I started my Friday listening to a presentation on Human Rights by the US ambassador and Special Envoy to North Korea on Human Rights Issues and ended my day listening to Michael Mukasey give a defense of torture by the US at Guantanamo Base. This spectrum represented the diversity of presentations at the J. Reuben Clark Law Society (JRCLS) Annual Conference in Dallas, Texas.
The conference was held on the beautiful campus of Southern Methodist Univerisity from February 17th to the 19th. It was hosted by the JRCLS, which is an organzation of religious lawyers, most of whom are members of the Mormon faith.
The event started on Thursday night with a presentation by the Dean of the Brigham Young University School of Law. He presented on the growing bubble in Law School Education and examined the shift legal practice over the last 30 years. In 1973, there were 55 accredited law schools, today there are 200. This has resulted in a increased debt load, decreased starting salaries, and fewer small and solo practices. To this problem he offered the following solutions (1) know why you are going to law school (2) get more information about the school you are attending, and (3) be careful with your money while you are in school. Apparently, better job placement progams, salary cuts, and emphasis on practical legal education didn’t cross his mind.
To lighten our spirits from that slightly depressing opening presentation, the organization held a student attendee mixer at the local Dave and Busters that evening. I played pool, ate some southern chicken wings, and met students from around the country.
The next morning, the presentations started off great with a talk by by the Robert R. King – the special envoy for North Korean rights issues. He spoke of the terrible conditions in North Korea where the life expectancy has declined over the last 15 years and the average NK 17 year old is 5 inches shorter than his South Korean brother.
He explained how completely isolated North Korea is from the world. It has a completely internal cell phone network and landline phone network. There is no way to make phone calls outside of the country except from select government offices and foreign organizations. There is no Internet in NK, but rather a simple intranet that connects only to government servers. Finally, those who have radios or televisions are unable to tune to any other channel than the official state broadcast channel.
He spoke of the harrowing experiences of refugees from the country. Trying to escape via the southern border is practically impossible, so refugees must try to sneak through the northern border. Unfortunately, that is not the end of their trek. The Chinese have a policy of capturing and returning NK refugees. So, refugees must travel through 1000’s of miles of Chinese territory before they can reach the asylum of countries that border Southern China.
This presentation was followed by a number of other interesting presentations on cybersecurity, the current state of the Same-sex marriage legal challenges, gender equality in the workplace, non-profit legal careers, and religious challenges in the Law.
The evening wrapped up with at Eddie Dean’s Ranch which featured, Texas BBQ, Mechanical Steer roping, Armadillo Races and a pro-torture speech by the former attorney general. I was happy to be in the minority of attendees that had a good debate after his presentation.
All in all it was a very interesting conference. Since this is an organization for lawyers with a particular religious affiliation, there was a great diversity of attendees and professions. I met attorneys from around the world – including an attorney from Africa. I met people who worked in all areas of the law from in-house, civil rights, tax, ip to criminal law. I met people from all areas of practice from solo to big law.