At Annual Law Student Conference, IJ Teaches How to Change The World
It’s not every day you are able to share the first news of a major victory with the world, or better yet, the next generation of freedom fighters.
However, during the second session of IJ’s annual Law Student Conference in a room filled with 35 law students from around the nation as well as IJ staff, IJ Senior Attorney Dana Berliner—in her soft-spoken, yet passionate way—ended her talk on defending property rights with the following statement:
“And, so… given this history of property rights and why the battle is so important, I would like to share a little good news with my colleagues and the students here. At 9:30 last night, the Michigan Supreme Court overturned the Poletown decision. . . .”
Before she could finish, the room erupted in cheers and applause. Dana had received a call early that morning from the lead attorney on the Michigan case, thanking IJ for its role in the case and making the overturning of Poletown a possibility, when all others thought it was a pipe dream.
The decision reversed one of the country’s worst and oldest eminent domain precedents. It was also a perfect example of how years of efforts in the courts and in the court of public opinion can result in a major national victory.
The Institute for Justice’s annual Law Student Conference has a history of teaching students what they rarely learn in law school—how to combine cutting-edge litigation techniques with real-world stories and victories for liberty.
This mission and passion for freedom permeates every session of IJ’s annual conference and emanates from the speakers—inspiring and training students in the analysis and practical application of constitutional law, classical liberal philosophy, public interest litigation, and how to share the message of liberty with the world.
Speakers at this year’s conference included IJ attorneys and staff, and renowned constitutional scholars: Doug Kmiec, Caruso Chair in Constitutional Law, Pepperdine University School of Law; Dr. Roger Pilon, vice president for legal affairs, Cato Institute; Professor G. Marcus Cole of Stanford University School of Law; and Randy Barnett, Austin B. Fletcher Professor at Boston University School of Law. The conference keynote speaker was the Honorable Royce C. Lamberth of the U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia, whose former clerks include IJ Board Member Bob Levy and IJ Senior Attorney Clark Neily.
With much brainstorming within the IJ office this past year and help from friends at the Institute for Humane Studies (which also conducts conferences for law and undergraduate students), IJ staff significantly revised and refreshed the program. We offered more time for networking among students and conference faculty, an interactive workshop session for students to practice courtroom and media skills, an inspiring visual presentation on how to affect the court of public opinion, and excellent presentations from the guest speakers.
Professor Randy Barnett lectured on “Restoring the Lost Constitution: The Presumption of Liberty” and distributed copies of his new book of the same name, which originated from his talks over the years at IJ’s annual Law Student Conference.
IJ’s conference imparted students with knowledge and skills for defending freedom as they venture from the classrooms into the world as attorneys. As clerks and pro bono attorneys form our new class of Human Action Network members, armed with the tools to litigate for liberty, we look forward to working with them in the fight for freedom.