From Law Students to Legal Stars: The Extraordinary Success of IJ’s Law Student Programs

Melissa LoPresti
Melissa LoPresti  ·  August 1, 2023

Last month at our annual Law Student Conference, IJ President and Chief Counsel Scott Bullock told a room full of excited law students that their weekend with us was merely the beginning of what we hope will be a lifelong relationship with IJ. 

That has certainly been the case for the current IJ lawyers—more than half—who attended an IJ student event while they were in law school. And the relationships that begin in IJ’s student programs extend even further: 1,200 student program graduates have carried what they learned into careers at other likeminded public interest or policy organizations, top-ranked private firms, and academia. Forty-one can claim U.S. Supreme Court clerkships, and nearly 300 others have clerked for state supreme courts, federal appellate courts, or trial courts around the country.  

“It is no understatement to say that the summer at IJ really changed so much about my law school experience (and certainly for the better). The professional development and relationship-building helped give me clarity into what legal career I want to pursue, and how to get there. . . . IJ brought together an incredible group of students. I am sure IJ did so again this summer.”
Ted Steinmeyer, Harvard Law School Class of 2024, 2022 IJ Dave Kennedy Fellow

This elite group of former law students trained by IJ is known affectionately as our Human Action Network. HAN members partner with us to advance our shared goals by serving as local counsel, writing amicus briefs, and even litigating full cases pro bono when we find clients whose issues aren’t quite right for high-impact public interest litigation. 

In just the past few months, a 1995 summer law clerk appeared on our Short Circuit podcast, and a 2012 conference attendee wrote an amicus brief in support of a First Amendment case IJ is litigating at the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. Next month, three more student program graduates (a 2018 summer clerk, a 2020 summer clerk, and a 2022 conference attendee) will join our ranks as IJ attorneys.

And recently, another HAN member—a 2007 summer clerk in our Arizona office—became the newest member of IJ’s board of directors. Andrew Prins, while pursuing an impressive legal career in his own right, has also represented IJ in a number of FOIA cases, including a big victory against the IRS at the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit. We are thrilled to welcome him onto our board and grateful for his continued thoughtful guidance. 

Each of these contributors, and so many more like them, started out in one of those rooms full of excited law students. They are critical to our success, and we look forward to many years of fulfilling work to advance freedom together.

Melissa LoPresti is IJ’s director of litigation operations. 

Subscribe to get Liberty & Law magazine direct to your mailbox!

Sign up to receive IJ's bimonthly magazine, Liberty & Law, along with breaking news updates about the Institute for Justice's fight to protect the rights of all Americans.