Fun with faculty: Public interest auction raises almost $20,000 for student stipends

A chance to share appetizers, bourbon and cigars with Professors Sally Richardson and Ron Scalise drew the highest bid at the 2017 auction raising funds for Tulane University Law School’s Public Interest Law Foundation.

Professors Jancy Hoeffel and Pam Metzger led the live auction at Tulane’s Public Interest Law Foundation fundraiser April 7.

More than 150 students, faculty members and alumni helped raise $19,500 through the silent and live auctions at Courtyard Brewery in New Orleans April 7.

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Faculty annually donate live-auction items such as Sazeracs for six and lunch at Commander’s Palace. Professors Jancy Hoeffel and Pam Metzger performed auctioneer duties, this year sporting bright blue celestial hair in keeping with the event’s theme, “A Voyage to the Moon.”

PILF honored two on April 7: alum Cashauna Hill (L ’05), executive director of the Greater New Orleans Housing Action Center, here with Tanner Beal (L ’19) and PILF President Allison Skopec (L ’18), and student William Igbokwe (L ’17).

PILF also honored alum Cashauna Hill (L ’05), executive director of the Greater New Orleans Housing Action Center, and student William Igbokwe (L ’17) for their public interest work.

The Public Interest Law Foundation, founded in 1983, is a student-run organization that is integral to Tulane Law’s mission, promoting opportunities in public interest law by helping fund summer stipends for students to work for organizations representing traditionally underrepresented individuals and interests.

Student-attorney snags win in red snapper case

With her final year of law school approaching, Michelle Felterman (L ’17) last summer agreed with her father on graduation gift: a charter-fishing excursion.

So it was serendipitous when the first case she undertook as a student-attorney in Tulane’s Environmental Law Clinic had her representing the Charter Fisherman’s Association in its effort to uphold a rule on red snapper fishing quotas in federal waters.

Tulane Environmental Law Clinic student-attorney Michelle Felterman (L ’17) secured a 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals ruling in favor of her client, the Charter Fisherman’s Association.

Felterman argued the CFA’s position before the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in November 2016, and on Jan. 17, the court ruled 3-0 in favor of her client.

“The clinics are about learning by doing and representing actual clients, and that’s what we did here,” said Professor Adam Babich, Environmental Law Clinic director. “We also serve a public interest to help represent people who would find it difficult to pay for it otherwise.”

The CFA came to the clinic in early 2014 to intervene in a lawsuit brought against the U.S. Commerce Department by a nonprofit group representing recreational anglers, such as private boat owners. The charter fishermen, who are hired to take people fishing, wanted to keep the regulation the other group opposed. While the legal arguments centered on a government agency’s interpretation and enforcement, the case boiled down to the competing interests of different groups of anglers over access to limited numbers of red snapper.

In 2015, Alison Dunbar (L ’16), then a clinic student-attorney, argued for the CFA in U.S. District Court, which later ruled in the group’s favor. But that decision was appealed, which led to Felterman’s chance at appearing in the 5th Circuit for her first-ever court argument.

Felterman came to the case with appropriate scientific background, having studied the impact of commercial fishing on alligator gar off the Louisiana coast. But she had to immerse herself not just in the case details and the law but also the art of preparing for appellate court.

On argument day, a Justice Department attorney presented the government’s case. Felterman then told the three-judge panel about the real-world impact on “small businessmen trying to make a living.”

When she finished and Chief Judge Carl Stewart welcomed her to the court, she said, “I think at that point is when I started breathing again.”

Tulane’s new experiential learning director has immigration law expertise

Professor Laila Hlass, Tulane Law’s new director of experiential learning, said she found working with children through an immigration clinic the “most meaningful part of my law school experience.”

Professor Laila Hlass, an experienced clinical instructor and immigration law specialist, is Tulane Law’s new director of experiential learning.

Because the work proved so formative, most of her career since then has involved helping immigrants with legal needs and teaching law students to assist vulnerable populations.

A talented clinical instructor — she most recently was director of the Immigrants’ Rights Clinic at Boston University School of Law — Hlass joined the Tulane Law faculty in January. Already-growing interest in immigration law then exploded because of the Trump administration’s executive orders temporarily barring citizens from certain Muslim-majority countries from entering the United States.
She’s become a sought-after authority on immigration law while undertaking her new role as Tulane Law’s director of experiential learning.

“It’s a really important time for experiential education,” said Hlass, who’s also a professor of the practice.

Law firms, nonprofit agencies, clients increasingly expect new graduates to be practice-ready, and students are eager to put their classroom learning to work. In 2016, Tulane Law drew its array of skills-training offerings under a single umbrella with pro bono and public interest partnerships to better integrate opportunities for students to prepare for their careers. Associate Dean Stacy Seicshnaydre (L ’92), a former Civil Litigation Clinic director, heads the team.

“We want to expand the program to ensure that all students have opportunities that align with their areas of interest and to ensure that there’s enough academic rigor and support,” Hlass said.

She grew up in Long Beach, Mississippi, then attended Rice University in Houston. She received her JD from Columbia Law School and an LLM from Georgetown University Law Center, where she supervised students in a legal clinic working with asylum-seekers facing court hearings.
She also spent four years at Loyola University New Orleans College of Law, where she assisted in supervising clinic students and pro bono attorneys representing immigrants in state and immigration courts, as well as teaching refugee law.

At that time, just a few years ago, Louisiana nonprofit groups had only a handful of attorneys handling immigration cases statewide, she said. The number of attorneys has multiplied, but still there aren’t enough attorneys to serve that population, she said.

“Professor Hlass brings a wonderful combination of academic credentials, immigration practice background, clinical teaching experience, national networks dedicated to experiential learning and deep ties to the New Orleans public interest community,” Seicshnaydre said. “I think we can expect that she will be a dynamic, productive and engaged director of experiential learning.”

Students get close-ups with federal appellate judges

Each year, the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals turns Tulane Law School’s Wendell H. Gauthier Appellate Moot Court Room into a federal courtroom, holding a round of arguments in cases currently before the court. This year’s sitting was March 7, and the three-judge panel consisted of Judges James L. Dennis, Jacques L. Wiener Jr. (L ’61) and Catharina Haynes.

The annual event allows students to listen to arguments and see judges appellate lawyers at work. Select students also are invited to lunch with the judges after the arguments. It’s an opportunity to learn and connect, especially for students interested in federal court clerkships.

Here, the judges joined members of the Tulane Chapter of the Federal Bar Association:
Shaun Abreu, Clerc Cooper (both L ’18), Sarah Smith-Clevenger (L ’17), Benjamin de Seingalt (L ’19), Tex Steinfeldt (L ’18), Judges Jacques L. Wiener Jr. (L ’61), James L. Dennis and Catharina Haynes, Michelle Sloss (L ’19), Jay Jensen, Claris Smith (both L ’18) and Laura Sunday (L ’19).

 

First-year law students build business savvy

On Day One, the law students plunged into value chains, business models and corporate financial statements. Over a week of team exercises and working lunches, they explored funding mechanisms, merger pitfalls, client service and risk management. On the fifth day, they pitched an airline’s corporate board on acquiring a competitor — and faced grilling over such details as meshing cultures, dealing with potential layoffs, combining fleets and marketing to a new audience.
Tulane Law School’s new Business Literacy boot camp for first-year students packed an introduction to the business world into an intensive week that wove expert presentations with case studies, group assignments and discussions with business executives.

To cap off an intensive week of Business Literacy boot camp, first-year Tulane Law students Charlie Draughter, with teammates Katie Dye (top left), Joslyn Love and Benjamin Drew (front), pitch the sale of an airline to a mock corporate board that included former JetBlue CFO Mark Powers (below).

A collaboration between the law school and Tulane’s A.B. Freeman School of Business, the new course launched in January with an airline purchase as its first real-world scenario. To provide real-world insights, recently retired JetBlue Chief Financial Officer Mark Powers, who is teaching financial management at the business school, lectured on the industry and served as a “board member” for the final presentations. Students also heard from Trey Fayard, chief executive officer of GLO Airlines, the regional start-up operating out of New Orleans’ Louis Armstrong Airport, and Gay Le Breton, managing director of Chaffe & Associates’ mergers and acquisitions group.
“I loved being able to dive into an industry that I knew little about,” said Katie Dye (L ’19), who has an anthropology degree and was among the 42 1Ls who took the course. “Being able to pitch the acquisition of Virgin America by JetBlue to the former CFO of JetBlue, who actually worked on the deal in real life, was phenomenal.”
Powers said students were thrown in “on the deep end” but picked up the material quickly and showed skill, talent and confidence in making presentations not unlike what he was doing before his own board not long ago.
“I was impressed with how they were able to come together as teams and put together a compelling pitch and pick the right issues,” he said.
Vice Dean Onnig Dombalagian, who helped design the program, said a key goal was helping students “think about why their clients make the decisions they do.”

Vice Dean Onnig Dombalagian helped develop and teach Tulane Law’s new Business Literacy boot camp, a collaboration with the A.B. Freeman School of Business.

Law school classes typically focus on how lawyers can advance their clients’ interests. And other skills-building offerings, such as Tulane’s Intersession boot camp for second- and third-year students, cover the mechanics of drafting business documents and closing deals. Trial advocacy teaches litigation tools. But a course that puts law students in the role of business consultant helps them see pressures and opportunities from the client’s perspective, Dombalagian said.

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The course accepts only first-year students with no business background and aims to help them sort out potential career interests. 
“I learned that there is far more to the legal practice in a business setting than just drafting contracts,” Dye said.
Business Literacy, which runs the same week in early January as Tulane Law’s upper-level boot camp, has further expanded the growing business law curriculum. Other offerings featuring premier corporate attorneys as instructors include a business planning course taught by John Herbert (L ’77), outside general counsel to Ceritas Energy, and a new contract drafting class with Lee Sher (L ’76), a top transactions lawyer and co-founder of Sher Garner Cahill Richter Klein & Hilbert.

Grace Hancock and Ben Russell (both L ’19) make their final presentation on an airline sale proposal.

Douglas McKeige (L ’86) and other alumni are working with the school to develop and financially support programs like this to provide a working knowledge of areas including corporate finance, securities markets, balance sheets, income statements and private equity. McKeige formerly managed both a leading securities litigation firm and a major hedge fund before founding his own investor-litigation boutique, The McKeige Law Firm.
Tulane Law Clinical Instructor Elizabeth Calderón (L ’98) said that, in helping design the Business Literacy course, she called on her experience going into commercial bankruptcy and restructuring practice directly out of law school without a business background. With this foundation, students are a step ahead as they prepare for summer jobs and careers after graduation.
“What I really want for them is to start learning a language that they can use when they’re engaging with potential employers and potential clients,” Calderón said.