7.13.2012

Law Students Serve as Clerks for Nonprofit with Global Reach

When recent Regent University School of Law graduate Caleb Dalton looks for a job this summer, he'll have quite the writing sample to share with prospective employers. After two years of working as a student clerk for the American Center for Law and Justice (ACLJ), Dalton has amassed a number of professional credits to his name, including co-authorship of a brief submitted before the U.S. Supreme Court.

Dalton is one of a number of Regent Law students who have gained firsthand legal experience through the ACLJ this year. The nonprofit organization, which has offices in Virginia Beach, Va., and Washington, D.C., engages in litigation, provides legal services, renders advice to individuals and governmental agencies, and counsels clients on global freedom and liberty issues.

"I've had an extremely diverse experience here," Dalton explained. "I've been able to apply my legal education in a lot of different ways from brief writing to research to client interaction."

As clerks, Regent Law students are often put to work preparing documents for important cases.

Third-year law student Zack Hutchison began clerking with the ACLJ in January. One of the standout cases he's been assigned to was a case involving a Pakistani couple who fled their home country because of religious persecution. "I consider it an additional chance to learn something new," Hutchison said. Not only was Hutchison learning something new; working alongside an ACLJ attorney, his efforts were an important part of obtaining refugee status in Malaysia for the couple. "It was nice to see months and months of hard work pay off," he added.

"Each law clerk at the ACLJ works closely with ACLJ attorneys on a daily basis," explained Dr. Jay Sekulow, chief counsel of the ACLJ. "As such, clerks get timely, detailed feedback on their work projects which, in turn, results in raising the professional quality of their work very quickly. One of our goals is to assist the law school in producing attorneys of excellence who are prepared on Day One to meet the challenges of the legal profession. The clerks' training at the ACLJ hones their legal skills and provides valuable experience that makes them a cut above their contemporaries."

When she thinks about her year with the ACLJ, third-year law student Christie McGinley is most proud of her work on a 50-state survey of human trafficking laws in the United States. The chance to work with the ACLJ is one of the reasons she applied to Regent Law in the first place.

"I knew the work of the ACLJ, that it wasn't just a defense of religious liberties organization, but a really quality one," said McGinley, whose brother had clerked at the ACLJ when he was in school. "It's really cool to learn something [in the classroom] and then apply it here."

"They are actually carrying a lot more responsibility than most law students would," explained Robert "Skip" Ash, senior litigation counsel for national security law and a former Regent Law professor. "Working in the areas that we work in is not the easiest ... if you can do the hard stuff, you can do the easier stuff."

"The ACLJ derives a significant benefit by working side by side with the Regent University School of Law—we are able to hire diligent, highly motivated law students to assist us in defending religious and constitutional freedoms," Sekulow said. "We are able to capitalize on the students' talents and motivation. As such, we are able to provide topnotch legal assistance while assisting future attorneys in honing their legal skills."

Ultimately, for third-year law student Beau Hartman, the clerkship was about honing the practical skills needed to be a successful attorney. "I wanted to be part of a group that expected a high level out of their law clerks," he said. "It was being part of a group that I knew was going to help hone my skills so that, regardless of where I went .... I was going to be an asset beyond the doors of the ACLJ."

By Rachel Judy