Topic: Moot Court
For the environmental advocacy class that I’m taking with Professor Craig Johnston, I have to finish writing a 40 page brief on wetlands by Sunday evening. This has been an intense experience for me because I did not know anything about wetlands or the Clean Water Act three weeks ago. It’s been rough.
Thankfully, I’m on page 27 of my rough draft. I only have a few more pages to go. Then, editing . . . and, I’m sure there will be a lot of that!
If I am done by Sunday, I hope to watch one of my favorite professors, Professor Berres-Paul, dance at this event:
If you are in Portland, definitely stop by!
It’s only my second week of school and my schedule is packed! This year, I am taking Administrative Law, Environmental Law, Evidence, Criminal Procedure II (Fun fact: Michael Chertoff visited campus on Tuesday!), and an exciting Environmental Advocacy course (The top three oral advocates in this class get to argue in front of Chief Justice Roberts of the U.S. Supreme Court when he visits our campus in the Spring!).
In addition to school work, I am T.A.ing (I wish that was a real word…) a section of Legal Analysis & Writing for Professor Barnett, writing case summaries for Ninth Circuit Review, helping put on the Lewis & Clark Sustainability Council’s Sustainability in Portland event, and organizing Minority Law Student Association events.
I’m busy. Yet, I can’t complain: I have high hopes that my hard work and persistence will pay off.
On someone’s car last week I saw a paw print-shaped magnet with the words, “Who rescued who?”
I’ve been struggling with law school these past few months. Will being a lawyer make me happy? Even if being a lawyer doesn’t make me happy, am I morally obligated to become a lawyer if that means I can use more tools to help animals? My grappling has centered around this essential question: Animals mean the world to me, so shouldn’t I be willing to sacrifice a little career happiness to help them out?
When I say this out loud, or write it down, it sounds silly. There are many ways to help animals, and many individuals and organizations around the world help animals in myriad capacities every day. But that’s not the aspect of my struggle I want to focus on right now. I had an epiphany at a “NALC” practice session this past weekend. The National Animal Law Competition (NALC) is an annual inter-law school competition presented by the Center for Animal Law Studies at Lewis & Clark, in collaboration with the Animal Legal Defense Fund. The event is comprised of three separation competitions: Closing Argument Competition, Legislative Drafting & Lobbying Competition, and Appellate Moot Court Competition.
Lewis & Clark started something new this year. The school held competition classes for each category of competition. Professors taught essential techniques for each skill, followed by in-class competitions to demonstrate our newly-learned skills. Two students were then selected from every class (four students for Moot Court) to represent Lewis & Clark at the national competition, this year being held in Los Angeles. I have the honor this year of representing our school in both the Closing Argument and the Legislative Drafting & Lobbying Competitions.
Had someone told me five years ago that I would not only be willing to stand up and orally advocate for animals, but able to do so decently, I would have told this person that he or she was flat out wrong. Ten years ago, I probably would not have said anything at all. Instead, I would have stared at the floor in silence hoping the person would stop talking to me, replaying over and over in my head the dialogue I wished to say, but didn’t have the courage to speak out loud. I was shy –painfully shy– for as long as I can remember. In middle school I picked up the clarinet and flute, and I learned to make my instruments my voice. By college, I got more serious about singing, and forced myself to sing solo in small chamber ensembles and for juries. Still, my singing was bashful, and my heroic voice teacher spent countless hours teaching me to at least act confident when I walked on stage. My second year of college was, hands down, the worst year of my life. You couldn’t tell from looking at paper records from that year: my grades were better than ever; I was teaching my own sixth grade Hebrew School class for the first time, after redesigning the curriculum; I performed in more musical groups than I have fingers on both hands; etc etc etc. Despite my outward accomplishments, though, I spent almost every second wanting to hide. I was fortunate enough that summer to intern in Hong Kong at Animals Asia Foundation, and my experience there changed my life.
It is funny the first time I felt like I belonged – in an office on the streets of Sheung Wan, a town bustling with sidewalk sales of preserved (and potent!) sea products. Perhaps it was the striking juxtaposition of the streets reeking of dead animals, emblazoned with bicycles carrying hundreds of skinned chickens, and the friendliness of my new coworkers genuinely asking if they could see pictures of my dog; I felt at home in Animals Asia. Traveling to Hong Kong by myself for a summer was my first time to a non-Western country. I couldn’t, to this day, be more different than the majority of people I saw every day during those months. I dress differently, I talk differently, and I have a very difficult time eating rice and soup with chopsticks; but being in an organization with people who have devoted their lives to helping non-human animals just felt right. I was particularly enchanted by the prospect of helping animals through a broader means –through the law– rather than rescuing only individual animals. This gets me back to my recent struggle: If animals mean so much to me, and I truly believe I can best help them through the law, shouldn’t I sacrifice a little happiness to pursue that goal? The answer came to me in my NALC practice.
Advocating for animals is, in our legal system, advocating on behalf of the voiceless. Animals are property in our legal system; they do not possess legal rights, or have standing to bring a suit to enjoin their suffering. (For more information on nonhuman animals’ status as property and how that could or should(n’t) be changed, read about Professor Steve Wise’s Nonhuman Rights Project, or David Favre’s “A New Property Status for Animals: Equitable Self-Ownership.”) Animals are depending on the animal law movement’s well-known heroes —Joyce Tischler, Mariann Sullivan, Steve Wise, Rebecca Huss, and so many others– as well as today’s animal law students, to help improve their situation, property status or otherwise.
What I realized during my NALC practice was that, through learning to speak up for the voiceless, I have found my own voice. I have never been prouder or more excited to share what I am hoping to do than when I speak about my animal law training. I readily admit that I do not, try as I might, enjoy every second of studying or clerking; but my question of sacrifice was completely wrong. I am not sacrificing myself to help animals; in fact, quite to the contrary, they have helped me find myself, and find my voice. The paw print bumper magnet asked, “Who rescued who?” I think I know the answer.
Photo: Historic Pioneer Courthouse in downtown PDX
In the last two weeks, I have had the chance to participate in some interesting extra-curricular activities. Most of my days are focused on school, studying, and making sure the five of us are fed, clean and clothed, so I’ve enjoyed the change of pace in mingling with my soon-to-be peers in the legal world. Since I plan to practice here in Oregon, it is exciting to start making those connections in the community.
First was the inaugural reception for the newly created Lewis & Clark Family Law Society, hosted by local firm Gevurtz Menashe. Since this is an area of the law that I’m very interested in, I appreciated having the chance to learn what the day-to-day of a family law practice is really like. It’s especially good to know that a family law practice will definitely intersect with property law, business, etc., so you aren’t only focused on divorces or custody issues. I really hope that in my professional life I can work in all of these areas, so this was really good to hear.
The next day, I met with my mentor, Ken Mitchell-Phillips. If you have the chance to participate in this program, I highly recommend it. We try to meet about once a month, and discuss whatever comes up: school, grades, life/work balance.
I really appreciate the practical advice and perspective I’m getting from him.
Ken reinforced two big ideas: 1) I have time to decide where I ultimately want to focus on, and I should explore all my options, and 2) even when I do make that decision, I will still need to have solid knowledge of other areas of the law in order to be really useful to my clients — especially in knowing enough to know when I need to refer them to someone else!
Career Services has set up a series of receptions at various legal employers in the city. This week, I attended a talk by the staff of the Multnomah County District Attorney’s Office. There were about 20 DDAs present, and each of them gave a quick talk about their backgrounds and what brought them to the district attorney’s office. It was quite interesting to learn what brought each of them to the office, and more than one person had no interest in working there before they started. But everyone talked about how much they love what they do, despite always having to do “more with less,” and the difference that they make in the community, and the depth of experience and the independence they’ve had from day one. It was great to see such passion and commitment from people who play a huge part in keeping Portland and its environs safe.
Finally, I volunteered to be a witness in the regional rounds for the National Trial Competition. It was an absolute blast. (I don’t think I mentioned this before, but I have a minor in theater.) Mock trial was a great opportunity to dust off those skills, put on a Southern accent and have some fun. It was also nice to get to watch the competition with no pressure. Our contracts professor has strongly encouraged us to do mock trial, and getting to participate a little bit has me seriously considering it.
Photo: Multnomah County Courthouse, SW 4th & Main
PS I did get my grades, and true to my expectations (95% of them, anyway), I did not flunk. Whee!