A Summer Well Spent
By Rick Elgendy
This summer, I was proud to be among the many students the Institute for Justice trained to become the next generation of civil liberties activists. Each year, IJ’s “merry band of libertarian litigators” goes to great lengths to train students from across the nation on how to successfully defend individuals from government.
IJ’s annual law student conference, which I attended, covered such topics as natural rights theory and the use of social science research. IJ’s conference equips attendees with the skills and knowledge to start a legal career that seizes public interest opportunities fulltime or on a pro bono basis. One participant summed up the experience pretty well: “Constitutionally focused. Intellectually rigorous. Idealistically challenging. Provocative and compelling.”
In my home town of Chicago, the Institute also directs its IJ Clinic on Entrepreneurship at the University of Chicago Law School. Law and business students teach local entrepreneurs the ins and outs of legal concerns involved with starting or maintaining a small business, encouraging vibrancy and independence in the urban community. Entrepreneurs, ranging from first-generation immigrants to local Chicagoans, have seen the positive effects of the Clinic, making dreams a reality for many residents. Law students learn to go beyond the ivory tower and gain valuable experience while providing a valuable service to the community.
IJ hosts clerks and interns year-round in its Washington, D.C., headquarters and in its state chapters. Clerks help construct district, appellate and Supreme Court briefs as well as research current litigation and investigate potential cases. Working closely with IJ attorneys, clerks take up intellectual arms in the battle for individual liberty while learning about litigation strategy and public policy. But the intensity of the work is complemented by a camaraderie and joyful atmosphere. Clerks also attend brown bag lunches with prominent jurists and policy makers, plan social events and work as a team to accomplish things they could not have expected coming into their tenure.
For many of us, the modern fight for freedom is a personal one. My father came to this country from Egypt more than 20 years ago looking for the fabled freedoms Americans enjoy; he brought me up with a deeply felt appreciation of America’s heritage of liberty. This summer, while fighting in the court of public opinion, I’ve felt like I have made a difference for people like my father who are trying to live free of government bullying. From publishing op-eds in The Orange County Register and on Reason.com to assisting the communications department in spreading the word about IJ’s cases, what I’ve done here has shown me how much of a difference a few well-trained, good-hearted folks can make in service to the timeless and fundamental ideal of individual liberty. If there is a better way to spend a summer, I haven’t found it.
Rick Elgendy is a junior at Georgetown University.