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Law students may have denser textbooks and higher tuition than the young kids climbing on the yellow school buses, but the past few weeks have been back to school time for them, too. What are they finding? They know that some things will never change: Professors will still use the Socratic method to grill students; constitutional law classes will always be more interesting than contracts; and coffee remains a staple in the student’s cupboard. But beyond the obvious, there are less-traditional ventures available at the Washington, D.C., area’s law schools. Here’s a glimpse at some of the new programs, clinics, and facilities. SINGING THE BLUES More than 50 years ago, rock and roll music developed in African-American communities as a hybrid of rhythm and blues and gospel styles. It is now common belief that recording industry scouts swept in, soaked up the music, tweaked it to suit white audiences, and made millions. Blacks were left with almost nothing. Howard University law professor Lateef Mtima says this “strip-mining” robbed blacks of their creative output. Lacking adequate legal protections, they were left penniless in comparison with the companies that exploited their music. When Mtima arrived at Howard in 1998, he realized that emphasizing intellectual property law would be a good way to update the school’s civil rights mission. The school’s new Institute of Intellectual Property and Social Justice aims to do that, through IP-oriented curriculum, conferences, and summer programs. “A lot of interests are governed” by intellectual property laws, Mtima says. And any group’s exclusion from the protection of those laws hurts everyone, he adds, since the entire society benefits from creativity. With the growth of digital technology as a focal point of business and culture, Mtima says blacks without the money or resources to access it risk being left out of the “national, indeed global, conversation,” much as they were in the 1950s. An October conference for African-American attorneys interested in intellectual property and a specific course selection track for law students are among the first ventures of the new institute. Mtima says his next project is developing a summer program focused on Jamaican artists and musicians, who too often don’t know how to protect their work with intellectual property laws. LEGAL AID FOR SOLDIERS This fall it will be three years since that Sept. 11 when members of the George Mason University School of Law community watched in horror as smoke rose from the Pentagon. Professor Joseph Zengerle says that, in the weeks following the disaster, many of the students and faculty wondered what they could do to help the country. They came up with the idea of a clinic offering legal assistance to service members beyond what the military can provide. The clinic opened this past spring. Its mission is to help service members from any of the five military branches with civil law problems, such as bankruptcy or estate management. Judge advocate general attorneys do advise service members with personal legal problems, but the JAG corps doesn’t have the money or manpower to help out in every case. Zengerle says high-level Pentagon officials have been supportive of the George Mason clinic’s ability to supplement the legal aid they already offer. With funds and personnel as strained as they are these days, he says, there is a need for free legal assistance. Jason Wright, a 2004 graduate of the law school who plans to become a JAG attorney, says that, while much of his effort in the clinic’s inaugural semester went to drawing up the basic documents a clinic needs to operate, he was pleased to do it. “Enlisted personnel are young. They encounter lots of problems,” Wright says. If their issues at home aren’t resolved, he says, they might struggle to do their jobs abroad. Zengerle agrees that military readiness could be hampered by personal legal problems. Imagine a situation in which a soldier’s wife is having trouble with her landlord, he says. The problem should be resolved so that when the soldier is fighting in Iraq, he isn’t also worrying about her being evicted. “I don’t want to raise expectations beyond what we can fulfill,” Zengerle says. But with dozens of students applying to work in the clinic and scores of Washington-area attorneys volunteering, he says the clinic is only likely to grow. THE MUNICH PERSPECTIVE A group of George Washington University Law School students spent July learning about intellectual property from an international perspective in Munich, a hub of both European and German patent offices and attorneys. When they weren’t in class, the students visited the German Patent and Trademark Office, the Munich branch of the European Patent Office, and the headquarters of BMW. “It went very well,” says professor Robert Brauneis, who led 32 students on the four-week program run by George Washington. The students stayed at the Munich Intellectual Property Law Center. Brauneis says watching robots assemble BMWs and learning how the company manages its trademarks throughout the world was probably the most fun for the students. But each of the trips throughout the Munich area explored intellectual property from a different angle. In their trip to the European Patent Office, students learned that its multinational process can be slow and unwieldy. In order to be recognized by the European Union, each patent must be translated into the languages of the 28 EU countries. At a Munich law firm, the students met with American attorneys who told them what it’s like to practice in Germany. “Their eyes opened wide,” Brauneis says, when they found out they didn’t need to be fluent in German, or take the German bar, to work in the country. Much of the work is conducted in English and is not dependent on expertise in German law. Law student Kevin Steele says details like reading assignments before they arrived and three-day weekends while there enhanced his time in Munich. On July 4, his first day, he and his professors watched the finals of soccer’s European Championship between Greece and Portugal. Brauneis says that in the future he expects the program to grow with more students and a broader course selection. IN THE TRADE This fall, American University Washington College of Law is adding a specialty in NAFTA (North American Free Trade Agreement) and other free trade agreements to its advanced-degree International Legal Studies Program. Each year, the program enrolls more than 150 lawyers from 68 countries. Professor Daniel Bradlow says LL.M. students who choose the specialization will have six courses and three new adjunct professors, including a former U.S. secretary with the NAFTA secretariat. The yearlong program addresses a “growing interest” in free trade expressed to the school in recent years by lawyers and government agencies, says Bradlow. With more than 200 trade agreements active or in development around the world, Bradlow says, governments will need legal expertise in coming years not only in developing the pacts, but also in maintaining and administering them once they are in place. Though NAFTA, among the first free trade agreements between developing and industrialized countries, is a “good model,” Bradlow says, students will also examine African, Central and South American, and Asian agreements. The hope for the students is that “if they go back to their country, and the country is interested in developing a free trade agreement,” says Bradlow, they can help guide the process. In addition to the new courses, Bradlow says he plans to bring visiting scholars to the program and offer academic credit for student internships at law firms and international organizations. CATHOLICS AND STEM CELLS Balancing religious concerns about embryonic stem cell research with scientific facts and translating both into law will be the topic of a conference Oct. 4-5 at Catholic University Columbus School of Law. The conference panels will include scientists, ethicists, theologians, and policymakers both from the United States, where the government provides federal funding only to labs that use stem cells harvested before Aug. 9, 2001, and from Germany, where the government allows, with restrictions, some forms of embryonic stem cell research. Law professor William Wagner says he focused the conference on the two countries because of the parallels and differences in the way they’ve debated and legislated the use of stem cells. “It’s an experiment,” says Wagner. He isn’t expecting any “large shifts in position,” but he has invited people who represent a range of views to broaden the discussion. Still, Wagner acknowledges that the Roman Catholic stand — opposing all use of human embryos for stem cell research — will be part of the debate, if only to be questioned, critiqued, and refined. A neurobiologist from the University of Utah, a Catholic priest, an investigator from the National Institutes of Health, and a lawyer from the conservative Family Research Council are among the invited American panelists who will discuss the ethics and scientific value of stem cells in research. A Catholic bishop from the German National Ethics Council, several professors, and a member of the Bundestag (the German Parliament) have been invited to represent a range of German perspectives. Though Wagner says he did not intentionally time the conference to run during the presidential election, he acknowledges that anger among scientists at the Bush administration’s policy and the potential impact of a Democratic president will probably come up. FULL SERVICE When the University of the District of Columbia’s David A. Clarke School of Law opened in 1988, it inherited a strong social justice mission from its predecessor, the Antioch School of Law. Since then, it has put that emphasis right on its list of graduation requirements: a minimum of 40 hours of community service and two semesters of clinical work. Three years ago, Dean Shelley Broderick announced she would take the school’s public service commitment one step further: She promised to underwrite a full-time summer fellowship for any first-year student looking to work in public service. This summer, the program became a permanent fixture of the school’s program. More than 40 students took the $2,500 stipends and worked at a range of organizations, including Neighborhood Legal Services, the D.C. Superior Court, and even the Environmental Protection Agency. “Public interest, public service, public policy,” says Broderick. “That’s our mantra.” The goal is to produce public interest lawyers who will devote their careers to helping the “most vulnerable clients” full time, she says. Broderick adds that the hundreds of hours of free legal aid each student devotes to low-income Washingtonians, through the summer fellowship and the standard academic requirements, allows the school to “earn our keep in the District of Columbia.” Law school spokesman Joe Libertelli notes that the $2,500 each student receives amounts to no more than the minimum wage. Even so, more than one-third of first-year students have taken the fellowship. Kathleen Cullinan is a graduate student at the University of Maryland’s College of Journalism.

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