nonprofit organizations and small businesses achieve their goals while minimizing risk. But when she isn’t navigating legal issues, Lee spends her time taking on other kinds of risks: navigating waves on a surfboard and practicing slacklining, the art of balancing on a narrow piece of webbing anchored between two points.
Q: How did you get involved in these hobbies?
A: I started surfing on a whim. I saw a class being taught in the water one weekend at Rehoboth Beach (Delaware) and took my first class at dawn the next day.
I learned to slackline in Guatemala when I was taking immersion Spanish classes. A fellow student had brought his line with him from Germany, where it is apparently popular. I had never heard of it before that, but since then, I have seen it on TV. It was featured in Madonna’s Super Bowl halftime show a few years ago.
Q: What goes through your mind when you’re walking the line or riding a wave?
A: When I first started, it was “Don’t fall off.” But I quickly realized that focusing on what you want—such as not falling off—is, in fact, the surest way to fall off. Instead, you need to focus on just doing what you need to do in order to stay on. It’s best to simply concentrate on applying what you’ve learned and executing that well and to stay in the moment rather than worrying about what will happen next. It’s a subtle difference in focus but an important one.
Q: Most people would think surf culture and law culture are polar opposites. Are you able to find connections between your job and your hobbies?
A: Surfers come in all shapes and sizes. Some surfers are just as intense as lawyers. It takes a lot of determination, drive and commitment to get out there on the waves every day, to face the incredible power of the water.
In my office, I have a photograph of my surf instructor [Alvaro Solano], an eight-time [Costa Rican] national champion, staring down a 15-foot wave. Challenging yourself to go outside your comfort level is an important part of the educational experience and of pushing yourself to become an excellent lawyer.