Letter From The Editor

Greetings to all new and returning students to Whittier Law School!

Only a few months removed from my first year as a law student, so much life has happened between now and then as I spent the summer studying and interning abroad in Whittier’s Israel Study Abroad Program. I return with renewed enthusiasm, confidence and hope heading into this second year, not just for myself, but for all Whittier Poets.

This year, I proudly take the helm of “The Zealous Advocate” (ZA) as an opportunity to engage with the student body and faculty on a different level. My primary goal with the ZA this year is first and foremost: Go Green.

As the issue of environmental sustainability takes center stage as one of the world’s most important challenges, I intend to do our part in furthering the green revolution. My aim is to move the ZA from a print only periodical to an interactive online site where all students and faculty can be more connected. Also, my vision is to help turn our student-run periodical into an interactive space for all student organizations to be involved by promotion of their events, past and future through use of images and video.

I cordially invite all students to come forward with their innovative ideas to help this new ZA grow! This is a growing experience and I am open to any ideas from our student body to help improve this vision. I further invite all student organizations to be connected on the ZA by linking their various webspaces on Facebook and linked through Whittier’s homepage.

A new year with new beginnings, the ZA has always been a growing project on campus. As a 1L, I saw tremendous growth with it and I intend to pick up where it left off. The potential with the ZA is limitless and I will dedicate myself to making the ZA web space a place where students want to visit regularly. Opinions, political commentary, quotes, jokes and reviews of Whittier sponsored gatherings and events put on by our many dedicated student organizations are only a sample of what will be highlighted.     

I feel much good vibe and energy on campus and I wish all students a positive year of growth and education.

Finally, I encourage all of the first year students to take a moment away from your classes to check out the different organizations, clinics, internship opportunities and programs offered by the law school. Participating with the SBA last year and studying abroad not only broadened my interests, but kept me motivated throughout the challenging year to become a successful law student.  

Lastly, a special thanks to Patrick Soon, Aastha Madaan and fellow Whittier Alum Irene Hsu for your support in getting the ZA this year started. You have all been a big help.

Feel free to contact me at aminas@poets.whittier.edu if you have any feedback about the ZA or if you would like to participate in any way.

Artoor Minas 2L

Editor in Chief

AIDS Walk Los Angeles 2010

by Michelle Philo

        On October 17, 2010, Professor John Heilman led a team of 66 alumni and students through the streets of Los Angeles for the AIDS Walk Los Angeles 2010.  The annual walk benefits AIDS Project Los Angeles and a number of other agencies that provide services to people living with HIV and AIDS. The event draws in over 30,000 walkers.  Heilman joined together with Whittier Public Interest Law Foundation and Student Bar Association to collectively raise nearly $10,000 under the name of “Team Heilman.”  (Heilman alleges he wasn’t creative when naming the team.)

        This year’s walk started and ended in West Hollywood Park.  Despite the dreary skies and constant drizzle, Whittier alumni and students met up with the team at different points to catch up, snap photos, and laugh while celebrating the amount of money raised by the team. 

Hope in the Holy Land

by Artoor Minas

        There is something unique in the air when wandering around the Holy Land that is unexplainable. Perhaps it is the wide array of kabobs, falafels and spices. Maybe it is the seemingly endless lineup of Jewish, Muslim and Christian holy sites or it could very well be the constant existential threat of war that exists in this part of the world. Whichever it may be, traveling in the State of Israel and the Palestinian Territories proved to be one of the most fascinating travel experiences one could have.

        Israel by size is smaller than the small Central American country Belize. Yet the depth and number of sites to see in the Holy Land are never-ending. Jerusalem, Tel Aviv, The Dead Sea, Haifa, ancient port cities of Akko and Jaffa, The Sea of Galilee, Nazareth, Bethlehem, Jericho and Hebron are just a few of the many sites and cities to visit. Couple this with my intense curiosity for understanding the nature of the Israel-Palestinian conflict; I couldn’t resist my desire to see the Holy Land for myself.      

        This past summer I had the privilege to experience the Holy Land through our Israel study abroad program. After just spending a few hours in Israel, there was little doubt that the energy was different and immediately took an interest in wandering into any area which was accessible to me and to build bridges with as many locals, Arab or Jewish as I possibly could to connect with the people and to achieve greater awareness of the conflict.

       Maybe the most interesting aspect of Israel was the radically different ways in which the people would view the world. Walking 10 minutes from the mostly Jewish area of West Jerusalem to the mostly Arab area of East Jerusalem for example almost seemed as if I was crossing into another world of perspective. Discussing politics, something both Israelis and Palestinian Arabs always loved to do was when this became most obvious. Identifying myself an ethnic Persian-Armenian, the Arabs loved speaking highly of Iran’s stance on Israel, whereas Israelis were quick to condemn the Iranian leadership. Despite the various depths of the conflict, both groups were always quick to welcome and embrace me as one of their own.

        I learned much from traveling within Israel and the West Bank. One thing I learned is the people’s deep desire to live in peace side by side. Never was this more emphasized than with the ordinary merchant, falafel guru, taxi driver and college student in both Israel and the Palestinian Territories. This especially came to light while traveling in the West Bank city of Jenin, where I found the “Freedom Theatre.” The theatre was founded by an Israeli Jewish woman who desired to give Palestinian youth something positive to strive for, and a means to express themselves creatively through art rather than through violence. Only as recently as 2002 was the city of Jenin the site of heavy violence during the Second Intifada (Palestinian Uprising) and of militant activity.

          I was greeted with the typical Arab greeting upon entering the Freedom Theatre. “Welcome!” Moreover, the Freedom Theatre was technologically advanced, filled with a movie theatre and computers with high speed internet access. All those present at the theatre welcomed me with smiles even though their theatre happened to be located in the middle of Jenin’s Refugee Camp populated with dislodged Palestinians from all across the Holy Land. Outside the theatre was a recovering war zone, whereas inside the theatre was a safe haven for the creation of art and theatricals. I was politely greeted by a well spoken and articulate Palestinian man whose goal it was in assisting in the development of the Freedom Theatre. I was given a personal tour of the large theatres, briefly watched the production and rehearsal of a new play set to be performed for their community in the coming weeks and watch a short film about the founding of the Freedom Theatre. The film showed local youths describing their upbringing, growing up in a community in which almost every child in Jenin Refugee Camp had witnessed actual or threatened death and telling their story of previously desiring to fight against the occupation and ultimately earning the title of martyr only to be altered by the creation of the Freedom Theatre.

        Since the creation of the theatre, the community youth use art and theatre as a method to express themselves and as a method to cope with the occupation and ongoing conflict. Most importantly, the Freedom Theatre, they explained have allowed them to not hate the State of Israel or their Jewish neighbors, but instead has injected a spirit of hope for a new generation of Palestinian Arabs looking toward a more peaceful co-existing future.

       I have always believed that there is hope for peaceful co-existence in this world and ironically enough, it took spending the summer in the always conflicted Holy Land to affirm that belief.

 

 

 

Study Abroad: A World Cup Perspective

by Michelle Philo

        Study abroad is not only about the courses you engage it, it is about the cultures you are exposed to.  The study abroad summer of 2010 was centered around game times, oversized televisions, and packed bars.  No matter which teams were playing, people around the world had World Cup fever and knew game schedules and when their team was next scheduled to play.  This past summer I had the privilege of attending both our Mexico City and our Toulouse study abroad programs.

Game Day – Mexico City:  On game day, as soon as I stepped out of the elevator of our housing, I knew Mexico was playing that day.  Everyone was wearing green, red, and white.  The hotel staff all had matching game day jerseys.  Flags were being flown and carried by everyone.  All televisions were turned to the proper channel, even though the game wouldn’t be for several hours.  The campus of the school was abuzz with students planning which bar they would be headed to for the game.  As soon as Professor Reich released us from class we hustled back to housing to drop off the laptops and the books and met up at the bus station to head downtown for the game.

        From the bus we could see cars packed with people, all wearing country colors, applying face paint, and waiving flags from their windows.  Vendors lined street corners offering shirts, flags, scarves, noisemakers, hairpieces and several other fan props.  We jumped off the bus and headed to a couple different bars, trying to find seating for 12.  We pushed a couple tables together at a bar in the Zona Rosa and crammed in.  The volume of the televisions was enhanced by speakers as those who couldn’t find seating stood on the walkway for the two 45 minute halves just to watch the game.  The fans knew the names and stats of each of Mexico’s players.  Each shot on goal was met with a roar that could be heard for blocks.  Both goals were met with arms in the air, shouts of “Ole, ole, ole, ole…,” flags waving, and high fives. 

        After the victorious win, the bars emptied out and crowds poured down to the Angel and marched around in the circle.  Police officers in riot gear lined the streets as the crowd surrounded camera crews and sprayed foam on everyone around them.  The ground was shaking with the thousands of people marching around singing and shouting praises accrediting the Mexican win.  The excitement of the win continued through the afternoon and into the early evening with pickups driving around with fans crammed in the back waiving flags and drivers honking their horns.  The game and the game highlights continued through the remainder of the week playing on every television throughout the city. 

Game Day – Barcelona, Spain:  Upon arriving in Toulouse, France, the French team had already been eliminated from the World Cup.  Even though France was out, everyone still came out to watch the remaining teams.  The Spanish team was still going strong.  As Toulouse was only a four hour car ride from Barcelona, a couple of us rented a car and headed to Barcelona for the weekend. 

        Just as in Mexico, the fact that Spain was playing in the World Cup Final was apparent.  People dressed in Spanish jerseys, restaurants had large posters reminding everyone of game time and Spanish and Barcelona flags were everywhere.  The former Olympic area had large screens set up for crowds of thousands to watch the game together.  Televisions were already showing the pre-game festivities in South Africa. 

         As game time approached, we headed out in the humidity to find a bar near Las Ramblas, the main street through Barcelona.  As we anticipated, every bar with a television was full.  The closer we got to our destination, the bars and restaurants were standing room only with security at each of the doors to prevent additional people from entering.  As soon as the game started, the streets emptied.  The entire city was tuned in to televisions and radios. 

         We were able to find a great tapas restaurant on Las Ramblas with a back room that was showing the game.  We cheered alongside the wait staff and the 40 strangers around us, roaring with each score on goal and groaning when we disagreed with the referee’s calls.  The energy continued to increase and we were on the edge of our seats watching the minutes tick through overtime.  As soon as the final whistle blew, granting Spain with its first World Cup win, the city erupted with noise.  The crowds poured into the streets and headed towards Las Ramblas.  Horns were blowing and people were singing.  Shouts of joy were met with hugs, high fives, and fans imitating the infamous face plant “injury” from the last minute of the game.  Fans living in the apartments above Las Ramblas were throwing buckets of water onto the crowd below.  Vendors were waiving Spanish flags to get fans into their shops.  An occasional “plastic bottle bomb” went off sending a boom through the streets.  Fans were climbing on the famous black lions shouting at the honking cars that passed them. 

         By the time we were able to get through the crowds and obtain our rental car, we were able to avoid hitting the partying pedestrians and left Barcelona around midnight to begin our voyage back to Toulouse.  We arrived back in our housing in France just as the sun was rising.  A quick nap and a shower, and we were in class again on Monday morning. 

Dear Renie…

Dear Renie,

I am a 1L who is quite overwhelmed by the academic demands of school. There are tons of student organizations on campus, and I don’t know how people find the time to join and participate in them.  Is it better to spend my 1L year focusing on school and leave the social aspect of law school until my 2L year?

From,

Drowning 1L

Dear Drowning 1L,

All work and no play makes 1L a dull boy? Not really. It’s true that it is very important to focus mainly on academics during your first year, especially since it is the first semester. I know that all the social events held by various student orgs can seem like a waste of precious study time. I won’t tell you how to balance both your school life and social life, because that’s ultimately on you. Law school is not just academics though; it’s also a social game. It is never too early to start networking and getting to know your schoolmates outside your section. There are many advantages to joining student organizations now and attending a couple of events where there will be other students, because you never know who you’ll click with. Student organizations are meant to enhance your law school experience, and if you can just evaluate your priorities and possibly carve out some time to attend 1-2 events, I think you will see the advantages of being part of these organizations.

Sincerely,

Renie

Dear Renie

My facebook addiction has consumed a good percentage of my life.  Besides owning farms and restaurants, I like to check on my friends and frenemies’ statuses throughout the day. There are times when there are messages my friends post that make me uncomfortable, especially when they are aimed at certain persons at school. Should I say something or not get involved?

Sincerely,

Social Networker

Dear Social Networker,

Let me get my soapbox. Facebook is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing that it lets you connect with millions of people from the comfort of your own home (or library seat), but also a curse as it can exhibit the worst in human nature. With the recent increase in exposure on cyberbullying, I think it is very important that if you find something you believe is meant to harm someone emotionally, mentally or physically, that it be reported to the proper persons. It’s only funny until someone gets hurt. I think the recent cases demonstrate that bullying is not just reserved to high school, but can occur anywhere at any age.  No one wants to be the snitch, but we’re not in prison so no one is going to beat you up for telling. Sure, if they know that you were the one to tell that you will receive the shun of some of your peers, but why care what the people who participate in such cruel behavior think? Be professional. Be above the pettiness.

Sincerely,

Renie

Dear Renie,

The last 2 years are a blur and I am now a 3L approaching graduation. Even though I should feel a sense of accomplishment, I feel immobilized by enormous debt, the bleak job market and stagnant economy that I will be confronted with when I graduate.  Is there hope?

Sincerely,

Hopeless in Costa Mesa

Dear Hopeless in Costa Mesa,

Who knows? It is very difficult right now for everyone, not just new lawyers, to find a job. I know I sound harsh, but I want to be realistic. It is not a good time to be picky and if there is an opportunity, then take it and just think of it as a bridge between law school and passing the bar to what you ultimately want to do.  The market fluctuates so it is impossible to gauge where it will be by the time you are ready to look for a job.  You can prepare for when the time comes though. Build relationships now and if you are lucky, they may become opportunities in the future. It may not be right out of law school, but perhaps in the near or far future. It is always about being proactive and being involved, because eventually, there is going to be a door for you to open. Clichéd? Yes, but one can only hope.

Sincerely,

Renie

Dear Renie,

I’m disenfranchised knowing that I won’t be making 6 figures upon graduation. Are my feelings valid?

From,

$$$

Dear $$$,

You are not entitled to a 6 figure salary. I know it sucks, but a majority of lawyers make less than a $100,000 when they just come out of law school. I’m sorry that you are disappointed, but that’s the reality. So instead of focusing on what you are going to make, let’s focus on building yourself to be a desirable candidate for whatever job you are seeking.

Sincerely,

Renie

Dear Renie,

I was grilled harshly by my professor and now I have extreme anxiety over getting called on. I feel like everyone but me knows the right answers, the professor thinks I’m an idiot and that I am going to fail. Am I the only one who feels this way?

From,

BBQ-ed 1L

Dear BBQ-ed 1L,

Not at all. It is discouraging when your professor rakes you over the coals! I still have scars from my last beat down. I also developed heart palpitations in one of my classes. But I got over it. Professors are trying to help you develop a tougher skin, because judges or opposing counsel are going to be just as ruthless. Though you may feel like the only idiot in class, you are not the only one who feels this way. Go ahead and cry it out. It’s always a harrowing experience.  Just pick yourself up from the experience and better prepare yourself for the next time. 

Sincerely,

Renie

Dear Renie,

I am really frustrated with my classmates who seem to never study and go out drinking, but they are getting great grades while I am not. I feel all the effort I put in is doing no good. How do I get over this resentment?

From,

The ant that gets crushed by the grasshopper

Dear The ant that gets crushed by the grasshopper,

You probably heard this during orientation, but everyone is different. We’re all unique and special little snowflakes (though once we hit the ground with the other snowflakes, we’re nothing but melted dirty groundwater). Not everyone has to study to get good grades, while at the same time, not everyone can play and not study to get good grades. It’s an unfortunate truth.  You just have to focus on yourself and find what works best for you while maintaining a healthy lifestyle that is a balanced combination of work and play. You may never get over your resentment, and that’s o-kay. Envy is human nature, but as long as you focus on yourself, then the envy and resentment will eventually dissipate. Besides, in the end, we’re all dirty groundwater.

Sincerely,

Renie

Dear Renie,

I’m very shy and feel like a complete failure to the social game. Law school is all about networking. How do I get over my social anxiety and take advantage of all the networking events?

From,

The very unsocial butterfly

Dear The Very Unsocial Butterfly,

Put yourself out there. Force yourself to step out of your comfort zone (but not too much, don’t want sweaty palms). It’s about gradually becoming more comfortable in social settings. You don’t need to suddenly become the life of the party, but it is always to one’s advantage to develop social skills especially when you go to mixers or events where lawyers, judges and colleagues will be present.

Sincerely,

Renie

Dear Renie,

There are about 5 people in my study group that meets about once or twice a month. I also study with these people for finals. There is one person who constantly distracts the whole group with internet videos, gossip and general off-topic discussions. It really veers the entire group off course. We’ve tried to gently tell him that we need to concentrate, but he still continues to fool around.  Should we just kick him out of the study group or bite our tongues and deal? We like him as a person and don’t want to hurt his feelings, but as a study buddy, he sucks.

From,

Fed Up

Dear Fed Up,

If he is so distracting that it is affecting your ability to study and get the grades you want, then you may have to make the difficult decision of kicking him out. It sounds like you are not the only one who feels this way. It does suck, doesn’t it? We all want to be buddy-buddy but not everyone’s study habits are conducive to your own.  It’s about making sure you are getting what you need done and if it takes telling someone straight up that they are being disruptive, then it may have to be done. Let him know that you value him as a friend and want to hang out socially, but as a study buddy, you need to be amongst people who share the same habits. Hopefully, he will understand the feelings of your group and not take it too personally, but that will ultimately be up to him. Good luck!

Sincerely,

Renie

Whittier Law Alumni Association

News & Events

Save the Date:  OC Alumni Luncheon

October 19, 2010, Tuesday, 12-1:15pm at the South Coast Winery on 3608 South Bristol Street.

Orange County Alumni Luncheon with the Honorable Cheri Pham who will be speaking about Juvenile Delinquency Law.  This will be the fourth in the Legal Leader speaker series for “Orange County’s Newest Judges” where each month a newly appointed judge speaks at the luncheon on a topic of their choice.  It is a great opportunity for students to network with a judge and former district attorney, and to network with other WLS alumni in a variety of practice areas. 

New Alumni Mentor and Mentee Program!

Whittier Law School’s new Alumni Mentor and Mentee program was implemented to give first year students the opportunity to build lasting connections with Whittier Law School Alumni.  Currently, 150 alumni and students are in the program.  The mentors provide support and guidance on study tips, networking, and career advice.  The kick off reception was held on September 15, 2010 in the WLS quad and the next reception will be during Spring Semester some time in February.  For more information, or to participate in the program, contact Nidhi Parikh at nparikh@law.whittier.edu.  

2nd Annual Center for Intellectual Property Law Dinner Reception

The 2nd Annual Reception for Intellectual Property (IP) Fellows and Alumni was held on October 12, 2010 in the Whittier Law School café.  This provided a networking opportunity for current IP fellows to connect with Alumni in the IP practice area as well as for students and alumni to talk about strategies and ideas for building the Center for Intellectual Property at Whittier Law School.  The Whittier Law School Alumni Association is also planning a similar reception for the Center for Children’s Rights and for the International Comparative Center. 

Next Semester Events:

Whittier Law School Annual Alumni Golf Tournament

The Alumni Golf Tournament has been scheduled for February 26, 2011.  Students and Alumni will be teamed up for an 18-hole tournament.  Entry fees are reasonable, and group awards are given to the winning team, and individual awards will be given to those with the longest drive and for the shot closest to the pin. 

2nd Annual Whittier Law School Law Firm Reception

SBA and Career Services have joined forces to inform and create more opportunities for the students at Whittier Law School.  Last year, these two committees collaborated on the 1st Annual Whittier Law School Law Firm Reception.  This school year the event will be held on March 24, 2011.

For more information, please contact SBA Alumni Liaison Jane Lee at jlee5@poets.whittier.edu. 

Graduation Stoles and Sashes

by Jill Reyes

         Early this fall semester, students of Whittier Law School were emailed a notice indicating a new policy for graduating law students regarding permitted decorative pieces allowed to wear over their gowns.  Starting with the Class of 2011, the school announced that graduates are no longer allowed to wear gowns adorned with chords, sashes, and stoles from organizations not representative of any of the honors societies on campus.

         In preparation for a raucous amongst the student population of our school, the Student Bar Association has prepared itself for an inundation of complaints or praises, from the variety of students and organization leaders on campus.  Yet before we jam complaints or praises of support into SBA’s box, let us Issue-Rule-Analysis-Conclusion (aka “IRAC”) our way into both positions.  For matters of space, we will skip the “R” and just go into an “IAC.”

Issue: Whether graduating students can adorn themselves with chords, sashes, or stoles that are non-honors society affiliated?

Analysis:

Graduation Ceremony: The purpose of a graduation ceremony is to commemorate law students’ success in completing law school.   After three or four years of tireless efforts of studying countless of hours in the library and enjoying Socratic methods with our esteemed law professors, a proper ceremony is a guarantee.  The law students have achieved something wonderful, and a proper exit from law school and entrance into the legal society is in order.  A black cap and gown are usually the basis of this uniform occasion.

Chords, sashes, and stoles, oh my: The purpose of the chords, sashes, and stoles is a reflection of student involvement in campus activities and their interests.  Wearing such vibrant colors is highlighted clearly against a plain black gown during a graduation ceremony.  Classmates, families, and friends will “ooh and aah” at their colors and wonder what they mean.

Overtime, students have further challenged their capabilities as a law student and participated in student organizations.  Some students are in honors societies, while others are affiliated with the variety of interests and diverse cultures on campus.  To wear a chord, sash, or stole can further highlight a student’s involvement in campus organizations as well as reinforce the “oohs and aahs”.

Yet with such numerous organizations on campus; a student may be adorned with not just one chord, one sash, or one stole, but several colorful decorative pieces atop a cap and gown.   A graduating student with such numerous pieces of color may look like a rainbow highlighted page in any law book.

Though rainbow pieces atop a graduation gown may look impressive, does such colorful pieces take away from the esteem of a professional degree? After all, law students are graduating with a Jurist Doctorate.  There’s a possibility that such colorful pieces may downgrade a serious moment of not only the exit of academic schooling, but a symbolic entrance into the legal profession.

However, wearing a chord, sash, or stole may arguably not downgrade a serious moment, but in fact bring a humane outlook to such an austere ceremony.  As unique individuals and the make-up of a diverse law school, wearing a stole from a non-honors society organization shows the variety that our students and our school should be proud to highlight.

Yet, these interests could be highlighted in a different manner, perhaps in a program or yearbook or something comparable.  If that being the case, then perhaps honors society chords should also just be recognized in the same manner.  After all, not all students partake in honors society.  Would it not be bias to only permit those to wear a chord, sash or stole for participation in an honors society when others have worked just as tirelessly in another student organization?

Referring back to the issue initially presented, the analysis of this IAC perhaps should be addressed at a broader issue:  should graduating students wear chords, sashes, or stoles indicating their different interests and participation from student organizations at all?

Conclusion: In conclusion, the graduating ceremony serves to recognize student accomplishments.  What accomplishments should be highlighted pass the fact that graduating students have passed law school is ultimately dependent on the students.  So, dear reader, what do you think?

Dean Bryan Announces New Bar Prep Program

by Michelle Philo

On October 12, 2010 Dean Penelope Bryan announced the new program that is rolling out this year in order to address the bar preparation program at Whittier Law School.  The program is designed to take students from their first day of law school through the bar exam.  The highlights of the program are as follows:

  • Upon arriving on the WLS campus, all students will be enrolled in the Barbri program. 
  • During their second year, all students will be required to pay a fee in order to continue enrollment in the program. 
  • When it comes time to pay for the Barbri bar prep program, students will only need to pay $2,000 (instead of the full price of the Barbri program). 
  • In order to get the discounted rate, students will be required to participate in Barbri lectures throughout their law school experience, including the intense bar review courses on Friday afternoons in their final year. 
  • All payments that students make towards Barbri will be applied towards their final Barbri price.

Students will have access to Barbri resources such as outlines, practice exams, MPRE review materials, and MBE materials.  The Dean reminded students that the outlines provided Barbri are geared for bar exam purposes and students are best to rely on their professors to excel on law school exams.

As this program is just starting this year, WLS is enrolling and paying for the enrollment fees for all non-graduating students.  For those students that are preparing for the February and July bar exams, they will be entitled to the discounted Barbri rate.

Eventually, WLS envisions that the Barbri program will run alongside a student’s law school experience.  By combining our current bar prep program with the Barbri program, students will not be subjected to duplicate lessons and will be able to cover more material prior to taking the bar. 

Political activists: National Lawyers Guild returns!

by Aastha Madaan

        With the beginning of the 2010-2011 academic year, a group of students led by 2L Parija Patel revived the National Lawyers Guild (NLG) Chapter at Whittier Law School. NLG is an alternative, progressive bar association that works for social justice. One of NLG’s nationwide programs is the Legal Observer program.

        On September 22nd, 2010, NLG Whittier Chapter hosted Mr. Jim Lafferty, the chairperson of the Los Angeles NLG. Mr. Lafferty conducted a Legal Observer training in which he gave an overview of the program, and answered questions by the audience.

When and how did Legal Observer program begin?

          The National Lawyers Guild Legal Observer program was established in 1968 in New York City in response to protests at Columbia University and city-wide antiwar and civil rights demonstrations. That same year, Guild students organized for the defense of people swept up in mass arrests at the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.

Who are Legal Observers?

          The Legal Observer program is part of a comprehensive system of legal support coordinated by NLG. It is designed to enable people to express their views, without unconstitutional disruption or interference by the government. Legal Observers are usually law students, lawyers and social workers that are trained and guided by Guild attorneys to attend protests, peaceful demonstrations, marches etc. Legal Observers can be identified by their green hats with the words “Legal Observer” and “National Lawyers Guild” written on the hats. Legal Observers are not participants in the parade, but are members of NLG who are there to document any constitutional violation they witness. These violations can range from arrest, use of force and intimidation by the police to denial of access to public spaces and other behavior on the part of law enforcement that appears to restrict the demonstrators’ ability to express their views and exercise their constitutional right.  

How do Legal Observers document constitutional violation? 

          Legal Observers can use a variety of documentation tools, including written notes, pictures and video footage. Mr. Lafferty informed the audience that anyone can take pictures of anyone in a public place. Generally, Legal Observers are at an event as an agent for an attorney who represents the group that is demonstrating. This means that your work product is privileged so the police are not allowed to see it. 

How do Legal Observers help?

         Mr. Lafferty emphasized the importance of the Legal Observer program and mentioned that the role of Legal Observers is twofold. The first is information gathering. The information gathered by Legal Observers has been vital in a lot of lawsuits against Federal and local governments for their unconstitutional actions.

         The second and perhaps more prevalent positive effect is that the presence of Legal Observers serves as a deterrent to unconstitutional behavior by law enforcement during a demonstration. Police officers are often deterred from engaging in unconstitutional activity when their actions are being documented.

What Legal Observers don’t do:

         Legal Observers do not participate in the protests. They do not interfere with the law enforcement, regardless of any conflicting personal opinions.

What does it mean to be a Legal Observer?

         Legal Observers are put on a list of Legal Observers corresponding with geographical area. If there is a demonstration coming up, Legal Observers are called and invited to join. They are told where and when to meet. They are also told who will be the person- usually a Guild attorney-in charge of the observers for that event. Legal Observers bring their green hats, legal pads, writing utensils, and camera, if available. When Legal Observers arrive at their assigned location, the person in charge explains to them what the demonstrators intend to do for that event. Generally, Legal Observers are assigned in pairs. If a Legal Observer observes a constitutional violation, she can call the supervising attorney. Some examples of such violations that Mr. Lafferty shared include, police telling demonstrators to hurry up or walk faster, and not allowing demonstrators to pass out flyers or informative materials. At the end of the event, if no constitutional violation has been observed, then Legal Observers do not turn in a report. However, if Legal Observers witnessed and documented a constitutional violation, then they have to give the report to the supervising Guild attorney.

        Being a Legal Observer is both an activism tool and an educational experience. National Lawyers Guild encourages law student participation.

If you are interested in becoming a Legal Observer or to be added to NLG Whittier Chapter’s mailing list, please email: nlgwhittier@gmail.com

ABA Corner: Non-Traditional Students

by David C. Bell, ABA Representative

            Deciding to go to law school was not an easy decision for me to make. I know for some, it was predestined and never questioned that they would become a lawyer. For others, like myself, we had careers. One day we decided to put on our coat and hat, walk out the door, and never return to that life.

            Walking the halls among fellow students, everyday I am reminded of the stories that each of us has hidden away. Sometimes these stories are guarded and unshared; for others times they are open for everyone to hear. Yet, I have been thinking recently about a segment of the student population that is perhaps a little neglected. This segment of our population is seldom seen by the majority of students and I would dare to guess that even less people even know even one of them.

            I am referring to our evening students. Most of the full time day students are off the campus by the time the evening students pull up for class. For those who might still be on campus when they begin arriving, do we say hello to them? Do we try and get to know them? I would guess, probably not. Our clubs have meetings, we invite amazing speakers, we host events and mixers, but all usually during the day, away from the evening students.

            This year I have been struggling to put this group into focus. The ABA is also struggling with the same issue. I was appointed a Lieutenant Governor position in our circuit, specifically looking at the issue of Non-Traditional Student. I was tasked with finding ways to meet their needs and ways to include them in our broader law school community.

            In order to do this, I need your help. Over the next several weeks and months, I am proposing that the organizations come together to find a way to meet these students. I will be contacting each of the organizations personally to discuss holding joint events for these students. I am even proposing that we show up to one of their classes with pizza and drinks in-hand for them to enjoy while they are in class and sticking around to talk to them during their breaks.

            For the larger law school community, one of the easiest first steps that we all can take is reaching out and saying “hello.”