Cultivating Tomorrow’s Advocates
IJ teaches students about the world of public interest law
By Kate McFarland
“It has educated me as to where the Constitution protects personal liberty and has inspired me to contribute to the cause,” wrote Matt Pate, a recent graduate of the University of Texas School of Law. Pate is one of 42 law students who attended the Institute for Justice’s tenth annual law student conference, which took place at Georgetown University on August 10-13.
The 2001 Law Student Conference graduates, assembled above with IJ staff, are the tenth class of law school students that IJ has trained in public interest law.
IJ’s conference is designed to cultivate the next generation of public interest lawyers and equip them with the right weapons to move forward in the battle for liberty. Chip Mellor, IJ’s president and general counsel, kicked off the conference with an inspiring lecture on the history of public interest litigation and a look toward the future. Mellor’s talk, delivered to a room full of young people dedicated to the cause of freedom, laid the groundwork for an intense weekend of learning, fun and inspiration.
The curriculum for the weekend was well-rounded and, in some ways, strikingly different from what the students had learned at their law schools. Speakers included law professors, policy analysts, media experts and professional attorneys sharing strategies, war stories and lessons learned from their experiences in the fight for expanded freedom. Lecture topics ranged from natural rights theory to waging war in the court of public opinion to nuts-and-bolts methods for successfully litigating a public interest case. All sessions combined to give students a better understanding of how they can contribute to the cause through a variety of outlets.
A highlight of the weekend was the keynote address on Saturday night by Judge J. Harvie Wilkinson of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fourth Circuit. A long-time friend of the Institute for Justice, Wilkinson urged the students to follow their hearts and their own paths in their legal careers, not to acquiesce to outside pressures. More importantly, Wilkinson told the students of the importance of adhering to their principles and doing work in some capacity to further the cause of liberty.
Wilkinson’s speech only enhanced the sense of purpose and enthusiasm that pervaded the conference. While one goal of the conference was to train tomorrow’s advocates, an equally important goal was to inspire. According to participant Carrie Jablonski of Harvard Law School, “What most impressed me about this weekend is the passion that I see in each IJ employee—awesome enthusiasm!” Jablonski is one of many conference participants who are more likely to consider a career in public interest law or who are now dedicated to pro bono work to promote personal freedom.
When the conference concluded on Monday morning and the students returned home, they left as newly energized champions for the cause, certain to make a difference in the future.
Kate McFarland is IJ’s HAN and outreach coordinator.