Langston Writing Workshop Meets at Denver Law

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Denver Law was home to the Fourth Annual Langston Writing Workshop on July 11 thru 13, 2013. Twenty-four participants, African American male law professors from across the nation, presented scholarship and discussed recruitment and retention issues within the profession.

The Workshop is named for John Mercer Langston. Born in Virginia in 1829, Langston graduated from Oberlin College in 1849. Denied entry to law school, Langston Langston2 for webpagebbread the law and in 1854 became Ohio’s first black lawyer. In 1868, he organized the law department at Howard University, and he became Virginia’s first African American U.S. Representative in 1888. Langston, Oklahoma, home to Langston University, is named for him.

This year’s Langston Writing Workshop kicked off with a Thursday evening reception, where the Langston scholars met members of the local Sam Cary Bar Association as well as faculty and staff from the University of Denver and its law school. Meetings followed the reception and filled Friday and Saturday. A dinner in downtown Denver capped three busy and productive days.

“This conference has always had intellectual rigor,” said Frank Rudy Cooper, Suffolk University Law School professor and one of the principal organizers of the Langston Workshop. “This year, thanks to great hosting by theLangston3 for webstory University of Denver Sturm College of Law, the camaraderie at the workshop reached its high point.”

Denver Law Associate Dean Catherine Smith said, “It was an honor to host Langston at DU. We hope to host similar workshops in our attempts to support each participant and to diversify the ranks of law professors. It is important that the leaders in our classrooms reflect the diversity in our country. This is a particular challenge for us at DU Law where, though we have 80 full-time faculty, we do not have a single African-American male faculty-member.” -rw

Participants in the Fourth Annual Langston Writing Workshop:

Bret Asbury, Drexel University Earl Mack School of Law

Mario Barnes, University of California, Irvine School of Law

Frank Rudy Cooper, Suffolk University School of Law

Charlton Copeland, University of Miami School of Law

Mitch Crusto, Loyola University New Orleans School of Law

Jonathan Glater, University of California, Irvine School of Law

Michael Z. Green, Texas Wesleyan University School of Law

Justin Hansford, Saint Louis University School of Law

Vinay Harpalani, IIT Chicago-Kent College of Law

Areto Imoukhuede, Nova Southeastern University Shepard Broad Law Center

H. Timothy Lovelace, Indiana University Maurer School of Law

Sheldon Bernard Lyke, Whittier Law School

Aman McLeod, University of Idaho College of Law

Spencer Overton, The George Washington University Law School

Ngai Pindell, UNLV William S. Boyd School of Law

Cedric Merlin Powell, University of Louisville Louis D. Brandeis School of Law

Kindaka Sanders, Texas Southern University Thurgood Marshall School of Law

Kenya JH Smith, Phoenix School of Law

Terry Smith, DePaul College of Law

Ben Spencer, Washington & Lee University School of Law

Christopher J. Tyson, Louisiana State University Paul M. Herbert Law Center

Carlton Waterhouse, Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law

Prentice White, Southern University Law Center

Kevin Woodson Drexel University Earle Mack School of Law

Lessons learned from Externships at Denver Law: “When you are working in a real law office, you see what lawyers do.”

For Tyler Geisert, ’13, legal education that began in the classroom really took off once he ventured into the real world of law. His three externships placed him in the area of law he suspected he would like – environmental and natural resources – and eventually led to the employment he will begin later this summer.

“My first externship was at the Colorado Attorney General’s Office of Natural Resources,” he recounts. “It was the second semester of my 2L year. I didn’t know what to expect. It turned out perfectly. First, it convinced me that this is the area of law I want to work in. Second, it was greattyler geisert pix working alongside practitioners and to begin doing real legal work. What I had learned in the classroom made more sense to me. I realized I can do this work, and I also learned I really like doing it.”

The next summer Tyler took an extern position at the Colorado Oil and Gas Conservation Commission. “I became aware this is a great field to be working in now,” he says. “The current use of new technologies, fracking and horizontal drilling, means we can get to deposits we couldn’t reach before. The legal and policy issues that result will keep lawyers busy.”

In his third year of law school, Tyler took an in-house extern position with MarkWest Energy Partners, a Denver-based, publicly-traded company providing mid-stream services in the natural gas industry. “That means gathering, processing, and transportation of natural gas; the transportation, fractionation, storage, and marketing of natural gas liquids; and the gathering and transportation of crude oil,” Tyler explains. “It’s exciting work, with new challenges arising all the time.” Tyler will join the Mark West counsel’s office soon. He will take with him lessons he learned doing externships during his time at Denver Law.

“When you are working in a real law office, you see what lawyers do,” he says of his three externships. “You learn by watching them and also through your own work. It’s a trial-and-error process. By emulating other lawyers, you start to find out what works for you and what doesn’t. I learned what you need to do to be good at your job, and I learned I have to do it in a way that meets my needs, fulfills my life. These are important lessons, and you can’t get them in the classroom alone.” -rw

The Water Law Review: One way to make the most out of law school

“Law school is what you make of it,” says 2013 Denver Law grad Allison Altaras. She centered her legal education around her participation on the University of Denver Water Law Review (WLR), for seventeen years a go-to source for scholars and attorneys writing and practicing in this specialized, technical, and extremely important area of the law. For Denver Law students, says Allison, the 2012-13 Editor-in-Chief, the WLR can be an incomparable way to build lawyering skills and begin professional networking. Plus, she says, “water issues will define our future. It’s an important and interdisciplinary area of the law.”

“A lot of people advise law students to do nothing but academics the first year,” recalls Allison. “And that’s not bad advice. But I think it can be a mistake to delay your involvement in something like the WLR because of the opportunitiesAltaras pix that exist for 1Ls to be published and network in the DU community and beyond. We invite 1Ls to write on at the beginning and at the mid-point of their first year. Once on the journal, these students begin to develop essential research and writing skills they might not otherwise pick up until much later, even after graduating. That’s a definite advantage when it comes to succeeding in first year writing classes and ultimately landing a summer position at the end of the first year.”

Allison emphasizes that along with building lawyering skills, the WLR introduces student members to the professional community. “We get the 1Ls involved early on, and through their continued involvement with the WLR and its community of supporters, they eventually have opportunities to intern at places like Denver Water, the Colorado Water Trust, in the Natural Resources Division of the State’s Attorney General’s office, at the EPA and DOJ, and many other places. At our annual Water Law Review Spring Symposium, students meet and work alongside legal practitioners and other professionals—engineers, geologists and policymakers.”

Practitioners in the water law community make themselves available to WLR members, says Allison. “We have strong relationships with attorneys and with the organizations. It’s a small community, and its members are welcoming and nurturing. They are interested in teaching and mentoring the next generation. Many of the leading figures in Colorado water law are former WLR members themselves, or have written articles for the journal. So there are many opportunities out there for our students.”

In the fall, Allison Altaras will take her place in the professional community she has come to know well while serving on the Water Law Review. In 2013-14, she will clerk for Hon. Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr., associate justice of the Colorado Supreme Court and author of “Colorado Water Law: An Historical Overview,” which was published in the very first edition of the University of Denver Water Law Review in the fall of 1997. Following her clerkship, Allison plans to practice natural resources law in the Denver offices of Ryley Carlock & Applewhite. She candidly explains that she found both of these jobs through her involvement with the Water Law Review and looks forward to joining the vast network of DU alumni and the journal’s supporters in paying forward the kindnesses that have come to her via the Water Law Review. -rw

Learning at the Frontiers of a Dynamic Field: The Environmental Law Workshop at Denver Law

Eleven distinguished scholars from around the country, eleven students from Denver Law, weekly participation by local practitioners, and one faculty person to pull it all together: these elements composed the Environmental Law Workshop (ELW), conducted Spring Semester, 2013, at Denver Law. Professor Justin Pidot designed and supervised the ELW. Students read the work-in-progress of each visiting professor, then on a series of Monday afternoons participated in a workshop with the scholar.

“The students in the Workshop did an exceptional job digesting and discussing a broad range of cutting-edge environmental law issues,” according to Professor Pidot. “Many of the visiting professors, some of the most distinguished scholars of environmental law in the country, told me how impressed they were.  Several said that the discussion in the Workshop was as dynamic and helpful to them as presenting their work to law faculties.”

Two or three local attorneys—from advocacy groups, government agencies and local law firms—also took part each week. “The Workshop provided a terrific opportunity for members of the Colorado Bar to participate in the work we’re doing at DU Law,” said Professor Pidot. “It also allowed the attorneys to learn about some of the most provocative scholarship being done in the field.  I heard from many of those that participated that they really enjoyed the experience and hoped to come to more such presentations in the future.” – rw

Visiting scholars who participated in the spring, 2013 Environmental Workshop at Denver Law:

William Boyd, Colorado University Law School

Peter Byrne, Georgetown University Law Center

Brigham Daniels, Brigham Young University Clark Law School

Dan Farber, University of California, Berkeley, School of Law

Carmen Gonzalez, Seattle University School of Law

Nancy Laughlin, University of Utah Quinney School of Law

Amanda Leiter, American University Washington College of Law

Jeffrey Pidot, former Chief, Natural Resources Division, Maine Attorney General’s Office

Jed Purdy, Duke University School of Law

Buzz Thompson, Stanford Law School

Michael Wara, Stanford Law School


Externships: “Essential to my formation as a lawyer”

By the time Elisabeth Hutchinson graduated from Denver Law in May of 2013, she had completed seven externships in three years. Four were for credit, and she completed three as a volunteer. She worked in three federal government agencies, in two Colorado courts, for a Colorado state senator, and – her first externship, completed in the summer between her 1L and 2L years — in Anchorage, Alaska, for the Native American Rights Fund.

Liz believes in the efficacy and the value of out-of-the-classroom educational opportunities. “Classes are important,” she says, “but externships were essential to my formation as a lawyer. The offices and courts in liz hutchinson pixwhich I worked taught me about the responsibilities that go along with being a lawyer. I have first-hand knowledge that the work I am doing can have a profound impact on the lives of my clients. You cannot learn that in classes alone.”

Working in the offices of three federal agencies – the US Environmental Protection Agency, the US Department of the Interior, and the US Department of Justice Environmental and Natural Resources Division – provided very different perspectives on legal practice and opened Liz’s eyes. At the EPA, she saw how an agency functions, and at the DOJ’s ENRD, she gained knowledge of how government lawyers litigate. “Each organization has its own personality and energy,” she reports. “Each group of attorneys with whom I worked offered important lessons about being a lawyer.”

Liz adds that, alongside teaching how the law is practiced, her externship experiences “were the best possible networking opportunities. They put me out into the community of practitioners, working with lawyers and getting to know them.”

This fall, Liz puts her Denver Law education, including crucial lessons she learned about lawyering from over half a dozen externships, to work as a law clerk for Judge John R. Webb of the Colorado Court of Appeals. “I enjoyed law school,” she says, recounting her roles as a leader of the student-run Natural Resources and Environmental Law Society and as Managing Editor of the DU Water Law Review. “Now, however, I am ready for the next step.” -rw

Law Professor Rock Pring: 33-plus Years at Denver Law and Three “Tigers by the Tail”

For more than thirty years at Denver Law, Rock Pring taught environmental law, natural resources law, constitutional law and international law. Though he has retired from the law school’s full-time faculty, Rock is not leaving the law school, nor is he leaving the important work in law and policy that he has pioneered and advanced while a faculty member here. “I’ll still be around,” he says. “In the work I continue, I will still be identified with the Sturm College of Law.”

Rock joined the law school in January 1980, thinking a year of teaching would be a nice transition from his position of Regional Counsel with the Environmental Defense Fund to his next career.Pring But that transition stopped cold:  “I found from the beginning that I love teaching,” says Rock. “I taught ten different courses my first three years and never looked back.”

Soon he began work on the SLAPPS project, bringing to light the problem of “Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation,” court actions to chill citizens’ communications to government. Supported by a National Science Foundation grant, Rock and Sociology Professor  Penelope Canan defined an area of study and advocacy still very much alive today. “It would be nice to think we could eradicate this abuse of the political and judicial process,” he states, “and we’re getting there.”  He points out that to date over one-half of states in the U.S. and a number of foreign countries have adopted anti-SLAPP laws based on their work done at DU. Still, he reminds, “It’s the nature of our legal system that we have to continually respond to these attempts to limit citizen involvement in the democratic process.”

A second area of law and policy that engaged – and still engages – Rock is the DU Environmental Courts and Tribunals (ECT) Study, undertaken with his wife Kitty Pring, a professional mediator, systems analyst and government administrator.  Since 2007, they have researched, written about and played an important role in the explosive growth around the world of specialized courts and tribunals devoted to deciding environmental disputes. One result is their “guidebook,” Greening Justice:  Creating and Improving Environmental Courts and Tribunals, in which the authors identify the twelve key characteristics that make ECTs work effectively. Rock and Kitty maintain a busy international schedule, advising, training and advocating in this developing area of the law.

About being a law scholar, Rock says, “It’s wonderful if you can discover a new idea that has widespread significance and experience — having a ‘tiger by the tail,’ if you will. With SLAPPS and ECTs, I’ve been blessed with two.” Make that three. For Rock Pring was a major force in the “green” design and construction of Ricketson Law Building, home to Denver Law since 2003 and the first law building in the nation to earn a Gold LEED award. “Students initially surfaced the idea of making our new site a green law building,” he recounts. With Rock’s support and the visionary work of environmentally-conscious architects and university administrators, DU adopted the idea, and the campus-wide movement to build and re-build green at the University of Denver began.

“This building made us nationally prominent,” says Rock. “Today it is inconceivable that a law school with an environmental and natural resources program would do anything but ‘build green’ to ‘practice what it teaches.’” Just as inconceivable is that Denver Law’s Environmental and Natural Resources Law Program would exist in its present, robust form – eleven full-time professors and a roster of adjuncts numbering more than thirty teaching over forty courses each academic year – without the contributions made during three-plus decades by Professor Rock Pring. -rw


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