A KATV reporter is using the skills and knowledge she learned at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock William H. Bowen School of Law to serve as a better advocate for Arkansans.
Janelle Lilley Cline, a 34-year-old weekend anchor who lives in Little Rock, will graduate with a Juris Doctor during UA Little Rock’s fall commencement ceremony at 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, at Jack Stephens Center.
As a journalist who covers the Arkansas legislature, Cline feared her gap in legal knowledge was impacting her ability to accurately report complex issues to the public.
“I’d ask different legislators about a bill, and I would get completely different answers about how the law would affect Arkansans,” she said. “As a journalist, you want to fact check what people are telling you, but I couldn’t do that with the law. I wanted to understand the law better and how proposed laws would affect Arkansans.”
On Nov. 7, 2014, Cline searched the internet on “how to go to law school” and learned she needed to take the LSAT (Law School Admission Test) to apply. She took the test four weeks later and entered Bowen’s part-time law school program, the only program of its kind in the state, on a full ride in August 2015.
“Bowen is the only law school I applied to, and they offered me a full scholarship,” Cline recalled. “I love my job, and I didn’t want to leave it. I decided to go to law school even if it meant working and going to school at the same time. It was worth it.”
During law school, Cline had some life-changing experiences; she got engaged and married fellow Bowen law student, Jason Cline, a member of the Arkansas National Guard, in January 2017. The birth of their son, Luke, caused Cline to miss a final exam.
“I had my son during the first day of exams in April 2018,” Cline said. “I missed my insurance law exam because I was having a baby. I had to call my professor and tell her I wouldn’t make it, but I was able to take the exam the next week. I have a funny picture of me in the hospital studying insurance law in between contractions.”
Cline counts Bowen professors Lindsey Gustafson, André Douglas Pond Cummings, and Michael Flannery as her mentors. Gustafson recalls Cline as an active student who made class discussions interesting.
“Despite her busy life and the demands on her time, Janelle was always prepared to engage in and raise the level of discussion in class,” Gustafson said. “She is incredibly hard working, curious, and detailed in her learning. Beyond that, she is a kind, generous human being. She was a joy and will do great things in the world, and by that I mean great things for the world.”
Cummings described Cline as a gifted law student and talented news anchor who inspired his own son to study broadcast journalism in college.
“I fully expect that Janelle will become an important and consequential legal reporter and news anchor that could very well successfully practice entertainment law or First Amendment law if she so chooses,” Cummings said. “When I mentioned to Janelle that my teenage son was interested in a career in broadcast journalism, she immediately set him up with a two-week internship at KATV, which my son completed this summer. My son loved the experience.”