Friday, December 10, 2010

You Can't Teach Character in a 2-Hour Ethics CLE

One of the themes of Oak Brook College of Law is the importance of character in our students. Character is something that OBCL emphasizes from the time the initial application for admission is reviewed all the way through the graduation ceremony. It is part of the fabric of life at OBCL.

Character is pretty important in the legal profession. Recently, in the Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of Pennsylvania, an attorney for a residential mortgage lender lied to the Court on several issues. They may have seemed like small, distracting issues to the attorney, but the court was pretty upset. The name of the case is In re Hill, Case No. 01-22574. The court considered what punishment to give the attorney. One common punishment for ethical violations is mandatory continuing legal education on ethics. But the court decided not to do that, reasoning as follows:
The Court also rules out any requirement for mandatory CLE or ethical training. As indicated at the hearing, the essence of the Rule is a lack of honesty. The Court does not believe it is necessary to undertake training in order to know that dishonesty is wrong despite the potential consequences of telling the truth. Honesty and truthfulness are matters of character that cannot be taught, if at all, in a few hours of CLE training.
Character is something that is engrained over a lifetime of making right choices, not something that you learn in summer school or in a 2-hour Ethics CLE. OBCL understands that and looks for applicants who are already in the process of engraining that character in their lives. Once in law school, OBCL does everything it can to promote the growth in character in the lives of its students.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Calling all West Coast Oak Brookies!

A number of OBCL grads have benefited from the CLE, fellowship, and networking opportunities afforded by the annual Federalist Society convention held every November in Washington, D.C.

And then there are the rest of us, who only wish we could be there.

Well -- for the West Coast crowd, at least -- here's another opportunity to enjoy some stimulating discussion, good food, lovely scenery, and affordable CLE (especially timely for those of us in the N-Z MCLE group!) from the Federalist Society at the 2011 Western Conference. Students are welcome, too, and benefit from FREE registration.

Come out to the Reagan Presidential Library on Saturday, January 29th for the 2011 Western Conference of the Federalist Society. Click here to register (students should register, too; space is limited). This year's topic is "After the 2010 Election: What's Next for Campaigns and California?"

Here are a couple pictures of last year's OBCL contingent. Picture yourself here!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Alumni in the News VIII

It has been a while since we had an installment of our "Alumni in the News" segment, but that's not because Alumni haven't been busy! Let's take a look...

Mike Reitz writes in Washington State's largest paper on Washington's open-meetings law.

Timmy Teepell finds himself managing political crises.

Meredith Turney writes about California jobs in the latest installment of her regular Townhall column.

Peter Fear and Gabe Waddell team up with Pacific Justice Institute to educate activists on the Constitution.

Brian Tyson is featured in the Georgia Criminal Appellate Law blog.

Peter Fear digs deep into the mortgage crisis.

I'm sure there are many more stories from Alumni out there. If you hear of an OBCLer in the news, be sure to e-mail the tip to Mark Bigger at mjbigger@juno.com.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

The Constitution, the Tea Party, and Tell Ten


The wave of political activism that swept the nation in the past months is bringing about a renewed desire by activists to understand the foundations of the freedoms we enjoy. After all, our common fight for freedom is the essence of what makes us American.

(To the right: OBCLAA President Nathan Deladurantey speaking at Liberty Day 2010.)

As a graduate of OBCL, I'm quite proud to tell people that I studied at a school that makes it a point not only to teach our Constitution, but also the philosophical underpinnings of our system of government - the foundations of the freedoms that we enjoy today (and take for granted all too often). The OBCL education gives students the chance to steep in the ideas that made us a great nation.

And it gives alumni the footing to go out and be an integral part of this fight for freedom - a task that many alumni take very seriously, by working in politics, public interest and Constitutional law, by donating time and money to organizations that lead the fight, and by being involved on a grassroots level.

All of these opportunities present alumni with the perfect opportunity to spread the word about OBCL, too. Law school might not be for everyone, but for the person that wants to go in-depth into this study of freedom, OBCL is a terrific opportunity.

Alumni Peter Fear and I had the chance to speak at a couple of Tea Party events in the last couple of weeks, as a group put on a "Constitution Bus Tour" aimed at educating and encouraging activists in our Constitution. We had a great time discussing a wide variety of Constitutional topics, and I received a very positive response after sharing about OBCL. People that want to fight for freedom are looking for training for themselves, their children, and their friends, and for some, OBCL might just be that opportunity.

So while you're out fighting for freedom, let me encourage you to throw OBCL into the mix. Seems like a fantastic fit to me - and a great way to massively exceed your Tell Ten goals!

(To the left: Gabe Waddell speaking at a get-out-the-vote rally in Northern California.)

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Meet the Board: Christopher Martens

Our final installment in the "Meet the Board" feature is Christopher Martens (JD98B), Chairman of the Alumni Relations Committee.

Christopher Martens is a solo practitioner out of Visalia, California. As a criminal defense attorney, he has taken 18 cases to jury trial -- everything from simple misdemeanor to life in prison cases.

As chairman of the Alumni Relations Committee, Chris is focused on getting more alumni involved, recruiting class coordinator positions, gathering law firm profile information on firms where alumni are partners or sole proprietors, and promoting alumni through networking. Chris is looking forward to working with alumni on these and other issues in the coming year.

You can reach Chris at martenslaw@gmail.com or at his office number of (559) 967-7386.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

From Legal Training to Business Savvy

A recent ABA Journal article entitled “CEO, Esq.: Why lawyers are being asked to lead some of the nation’s largest corporations” dug into some of the reasons that more and more lawyers are making an impact on the business world.

The article quotes Continental Airlines CEO Jeff Smisek, a former corporate lawyer in Houston as saying
"The CEO role requires the ability to constantly break down problems and analyze issues that are at the core of a decision. As leaders we need to be persuasive to many constituencies in communicating our strategic vision and describing the path where we will take our business. All of those requirements rely in no small part on skills I developed in law school and honed as a practicing lawyer."
Nine of the Fortune 50 companies now have lawyer CEO’s. A decade ago, only three of those CEO’s were lawyers. Experts contend that this trend will continue.

The skills cultivated in law school go a long way in developing a successful business career, a fact that has also been confirmed in the OBCL experience. Take OBCL graduate Tim Andre (JD02A), who started the successful Emma Parker & Company along with fellow OBCL grad Seth O'Dell. Like the business leaders interviewed in the ABA article, Andre has seen his legal education opening doors for him:
"Earning my JD has been akin to being given a key to the city. The doors of opportunity that have swung wide open once I completed my legal education have been incredibly helpful. Everything from gaining greater respect among my colleagues, to closing venture capital investment, to the ends and outs of starting my company, my legal education comes into use every single day.”
The value of a juris doctor degree in business continues to grow. Relatively unknown schools have made their dent in the business world by emphasizing business-related legal skills.

Case in point is SMU’s Dedman School of Law, which boasts 3 of the 11 CEO’s from Fortune 50 companies. Dedman has made preparing for business leadership a priority in their curriculum options. But the price is high: tuition for three years is around $115,000 plus another $14,000 a year in room and board.

Oak Brook graduates have an opportunity to learn to think like a lawyer, negotiate, understand business structuring, contract, torts, and other areas of interest to those in business for around $20,000 altogether.

To close with another thought from Tim Andre,
“The training gained in Oak Brook is extremely applicable to everyday life in the business world. As a small business owner, I would rather hire one law school graduate than ten MBA graduates."
--MJB

Monday, October 11, 2010

Meet the Board: Kaitlin Showerman

Over the last couple weeks, we've been posting short snapshots of each new OBCLAA Board member. If you see a Board member working on a project that interests you, shoot him or her an e-mail and jump right in!
Kaitlin Showerman (JD07B) is the OBCLAA's returning Student Liaison. Here are some thoughts from Kaitlin.

I am currently a student in the 07B class and live in the Central Valley of California. I'm a "second generation" Oak Brook student as my dad (Greg Showerman) graduated OBCL this past August.

This year I am working to continue conference calls between OBCL alumni and current students. These conference calls are set up between an alumnus working in a field that corresponds with the subject material for each class. The goal of this mentorship program is to help students with their studies as well as give some real-world perspective on topics that they are studying.

If you are interested in volunteering your time and experience, please let me know! We'd be glad to have your input.

Kaitlin can be reached by e-mail at kaitlineshowerman@gmail.com.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Meet the Board: Gabe Waddell

Over the last couple weeks, we've been posting short snapshots of each new OBCLAA Board member. If you see a Board member working on a project that interests you, shoot him or her an e-mail and jump right in!
After serving two terms as the president of the Alumni Association, Gabe Waddell (JD03A) is now serving the OBCLAA Board as Immediate Past President. Here are some thoughts from Gabe.

Gabe lives in Fresno with his wife Katie (another OBCL grad!), where he practices bankruptcy law with Peter Fear (another OBCL grad!).

Gabe's biggest goals for this year are to do everything he can to "pass the torch" and assist the work and vision of the new President, Nathan Deladurantey, and to continue the excitement being generated by the social media outreach projects of the Association. (In that vein, subscribe to the blog! Like us on Facebook! Follow us on Twitter!)"

Gabe can be reached by e-mail at gabe@gabewaddell.com.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Meet the Board: Paul Harman

Over the next couple weeks, we'll be posting short snapshots of each new OBCLAA Board member. If you see a Board member working on a project that interests you, shoot him or her an e-mail and jump right in!

Paul Harman (JD04A) is the OBCLAA's Vice-President. Here are some thoughts from Paul.

I’m a proud member of the last “A” class offered by OBCL (04A). After passing the February 2009 bar exam, I moved from my home state of Connecticut back to Minnesota to finish revising Advising Minnesota Corporations and Other Business Organizations and to assist with an ongoing effort to amend the Minnesota Bar admission rules. I now find myself in Bakersfield, CA working with Mark Bigger’s criminal and traffic ticket defense practice and assisting fellow OBCL graduate Win Eaton in his immigration practice.

I have a very flexible role as the Vice President of the Alumni Association. My primary responsibility is to assist Nathan in managing the committees, specifically by making sure that each has the manpower and resources to accomplish this year’s goals. If you want to get involved with the OBCLAA but aren’t sure what you can do to help, contact me and we can figure that out.

You can reach me at paulharman412@gmail.com or at (860) 810-6161.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Meet the Board: Mark Bigger

Over the next couple weeks, we'll be posting short snapshots of each new OBCLAA Board member. If you see a Board member working on a project that interests you, shoot him or her an e-mail and jump right in!

Mark Bigger (JD97B) is the longest-standing Board member of the OBCLAA, and this year's Promotion and Media Committee Chairman. Here are some thoughts from Mark.

I am a native Oregonian currently residing in the Oak Brook mecca of Bakersfield, California. Oak Brook graduate and recent hire Paul Harman and I specialize in criminal and traffic ticket defense and are in the process of expanding into estate planning. I enjoy playing basketball, tennis, hiking, reading, traveling, and rooting for my Seahawks and Blazers.

My focus for this coming year is to use social media, direct contacts, free press, and the Tell Ten Initiative to increase the stature of the College in the Christian and legal communities with the specific goal of bumping up enrollment for the 2011 class.

Reach Mark by e-mail at mjbigger@gmail.com.

Monday, October 4, 2010

Meet the Board: Jordana Ward

Over the next couple weeks, we'll be posting short snapshots of each new OBCLAA Board member. If you see a Board member working on a project that interests you, shoot him or her an e-mail and jump right in!
I currently reside in sunny Florida. I'm a graduate of the P01B paralegal class and the 03B JD class and a member of the California Bar. I perform legal work as an independent contractor and enjoy traveling in my spare time.

The main objectives of the Student Affairs Committee are as follows:

1. Establish a mentorship program for Bar Exam takers.
2. Organize a mentorship program for first-year students.
3. Facilitate outreach through the use of regional coordinators at homeschool conferences, debate and homeschool clubs.
4. Work to establish a scholarship fund for prospective and current students.

We need individuals who are willing to volunteer as mentors for Bar Exam takers and/or first-year students. This is a meaningful opportunity for alumni to give back to the Oak Brook community. If you're interested in volunteering as a mentor or a regional coordinator, let me know. I look forward to hearing from you!

Email: jordana.ward@yahoo.com

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Meet the Board: Nathan DeLadurantey

Over the next couple weeks, we'll be posting short snapshots of each new OBCLAA Board member. If you see a Board member working on a project that interests you, shoot him or her an e-mail and jump right in!
After serving two terms as Vice President, Nathan DeLadurantey (JD01A) is the OBCLAA President.

I currently reside in Southeastern Wisconsin (Go Packers!!!) with my wife and three children. The focus of my current practice is bankruptcy, foreclosure defense, and contract litigation -- a very busy area of practice in today's economy. In my few "spare" moments I enjoy reading, kayaking and working in my yard.

My chief goals are leading the Board in generating increased enrollment for the 2011 class, providing a network of employment opportunities for graduates, and increasing the number of graduates involved with the alumni association.

Questions? Ready to get involved? Nathan can be reached by e-mail at nathan@dela-law.com.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Meet the Board: Emily Younger

Over the next couple weeks, we'll be posting short snapshots of each new OBCLAA Board member. If you see a Board member working on a project that interests you, shoot him or her an e-mail and jump right in!
Emily Younger (JD99A) is the OBCLAA Secretary.

A native Californian, I live in Orange County, where I just started graduate studies in Spanish at the University of California, Irvine. On the legal side of things, I work as a contract research attorney and teach Legal Writing III for OBCL. This summer, I also took the opportunity to become an allied attorney with Alliance Defense Fund (If you can, do it! You will not be sorry.)

My goals this year are to maintain OBCLAA records, help with promotion and media (Facebook and this blog, specifically), and support the Tell Ten initiative with the goal of having a significantly larger-than-lately orientation class in 2011.

If you have any questions about Tell Ten or ideas for content on this blog, send me an e-mail at obclaasecretary@gmail.com. And, if you ever see an article or web site of interest to the OBCL community, feel free to post it (that means pictures, too!) to the OBCLAA Facebook page.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

Meet the Board: Crystal Kinz

Over the next couple weeks, we'll be posting short snapshots of each new OBCLAA Board member. If you see a Board member working on a project that interests you, shoot him or her an e-mail and jump right in!
Crystal Kinz (P07) is the OBCLAA's Paralegal Liaison. Here are some thoughts from Crystal:

I reside in San Diego, CA. I completed the paralegal program in 2007 and was certified by the National Association of Legal Assistants in 2008. I am a freelance paralegal as well as working full-time in retail management.

My goals as the Paralegal Liaison this year are to

1. continue and improve in networking to the other paralegal alumni and students while providing updates on Alumni news, and

2. create and maintain a video networking site that will provide information and assistance to alumni members, students and prospective students.

I can be reached at crystalkinz@gmail.com.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Meet the Board: Anita Paulsson

Over the next couple weeks, we'll be posting short snapshots of each new OBCLAA Board member. If you see a Board member working on a project that interests you, shoot him or her an e-mail and jump right in!
Anita Paulsson (JD01A) is OBCLAA Treasurer.

A resident of Washington state, Anita is admitted to the bar in California and Washington. She does legal work part-time as an independent contractor and is finishing up a seasonal job as a baler operator.

Anita's two major goals for the Treasurer this year are

(1) to create a yearly budget, and

(2) to create a workable method of increasing and tracking the number of "dues-paying" alumni.

How to help? Of course, contributions are always welcome. Remember that donations to the OBCLAA are tax-deductible. Also, please send in your dues if you have not already done so, and feel free to contact your classmates and ask them if they have joined the Alumni Association.

If you have any questions about the office of Treasurer, alumni association dues, or how you can help, Anita can be reached by e-mail at anita.paulsson@gmail.com.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Submitting articles to law reviews

At the Alumni Association meeting, I gave a brief presentation on how to publish legal scholarship (i.e., navigating the law review submissions process). This blog post is a supplement to that presentation, featuring some links and resources related to law review submissions.

Helpful Articles and Guides to the Process
An excerpt from Eugene Volokh's excellent book on scholarly legal writing: http://www.law.ucla.edu/volokh/writing/a25.pdf.

Here are two great introductions (aimed at current law students but generally applicable to anyone new to the process) on how to start submitting to law reviews: a blog post and an article.
Several law school libraries have created helpful guides to the process (although sometimes internal links are restricted to students/staff/faculty):
Harvard
Georgetown
University of Washington

There is also a journal-by-journal guide to law review submission policies available to download at SSRN. The only problem with the guide is that it is if anything too detailed.

Links for Submitting Articles
Northern Kentucky University Guide - This website lists submission information for law reviews. Most of the law reviews listed here accept submissions via email (although some of the journals require online submissions through their own websites – links are provided where that is necessary).

Law Journal Rankings - This site provides a fairly exhaustive list of law reviews and journals. It also will rank the journals in terms of their impact factor.

ExpressO – The submissions service that virtually every law review accepts. You don’t have to send the emails to submit your article if you’re willing to pay a nominal fee to have ExpressO submit for you. (Of course, if you’re submitting to a lot of law reviews – and if you’re not a tenured professor with really impressive credentials and good name recognition, you should be – the cost will add up.)

Meet the Board: Caleb Harlin

Over the next couple weeks, we'll be posting short snapshots of each new OBCLAA Board member. If you see a Board member working on a project that interests you, shoot him or her an e-mail and jump right in!
Caleb Harlin (JD05B) is the chairman of the National Association & Accreditation Committee. Here are some thoughts from Caleb:

I am currently residing in Muskogee, Oklahoma. For employment, I am working part time for Mark Meuser and occasionally for other Oak Brook alums. For pleasure, I play the piano, run long distance races, play chess, compose music, take pictures, and travel.

As chairman of the National Association and Accreditation committee, I have three primary objectives this year:

1) research and update U.S. and international accreditation standards;
2) research the ramifications of seeking approval/accreditation
from legal associations at a local and national level; and
3) assist petition efforts by Oak Brook students or graduates who wish to challenge resistant state bars.

I believe that the first and second goals are achievable this year, while the third goal will be an ongoing effort that I will pass on to a future chairman.

Volunteers can make a big difference in this committee's success, and have a big impact on the marketability of our school. Researching bar requirements in your jurisdiction would be very helpful. We need coordination so that we do not duplicate efforts unnecessarily. Another big help will be in the area of researching
the specific requirements for local and national legal associations whose endorsement of Oak Brook would enhance our impact without diminishing our standards. A final area of this field is in the area of long-term vision. If there are students who feel called to challenge their state or provincial bar association requirements, I want this committee to be a resource from the very earliest stages of the process.

I can best be reached for NAA committee purposes at this e-mail address: caleb.harlin@wybark.com.

I look forward to a productive year.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

2010 Alumni Association Meeting Pictures

I'm sure that everyone who attended will agree that our time in Tahoe was refreshing, energizing, and simply a great time overall. Here are a few pictures from the weekend.




















Jack Stuart flew over Lake Tahoe in his T-38 on Monday morning.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

OBCLAA Board 2010-2011

More Tahoe updates coming soon, but, for now, congratulations to the OBCLAA Board for 2010-2011!!!

Here's the lineup:

President: Nathan DeLadurantey
Vice President: Paul Harman
Treasurer: Anita Paulsson
Secretary: Emily Younger
College Liaison: Brian Hutchins
Student Liaison: Kaitlin Showerman
Paralegal Liaison: Crystal Kinz
Student Affairs: Jordana Ward
Alumni Relations: Christopher Martens
National Association & Accreditation: Caleb Harlin
Promotion & Media: Mark Bigger

Monday, September 6, 2010

This year's breakout sessions

Our Lake Tahoe retreat is less than a week away! We have a fantastic weekend planned - our biggest and most exciting yet.

Every year, we try to find people to handle breakout sessions on topics of value to the Oak Brook community. Here are our breakout sessions for this year:

- Hanging Shingles: On Your Own, But Not Alone. The resources you need and the strategies to succeed in your own law practice.

- Voices in the Wilderness: Worldview and Written Scholarship. How can we advocate for truth in academia and the public square? Learn how to find opportunities to make an impact on law and public policy in print.

- Lawyers without Borders: OBCL beyond California. Graduates share their experience and insights on federal practice and working outside of California.

Friday, August 20, 2010

"Best Value" in Legal Education

An ABA Journal article listing National Jurist's "best value" ranking for law schools has attracted some interesting comments from attorneys about the value of legal education, the weight of debt, and the disconnect between perceived earning potential and real-world experience:

Magazine Names Best Value in Law Schools

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Good News in Minnesota

The effort to open the Minnesota Bar to attorneys from non-ABA schools has led to a favorable decision from the MN Supreme Court. Here's the report from the MinnLawyer Blog:

The court ordered the Minnesota Board of Law Examiners to draft a rule allowing an attorney licensed in another state to sit for the Minnesota bar exam without having graduated from an ABA-approved law school.

The order was in response to a petition, filed with the court on April 29, 2009, seeking such an amendment to Rule 4A(3) of the Rules for Admission to the Bar. In its Aug. 10, 2009, the court ordered the board to examine the issues raised by the petition and to submit a report to the court. The board filed its report on June 2, 2010.

After reviewing the submission, the Supreme Court determined that it will consider a rule amendment that would permit a licensed attorney who has successfully practiced law in another U.S. jurisdiction for a substantial number of years to sit for the Minnesota bar exam and, if successful and otherwise qualified, to be admitted to the Minnesota Bar, notwithstanding the fact that the attorney had not graduated from an ABA-approved law school.

The court ordered the board to file the proposed rule amendment with the court on or before Sept. 30, 2010. The amendment will then be scheduled for public comment and hearing.

In the struggle against the ABA monopoly, this is an exciting victory. But the battle's not over. There are some things still to do in the coming weeks.

1. Pray. Thank God for opening this door and pray for wisdom and discernment for Dean Magnuson and others who are working with the MN Supreme Court on the rule amendment. Also pray that this action by the MN Supreme Court would influence other jurisdictions to consider exceptions to ABA restrictions.

2. Participate. I was able to talk to Dean Magnuson immediately after he heard about the ruling. He is eager for OBCL alumni to submit public comments once the forum becomes available.

Praise God for the opportunity for a fair hearing in Minnesota! We'll keep you posted...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Alumni in the News VII - Continued

Matt McReynolds made the front page of the Sacramento Bee for successfully defending a pastor's first amendment right to share his faith.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Alumni in the News VII

Oak Brooker Timmy Teepell is mentioned in Sports Illustrated. Governor Jindal signs into a law a bill to allow homeschoolers to participate in public school athletic activities and says that it should be called the “Timmy Teepell” bill. Take that, Timmy Tebow!

Carrying on the Oak Brookers and sports theme, Mike Reitz of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation helps interview
Pete Carroll, former USC coach and current coach of the Seattle Seahawks on a local radio show.

Mike Reitz and Jonathan Bechtle discuss, among other things, if free speech applies to honking your horn in their entertaining monthly podcast.

Meredith Turney writes in Townhall on Milton Friedman’s enduring legacy.

Bryan Tyson bravely tries to make boring Georgia Supreme Court cases interesting on the Georgia Supreme Court blog.

Write Mark Bigger at mjbigger@juno.com on interesting stories involving Oak Brook grads or students.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Outsourcing lawyers?

"Where have all the lawyers gone?," Larry Ribstein asks in a recent Forbes article. His answer: "To India." Ribstein predicts that the international competition will force the American bar to change the way it does things.

"The licensing requirement restricts the supply of lawyers in the U.S. and, of course, raises the price. Even lawyers performing the most routine services must pay $100,000 or so for a legal education, plus three years of their time and thousands for a bar exam and bar review course. No wonder legal services are priced out of the reach of much of America even as legal regulation plays an increasing role in our lives.

"In the long run, for better or worse, this regulatory structure will not survive global competition. It is threatened not only by India and other outsourcing venues, but also by loosening restrictions on law practice in the U.K., Europe and Australia, which now has the first publicly traded law firm. Hedge funds already are providing outside financing for litigation. The capital markets offer the legal services industry a glittering pile of cash for remodeling. Even lawyers must see that licensing laws keep them from competing in the world that is rather than protecting them from competition in the world that was."

This has important implications for legal education as well. The legal academy nationwide will be forced to investigate new methodologies that cut costs without sacrificing quality, and I imagine that distance learning will come to play an increasingly important role.

Sunday, August 8, 2010

More on the cost of legal education

A recent study sponsored by the ABA raises a number of concerns with the U.S. News & World Report law school rankings. Their number one concern was the cost in legal education:

The current methodology tends to increase the costs of legal education for students. As a recent study by the United States Government Accountability Office has suggested, the U.S. News methodology arguably punishes a school that provides a high quality education at an affordable cost. Because low-cost law schools report a lower expenditure per student than higher cost schools, it is difficult for low tuition schools to top the rankings. A school that works hard to hold down costs may indeed find itself falling in the rankings relative to a peer that increases tuition above the rate of inflation each year.

U.S. News responded to the criticism by pointing out that rising costs can be blamed on the still-rising demand for legal education: “Concerning law school tuition costs, . . . there's basic economics of demand being greater than supply, which is one key reason why law schools can keep raising their tuition.” U.S. News adds: “[I]t's very easy for the ABA and law school academics to blame U.S. News for many of the negative practices at law schools. Law schools and the ABA need to take far more direct responsibility for these trends.”

Whoever is to blame – and there would seem to be enough for everyone to share – it’s probably beyond controversy that law school in the U.S. is excessively expensive. Many law students who graduate and face the difficult legal job market are tens of thousands of dollars in debt. While I would be the last person to say that you should choose a law school based on cost alone, we have to acknowledge that the cost of law school is an important factor to weigh when evaluating your options. On this point, you would be very hard pressed to top Oak Brook College of Law (see this previous post).

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Why Come to Tahoe? (Part 2)

(Check out Part 1 here!)

Registrations are beginning to roll in for our Alumni weekend in gorgeous South Lake Tahoe on September 10-12, 2010. I'm excited to see so many that are planning to come, but I can't help but think that some of you are still on the fence. So - why would you come to Tahoe?

Here are a few answers from those that have experienced Tahoe:
The value of spending time with other Christians who have similar goals is immeasurable. The annual Alumni Association meetings have provided the opportunity to invest in an organization dedicated to supporting and continuing the mission of OBCL in the lives of alumni and current students, and the fellowship of Christians who are lawyers (and among whom you do not have to explain why you went to OBCL). There is a camaraderie among the OBCL family of alumni that you will find nowhere else. - Anita P.

My wife and I both found the 2009 Alumni Association meeting to be extremely edifying. We had just left our extensive network of friends on the east coast and had moved to California about 3 months before the meeting. It was a real encouragement to get together and fellowship with other Oak Brook graduates and their families....I highly recommend attending the Alumni Association meeting. It is a great time of fellowship, refreshment, and a great way to make sure that the school will be around for decades to come. - John O.
So don't delay! Register online today!

Friday, July 16, 2010

Taking Scholarship to the Next Level

Lots of lawyers and law students have good ideas. It's a much harder task to take those good ideas and put them on paper. It's harder even than that to take your paper, fine-tune and polish it, and get it published in a legal journal.

OBCL Alumni Lael Weinberger and Bob Renaud did just that with their article entitled "Spheres of Sovereignty: Church Autonomy Doctrine and the Theological Heritage of the Separation of Church and State." As if that wasn't good enough, their article is now going to the next level - the citation.

Getting cited in any article is an achievement, but getting cited by a noted constitutional scholar is above and beyond that. And getting cited by former 10th Circuit Judge Michael W. McConnell, who fits all of the above categories - well, you just don't get too much higher than that. So with that in mind, check out footnote 1 to Judge McConnell's paper entitled "Non-State Governance."

Congrats, Bob and Lael!

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Board Update

Even with the craziness of summer upon us, the OBCLAA Board is steadily moving forward with preparations for the upcoming Annual Meeting in lovely Lake Tahoe -- and a slew of other projects!

Here are some highlights from the last Board meeting on June 15:

* Preparations for the 2010 Annual Meeting in Tahoe are in full swing. Brandon Stallings has set up a Facebook event page dedicated to the meeting. If you have any pictures from last year's meeting that you would like to contribute to the page, message Brandon. And be sure to RSVP!

For the first time ever, a hard copy of the announcement has been mailed out to all alumni, and online registration is available here. Now would be a great time to RSVP!!

As always, this conference will be a memorable time of refreshing, refocusing, and reconnecting with the OBCL community. If you've never made it to an Alumni Association event, coming to Tahoe would be a great first step! Don't forget to RSVP!!!

* Congratulations are in order to Charissa Sonntag, who will be getting married later this summer. Sadly for the Board, however, Charissa will be not be seeking reelection as the National Association and Accreditation Committee chairman. If you are interested or know someone who would be interested in serving in this position, please let the Board know.

* Adam York reported that the Student Relations Committee is working to supply mentors to all students preparing for the Bar exam. The Committee is also in the planning stages of establishing regional coordinators to get the word about OBCL out to local homeschool groups, debate clubs, and other potential sources for future lawyers.

* Paralegal Liaison Crystal Kinz asked for the Board's input on a plan to publish contributions from Paralegal Program graduates on the Alumni blog. The Board enthusiastically approved, and hopes to be adding additional paralegal content soon.

* The Board approved issuing funding to cover publication of new publicity brochures for the school. The old brochures had become outdated, most notably with their listing of old amounts for tuition.

This year promises to be the OBCLAA's most productive year yet! If you're not already, make 2010 your year to become involved.

(Oh, and remember to RSVP.)

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

OBCL - Where Value Exceeds Cost

The Alumni Association's College Liaison, Anita Paulsson, has been working with OBCL staff on a project to detail and illustrate the cost-effectiveness of OBCL's legal training.

At the same time, OBCL is in the process of kicking off a brand-new blog to highlight the college's news. Anita put her work into one of the first posts up on that blog, and shares her personal testimony along with the hard-and-fast statistics on OBCL's great value, both educationally and fiscally. Great work, Anita!

Read it here: Oak Brook College of Law and Government Policy - Where Value Exceeds Cost

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Washington State Supreme Court Coming to a Community near You!

"The Supreme Court of the State of Washington is now in session." It was a rainy day in May when the Washington State Supreme Court convened at Big Bend Community College in Moses Lake to hear oral arguments in three cases. With the audience largely consisting of college students for the first case heard by the Washington Supreme Court on May 18, 2010, I had to remind myself this was the real thing, not a law school moot court. As the students returned to their classes, the audience thinned to a discouragingly few for the second case.

According to their website, the Washington Supreme Court has made periodic visits to communities throughout the state since 1985, welcoming and making it more possible for the public to observe that branch of government in action. http://www.courts.wa.gov/newsinfo/?fa=newsinfo.pressdetail&newsid=1590. As the oral arguments began in the second case, nearly everyone simultaneously looked up as the first attorney to speak began discussing a case from 1895. That date clearly arrested the attention of everyone there and reminded me that how you begin your argument can make a difference.

For the citizens of Washington State, these visits by their state supreme court are great opportunities to learn more about the Washington Supreme Court and the current justices. I would encourage not only every attorney and law student but also every concerned citizen to take every opportunity possible to visit and observe their state supreme court in action.

RSVP for Tahoe on Facebook!

Brandon Stallings, our Alumni Relations chairman, has created our official Tahoe Facebook page. Be sure to RSVP to let us (and other Alumni) know that you are coming to the annual meeting and retreat!

Check it out here.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Law school and "bad sociology"

Catching up on old news, I read an interesting and provocative article by Charles Rounds (professor, Suffolk University Law School) lamenting the decline of the “common law” subjects in law school. (HT: Law School Innovation.) Courses on the bread-and-butter common law courses ought to be at the heart of the law school curriculum, he says.

“Common law, of which agency and trust are critical components, is the bedrock upon which all our statutory and regulatory edifices are constructed. Unfortunately, the old required courses in the law—the courses necessary to master the law’s basic anatomy—have largely been crowded out by courses about the law. Almost every self-respecting law professor is now an amateur sociologist engaged in ‘ground-breaking’ and ‘cutting-edge’ scholarship that has a gender, race, or sexual identity hook. Those who are less sociologically inclined are likely preoccupied with some ultra-technical aspect of the Constitution, some piece of legislation, or a regulation. Many professors manage to cobble together entire courses around their preoccupations.”

Professor Rounds concludes that “law students at great expense are getting little more than bad sociology.”

What’s the solution? Professor Rounds suggests:

“This de-professionalization of the American law school, a phenomenon of profound concern to many in the legal profession, suggests that there is an opening for the for-profit sector. A bare-bones, back-to-basics for-profit law school staffed by seasoned scholar-practitioners may be the answer. The more boot-camp-like the better, in that the rigor will prepare future lawyers for the work they’ll actually confront in the real world.”

Rounds' comments raise some issues that I might quibble about some other time (should a law school curriculum be reduced to just nuts-and-bolts courses to prepare student for practice? I don’t think so). But I think he does raise some thought-provoking points about big issues facing law schools, especially in a difficult economy.

And, ahem. The Oak Brook College curriculum features the common-law staples prominently. The distance-learning methodology makes it possible for OBCL students to get real world experience working in law while still in law school. The faculty is comprised of practicing lawyer-teachers who know what really is happening in the real world. These are pluses that we OBCL grads sometimes take for granted, but shouldn’t.

And ending on a cheerful note, Professor Rounds thinks the future is bright for new approaches to legal education: "A for-profit law school that affords its students a thorough grounding in the fundamentals would soon win the respect and admiration of the hiring partners in the nation’s law firms. In time they would come to take with a grain of salt the puff pieces and propaganda of their non-profit alma maters, and of the American Bar Association which regulates them."

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Alumni in the News VI

98B’s Chris Schweickert writes an essay on prayer at public colleges for the American Thinker entitled "Free Speech at College: 'You Can't Do That Here'"

Alumni Peter Fear is featured in a Business Journal story on one of today's most discussed legal topics: "Local Attorney Cautions Against Debt Consolidations"

Matt McReynolds is quoted in an AP story on religious freedom in Southern California.

Jonathan Bechtle and Mike Reitz discuss internet filtering at libraries, rape shield laws, and other recent Washington Supreme Court decisions in their entertaining monthly podcast.

OBCL Grad Meredith Turney discusses the political blame game in the aftermath of BP’s recent offshore oil spill.

Alumni Brian Tyson has a number of informative updates out of Georgia on his firm's SCOG Blog.

Are you an alumni that has recently been published online? Please let us know so that we can highlight your work!

Monday, May 17, 2010

February, 2010 Bar Results

Congratulations to the OBCL Alumni who passed the February, 2010 California Bar Exam! This class did us proud.

Right now, I know of 7 of 9 first-time takers from OBCL whose names were on the pass list. There may be a couple of other first-timers who took it, so check back for an update later today when the school fills us in.

But for now, congratulations to Curtis, Kristi, Caleb, Heidi, Joshua, Laura, and Lael!

Stupendous work, Class 05! May God continue to richly bless your efforts.

***UPDATE***

Looks like the final statistics are in: 7 of 12 first-time takers passed, and 3 of 9 repeat takers passed. Both of those are fantastic statistics on the whole, and we congratulate each individual passer!

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Why come to Tahoe?

I hope that you already have the weekend of September 11 highlighted on your calendar. It is, after all, going to be a fantastic weekend of Alumni fellowship and fun in Lake Tahoe.

But if you're on the fence, or making excuses to miss out, you don't have to take my word for it. Here's what Alumni are saying about attending:
Tahoe is a beautiful location to get away to, but the best part of the reunion for me was not the sightseeing but the fellowship- with old friends and new. The highlight of the '09 reunion was the time of worship and sharing Sunday morning. I can't imagine any OBCL'er regretting making the effort to attend. - Sean S.

The weekend in Tahoe made me grateful once again for the strong ties that bind Oak Brook alumni together, and for the fellowship that we have together in Christ regardless of where our professional paths lead. - Emily Y.

More Alumni testimonials to come - as well as registration forms. But mark your calendars now!

Saturday, April 24, 2010

Follow the Alumni Association on Twitter!

Taking the next step in our quest to connect Oak Brook Alumni, we've launched a Twitter account! If you're on Twitter follow us @obclalumni. We will be certain to not only follow you back, but to re-tweet your news, accomplishments, and links along with general news from the Alumni Association.

And if there is something that you'd like to see on the Twitter feed, be sure to hit us up with a direct message. Looking forward to following all you twitter-savvy alumni!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

"Law School Grads Face Tougher Economic Times"

In a fitting update to Lael's post from last week, US News and World Report is reporting on the status of the legal profession's economy in a write-up entitled "Law School Grads Face Tougher Economic Times."

The truth is that the legal profession isn't what it once was. It is hard to get a job, especially a high-paying entry job to pay off student debt. As is pointed out in that article, it is a gamble for even the most brilliant student to incur a crushing amount of student debt in the hopes that high income will allow the new lawyer to pay it off.

This story is a great reminder to me of two things - first off, how grateful I am to be able to practice law without the burden of debt, thanks to the vision of OBCL. Second, it's a reminder to me of the great potential of the Alumni Association. We exist, in large part, to network graduates with Alumni that are established in their professions, so that institutional knowledge, practical wisdom, and yes, jobs can be available for the entire body of students and alumni.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Are traditional law schools keeping up?

Guest post by alumni Lael Weinberger

The National Law Journal has a report on a recent conference that called for big changes in traditional legal education. The conference was called “Future Ed: New Business Models for U.S. and Global Legal Education,” and was sponsored by the law schools at New York University and Harvard.

According to the article, the conference was a reaction to an important 2007 report from the Carnegie Foundation that warned that traditional law schools were doing a poor job teaching students practical job skills. Many of the participants in the “Future Ed” conference went further, warning that law schools are out of touch with the real world. They don’t teach practical skills as well as they should. They don’t emphasize business considerations (like talking with clients about costs). They are run on a model that is becoming obsolete: students rack up enormous debt on the assumption that they can get high paying jobs at firms, but those jobs are disappearing and the firm structure is changing.

The article quotes one analyst at the conference who said that American law school is “not simply incomplete.” “It's directionally wrong in many respects because it's misaligned with where the world really is. In my opinion, most of the things I see that are problematic in the profession right now are rooted in law schools.”

The report concludes by noting that the conference “included panels on the possible alternatives” to the standard legal education model and “addressed accelerated programs, experiential learning and distance education and lessons learned from other industries.”

“There's a saying in academia that change is good…for others,” one of the conference participants joked. For a long time, most American law schools have resisted change. But with conferences like this, momentum seems to be building for more change in the field.

Hopefully, this means that the larger world of legal education is recognizing what Oak Brook College of Law has known since its founding in 1995. OBCL’s non-traditional program puts an emphasis on practical skills and the curriculum makes it possible to get real-world work experience while in school. In the process, OBCL students also avoid the enormous debt that usually accompanies three years at a traditional law school.

Board Update

Last night, April 13, the OBCLAA Board met to share our progress since our last meeting in February. Here are some highlights of the meeting:

* Thanks to the excellent work of Jordana Ward and Rachael (Moxon) Denhollander, and the cooperation of many alumni so far, we are coming close to finishing our compilation of updated contact information. The goal of having a detailed bio for each alumnus/alumna is still a bit more far off. If you've been contacted by Jordana or Rachael, please help them out by filling in the blanks in your bio.

* Plans for the OBCLAA's 2010 annual meeting in Lake Tahoe continue to go well. The meeting is scheduled for September 11, 2010, to be held at Zephyr Cove. Mark that weekend on your calendars now! And expect to see the official invitation and registration soon.

* As the contact information is gathered, Mark Bigger and Brandon Stallings are planning an information packet that will be sent to all alumni, informing them about the Alumni Association and its work on behalf of Oak Brook College, its students and graduates.

* Charissa Sonntag (with the exceptional help of Anita Paulsson for Washington state) is working on the ever-growing project of compiling admissions rules for states around the country. The next step in this project will be getting some estimates on web design to make this information accessible to OBCL students and graduates.

Please continue to pray for the Board and for the leadership of OBCL, that they would have wisdom and be faithful to the school's mission while adapting to new challenges.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Alumni In The News V

Meredith Turney discusses Democrats attempts to change the subject of the health care legislation, how it was passed and what it contained to demonizing the opponents of health care.

OBCL Grads Michael Reitz and Jonathan Bechtle discuss in their own entertaining way rulings of the Washintgon Supreme Court on their extremely popular monthly podcast. The Supreme Court Blog Podcast gets over 11,000 views a month, making it one of the most popular State Supreme Court Podcasts in the nation.

Michael Reitz also writes on the WA Supreme Court’s ruling that the Governor of Washington does not have to fund in the state budget proposal an $87 Million arbritration award given to state workers.

OBCL Grad Bryan Tyson updates the latest on the Georgia Supreme Court Blog. The Georgia Supreme Court Blog is dedicated to following civil law rulings in Georgia’s top court.

Tahoe- Why This Is More Than A Destination

I just wanted to share my personal experience in going to Tahoe for the first time as a law student in hopes that this inspires students/alumni to attend this picturesque locale. I went to Tahoe to get a job as a clerk for a smaller firm that dabbled in all areas of law. I felt that this was necessary for my professional development as it allowed for me to get experience in many areas which would lead to me being able to make an informed decision on what I wanted to do for the next couple years of my life.

In contacting ABA attorneys regarding the possibility of interning for them, none of them were comfortable with the idea of OBCL, and at least comfortable with the nature of the education I was receiving. For this reason, I felt that my education in the practical workings of the law would be best assisted by an OBCL grad who would not be questioning my school background. Again, I felt that to get my foot in the door, it would be wise to intern with an OBCL grad and what better place to get a feel for things than a gathering of OBCL alumni.

My experience in interviewing and meeting OBCL grads proved to be inspiring and motivational in that it put a bit of meat to the educational skeleton that I had been working toward. To meet real live OBCL attorneys lent credibility to my endeavors and to the years of toil. I ended up getting a clerkship with Clayton Campbell which allowed me to be introduced to the Bakersfield legal community, and eventually led to a job with the District Attorney's Office.

I went back to Tahoe in 2009 as a newly licensed attorney, and was again struck by the level of support and motivation that this event offered. It was great to reconnect with friends, and also network with alumni that I had not met previously. Again, I saw the importance of being intentional in building community with those of a similar background as I was able to focus on moving forward, rather than merely treading water with ABA people.

As a new attorney, I couldn't say enough about Tahoe and the people that I have met there. Give it a try; I look forward to hearing about the growth that takes place as a result of making this much more than a destination.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

ALUMNI IN THE NEWS IV

OBCL Graduate Matt Reynolds is quoted on Fox News defending the right of folks to hold bible studies in their home without a permit.

Read OBCL graduate Bryan Tyson’s musings on court decisions on his law firm's Georgia Supreme Court Blog.

Meredith Turney writes in Townhall that Reagan Was Right About Government Run Health care.

Michael Reitz of 98B infamy blogs on the Washington State Supreme Court Blog about a ruling that a missing transcript material to an appeal requires a new trial for a man convicted of a DUI.

Contact me at mjbigger@juno.com to report any interesting writing or stories involving alumni that you come across.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Did you know?

The Alumni Association is in the midst of completing some projects that will give us a springboard into further successful projects.

The biggest "springboard" project is the compiling of an accurate, up-to-date database of Alumni. With so many alumni moving around, and scattered all across the country, it is a huge project to catalogue what everyone is up to. So, if you are an alumni, hopefully you have gotten a call from one of the great folks who have been touching base and compiling the information.

If you have not, though, would you contact us? We want to know what you are up to, and how we can be in touch for the benefit of the growing body of alumni. We each have our own little circle of influence, and the Alumni Association is about combining those circles of influence for the benefit of all, and that's what this project is all about.

So, if you have not gotten a call, please e-mail us! We would love to let you know what's going on with the college and the alumni association. I can be reached at gabe@gabewaddell.com.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Ninth Circuit reverses self and makes sense.

Thanks to Legal Writing III, all OBCL graduates in the last few years are familiar with the 9th Circuit's 2002 decision ruling the Pledge of Allegiance with the words "under God" unconstitutional.

Last Thursday, in response to yet another lawsuit filed by Dr. Michael Newdow, the 9th Circuit issued a ruling reversing the 2002 holding, finding instead that it IS constitutional to say "under God" in the Pledge.

Writing for a 2-1 majority, Judge Carlos Bea relied on the argument that the words "under God" are a statement of our nation's political philosophy, an echo of the Declaration of Independence:
The Pledge of Allegiance serves to unite our vast nation through the proud recitation of some of the ideals upon which our Republic was founded and for which we continue to strive: one Nation under God—the Founding Fathers’ belief that the people of this nation are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights; indivisible—although we have individual states, they are united in one Republic; with liberty —the government cannot take away the people’s inalienable rights; and justice for all—everyone in America is entitled to “equal justice under the law” (as is inscribed above the main entrance to our Supreme Court).
Now there's an argument that should sound familiar to more than a few alumni.

Click here to read the press release from the Becket Fund, a leader in propounding the "philosophy of government" argument.

All 193 pages of the opinion (including Judge Reinhardt's dissent) can be accessed here.

Friday, March 5, 2010

A Moving Article

Sometimes, inspiration comes from strange sources.

I regularly follow the Wall Street Journal's fabulous Law Blog for legal news. It isn't often, though, that my spiritual life is blessed by them, as well. They linked to an interview of a Harvard Law prof, who is living under perpetual threat of death from a terminal illness, as well as constant excruciating pain. He talks about his very real faith through it all.

I was highly blessed by this example of a man who is up to his neck in a very secular legal world, and yet, used every move - and every struggle - to glorify God. He teaches criminal law, studying the depravity of humanity on a daily basis, and yet, keeps his focus on God.

I pray that I, and every OBCL grad out there, will do the same.

Read it here:

You Will Call, I Will Answer

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Ahead of the Game

What is the ONE characteristic that makes Oak Brook lawyers the most unconventional? The most unusual? Counter-cultural?

It may be this: we don't have law school debt.

In this month's Bar Journal, California State Bar President Howard Miller wrote the following:
The cost of legal education has skyrocketed, not just at private schools. At Berkeley Law and UCLA, tuition alone is now around $38,000 a year. With many fewer jobs available, students are graduating with combined undergraduate and law school debt of well over $150,000.
Meanwhile, a typical OBCL grad is equipped to work, save, travel, and [if the past is any indication] start a new family . . . all outside the shadow of a mountain of debt.

Not a bad deal.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Alumni in the News III

OBCL Graduate Will Humble scores a victory for Homeschooling liberty in an immigration case.

OBCL Graduate Gabe Waddell writes about an Iranian pastor facing martyrdom for his beliefs.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Alumni in the News II

For those who want to really dust off the old thinking cap on 1st Amendment issues, read OBCL’s Lael Weinberger’s article that he wrote for the University of Detroit Mercy Law Review entitled “Religion Undefined: Competing Frameworks for Understanding 'Religion' in the Establishment Clause.”

Or read the law review that Lael co-wrote with OBCL grad Bob Renaud for the Northern Kentucky Law Review entitled “Spheres of Sovereignty: Church Autonomy Doctrine and the Theological Heritage of the Separation of Church and State.”

Meredith Turney writes for Townhall on the need for expanding Governor Schwarzenegger’s plan for prison privatization beyond the Department of Corrections.

Michael Reitz breaks down justice by justice how the Washington State Supreme Court voted in 2010 at the Washington Supreme Court Blog.

Lastly, Jack Stuart writes on the Christmas Day terrorist attack and the related public policy considerations in an article entitled “Warfront With Jihadistan: Hot Pants, Cold Shoulders, Lukewarm Policy.”

Monday, January 25, 2010

Fighting for Marriage in California, Part II

For a more in-depth look at the fight for marriage in California, I’ve interviewed Matt McReynolds, an OBCL alumnus and attorney with the Pacific Justice Institute.

OBCLAA: Why is the Prop. 8 trial important for California?

McReynolds: The trial is important on a number of levels, including (but certainly not limited to) the future of democracy in California. In essence, the plaintiffs are proposing that, even after decades of civil rights advances, we cannot trust ordinary voters to decide what the basic principles of equality do and do not mean. Instead, we are told, only the privileged few in black robes can be trusted to define equality. The trial is also important in that the plaintiffs are presenting a mountain of evidence that arguably relies heavily on the emotion and sensitivities of the LGBT community to interpret constitutional principles. We’ve come a long way with the “elastic” Constitution, but this seems to be stretching our founding document in an entirely new and untested direction, with highly unpredictable consequences for future interpretation of other constitutional provisions.

OBCLAA: Tell us about your work on Prop. 8 before it passed.

McReynolds: During the Prop. 8 campaign, my firm and I spent a considerable amount of time counseling countless pastors and church leaders throughout California as to their rights to be involved in the campaign. There is a common misperception that churches and other 501(c)(3) organizations cannot take a position in any political campaign. In reality, while non-profits may lose their tax-exempt status for supporting or opposing particular candidates or political parties, they enjoy considerable freedom to speak out about ballot initiatives and legislation. To perhaps state the obvious, the involvement of these churches became crucial in the campaign.

After the campaign was over, and we began to see acts of physical violence, intimidation and vandalism against churches and individuals that had supported Prop. 8, my firm and I advised pastors and churches as to their rights and protections under the FACE acts and similar laws.

OBCLAA: Have you been involved in the Prop. 8 litigation? If so, how?

McReynolds: Yes, I think it’s safe to say that PJI has been involved with every phase of the marriage battles in California for the last decade, from the passage of Prop. 22 to its ultimate overturning, then through the passage of Prop. 8, its eventual upholding by the State Supreme Court, and the current federal litigation. I’ve only been on the scene the last five years, but I wrote letter briefs we filed with the state Supreme Court immediately after Prop. 8 was challenged there, and PJI has filed an amicus brie in the current federal trial.

OBCLAA: Tell us about your job for PJI. What do you do?

McReynolds: Pacific Justice Institute, founded in 1997 by attorney Brad Dacus, is a legal and educational organization that defends the rights of Christians in their workplace, houses of worship, schools and the public square. Since coming to PJI, I’ve been involved with brief-writing for every level of the state and federal judiciary on church-state issues, church land-use claims, employment discrimination cases, a same-sex marriage benefits case (unrelated to Prop. 8), a landmark homeschooling rights case, and so on. PJI did very little litigation when I arrived in 2005, but that now accounts for at least half of our work. I’ve argued a variety of motions in state court, federal court and a state court of appeals. Aside from the litigation, I’ve spent a fair amount of time advising thousands of individuals on a wide variety of religious liberty issues. As part of my job, I’ve also participated in dozens of media interviews and have testified before the state legislature and numerous local governmental bodies.

OBCLAA: Do you believe that your unique education at Oak Brook helped to prepare you for this job? How?

McReynolds: Absolutely. I would especially credit OBCL’s association with Prof. Jordan Lorence, a top-notch role model for aspiring constitutional attorneys, and the school’s emphasis on apprenticeship over ivory-tower academics. Because of the school’s emphasis on spending as much time as possible in a law office, I worked about 30 hours a week for the last two years of law school with the American Center for Law and Justice. That experience was far better preparation for what I’m doing now than anything I could have read in a textbook.

OBCLAA: Have you faced any discrimination because of your atypical education?

McReynolds: I don’t believe so. I’ve had a number of law students from ABA schools work for me over the last few years, and I can tell you that OBCL students and alumni have no reason to feel inferior to them. The school you attended—whether Ivy League or unaccredited—does not determine your destiny. You do. I should add that I’ve been very fortunate to work in an environment that was already favorable to OBCL thanks to great interns like Nicole Pallais and Christopher Schweickert.

OBCLAA: What can Oak Brook alumni do to help fight for truth in California and around the country?

McReynolds: It takes almost nothing to become an affiliate attorney of Pacific Justice Institute. That simply means you send me your contact info and agree only to get infrequent e-mails from us alerting you to pro bono opportunities in your geographic area. There is zero financial or any other firm commitment involved. I would also strongly encourage alumni to become allies with Prof. Lorence’s organization, the Alliance Defense Fund. While they expect more of a pro bono commitment than PJI does, the payoff is very nice—an all-expenses paid trip to somewhere nice (last year it was Hawaii, this coming summer it’s Chicago) for the best CLE hours you’re ever likely to get.

OBCLAA: What about OBCL students? How can they help?

McReynolds: I think students need to understand how important the apprenticeship aspect of OBCL is. My view is that an OBCL degree is woefully incomplete without some serious internship hours. Aside from the internship, though, students really need to network. Join the Christian Legal Society and Federalist Society, and make sacrifices to go to their conferences.

OBCLAA: Do you have any suggestions for how OBCL students can prepare for careers in Constitutional Law?

McReynolds: I believe most OBCL students—and especially anyone who wants to do constitutional law—should push themselves to submit an essay for ADF’s annual scholarship competition, and apply for ADF’s Blackstone Fellowship, which happens in the summer. The former was crucial in getting me started in this area, and I know other OBCL alums have benefited from the latter.

***

Thanks, Matt, for giving us a glimpse into your work for PJI and for constitutional freedom in California!

-- Emily Younger for the OBCLAA