Tulane Law grad steers NBA D-League’s Grand Rapids Drive

Professionals from across the National Basketball Association, in New Orleans for the All-Star Game, gave Tulane University students a behind-the-scenes view of the league Feb. 17. But the most picture-perfect perspective came from Tulane Law alum Jon Phelps, a 2012 graduate who’s already risen to general manager of the Grand Rapid Drive, the NBA Development League team of the Detroit Pistons.

Jon Phelps (L ’12), general manager of the Grand Rapid Drive in the NBA Development League, advises Tulane students on landing a job in pro ball during a day of All-Star Game-related panels Feb. 17.

Phelps enrolled at Tulane for the Sports Law program and took the classes required for a Sports Law certificate, including antitrust, intellectual property and labor law. He also served as a research assistant for Professor , director of the program, and a nationally known authority on some of the high-profile issues in the industry.
When both the NBA and the National Football League had player lockouts during Phelps’ second year, he said, “my classmates and I were able to study many of the legal issues surrounding these professional sports leagues in real time,” he said.
During his third year, he was symposium editor for the Tulane Law Review’s symposium issue on the role of antitrust law and labor law in shaping the landscape of professional and intercollegiate sports.

Professor Gabe Feldman (far right) leads a discussion with Jason Hillman, Cleveland Cavaliers senior vice president and general counsel, Ben Lauritsen, Portland Trailblazers senior vice president, and Melissa Goldenberg, Phoenix Suns general counsel.

His first job after graduation was a two-year stint at New Orleans civil litigation firm Irwin Fritchie Urquhart & Moore, where he focused primarily on scientific expert witnesses in cases involving complex medical device claims. But in 2014, the Grand Rapids Drive was hiring in its basketball operations department, and Tulane graduate Andrew Loomis (TC ’02) encouraged Phelps to apply.
As director of basketball operations for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 seasons, Phelps handled tasks from washing team uniforms, organizing team travel and driving players to and from practice in a 15-passenger van, to helping prepare for the draft and scouting opposing players for potential trades and NBA call-ups.
“Because the staffs in the D-League are smaller, everyone has to do a little bit of everything to help out, and so I got exposure to how a D-League team is organized and how it should be run,” he said.
Phelps was promoted to Drive general manager in summer of 2016 and now manages the staff, scouts, handles personnel work and generally oversees the operation, regularly updating the Pistons on the team’s progress.

Bleacher Report writer Jonathan Abrams (center) describes his route to becoming an NBA beat writer, along with Howard Beck of Bleacher Report (left) and Sports Illustrated’s Ben Golliver.

“I absolutely love my job and am incredibly thankful for the opportunity that I have,” Phelps said. “The D-League is the best place for me to learn, grow and develop, and I’m hopeful that I continue to get the opportunity to help run our team in Grand Rapids.”
The Feb. 17 panels, sponsored by Tulane University, Tulane Law, the Sports Law program and the English Department, drew students from across campus. Phelps’ advice for breaking into the league was straightforward: “Position yourself.”
Get experience in the field you want to work in. Show potential employers the kind of work you’ve done. Demonstrate ways in which you can add value to a franchise.
“Teams are going to assume you are passionate, hard-working and very intelligent, as are the hundreds of other people applying for the same sports-related job,” he said. “Taking the time to try to answer a question facing the organization, or putting together a project that demonstrates your understanding of the league as a whole can give you an edge to stand out.”

From New Delhi to New Orleans: A journey with Bob Marley

By Divesh Kaul
(Divesh Kaul, a trained lawyer from India, has taught in Bhutan and India and worked in the nonprofit sector. He completed an LLM at Tulane Law School in 2016. Unwilling to put New Orleans behind him yet, he now is pursuing an SJD with a focus on international economic law. He hopes to work in that area and/or in human rights. Here’s why he wanted to continue at Tulane Law.)

Ooh, yeah! All right! We’re jammin’, I wanna jam it with you, and I hope you like jammin’, too.

After my long flight from India, this Bob Marley song playing in a taxi was first music I heard upon my arrival in New Orleans in July 2015.

Divesh Kaul (LLM '16) now is studying for a Tulane Law SJD.

Divesh Kaul (LLM ’16) now is studying for a Tulane Law SJD.

The Haitian driver, Victorien, was taking me to Tulane University, which would be my home for the next year. During the half-hour drive, Victorien shared his ordeals in Haiti, where he had been a police officer, and how happy he was to be living in New Orleans with his family. His eyes glimmered while he drove and joyfully described his experiences in New Orleans. Marley meanwhile sang in the background:

‘Cos every day we pay the price with a little sacrifice, jammin’ till the jam is through.

I stayed in Tulane’s student housing for a week while searching for an apartment. It was there that I met Fakrul, a graduate student from Bangladesh, who was also looking for an apartment to rent. Thanks to the law school’s orientation session for LLM students, I found my two other futures housemates, Nicholas from Bolivia and Zhang Chao from China. Four of us decided to move into an apartment that was a 15-minute walk from the campus. It turned out that the day we moved in, July 30, was the same day that Bob Marley & the Wailers had visited New Orleans in 1978 during the “Kaya Tour,” where they sang in a concert at The Warehouse:

Exodus! movement of Jah people … we’re leaving Babylon … are you satisfied with the life you’re living? we know where we’re going, we know where we’re from.

An apartment shared among four Tulane students from four different nationalities was no less than a culinary delight. The sharing was not limited to numerous collective meals. The Bolivian housemate became a fan of Bollywood films. My Chinese and Bangladeshi housemates enjoyed free haircuts given by me. Our umpteen household discussions ranged from cultural stereotypes to funny anecdotes, from theology to national issues and from quotidian matters to interdisciplinary discourses. Also, Zhang Chao issued us a travel advisory for his country when we learnt that wearing a green hat in China meant one’s wife was unfaithful!

Tulane Law LLM and international students for 2015-16 gather in the courtyard.

Tulane Law LLM and international students for 2015-16 gather in the courtyard.

I reached Tulane a month before the fall semester began, but as international students we already were busy. The orientation was intensive, but daily interactions with the LLM and exchange students from 39 different nationalities and the blossoming of numerous friendships made it the most enjoyable period. For every international student in our LLM batch, studying in an American law school was a new venture. Some had left their countries for the first time. Some never wrote an exam on computer before. Others came from a non-common law background.

Each one of us had apprehensions. Even so, we realized that each one of us had some strengths, too. The LLM students sat together in smaller congenial groups in study rooms, the students lounge, Tulane University’s LBC student center or elsewhere and had the longest discussions on law topics. In the process, we became each other’s strengths while we helped each other prevail over the academic barriers. During one such group discussion, James, one of my batch-mates from Zimbabwe, told me that 35 years earlier, in April 1980, when his country won independence, India’s then-Prime Minister, Indira Gandhi, visited their country and participated in their independence celebrations. That year, 1980, was also the year Marley performed his last “Uprising Tour,” and he sang on the eve of Zimbabwean independence:

Every man gotta right to decide his own destiny … so arms in arms, with arms we will fight this little struggle ’cause that’s the only way we can overcome our little trouble.

Kaul traveled to New York City among other locations during his first year in New Orleans.

Kaul traveled to New York City among other locations during his first year in New Orleans.

The welcome lunch offered by Dean David Meyer and his wife, Professor Amy Gajda, at their residence was a great celebration of our new beginnings. I also fondly cherish Professor Herb Larson and his wife, Julianne, greeting and treating us a couple of times at their Edwardian house equipped with a magnificent piano and a large antique mahogany dining table.
The fall and spring sessions progressed at full steam, with LLM and JD students shoulder to shoulder marching across the corridors, rushing from one class to another, sneaking in to symposia and seminars, reading endless black legal letters in the library and making outlines, conversing in the student lounge filled with the aroma of dark roast coffee and working for law reviews.

Tulane Law LLMs got in the New Orleans spirit for Halloween.

Tulane Law LLMs got in the New Orleans spirit for Halloween.

Despite the strenuous schedule, never-ending readings and memorandums, students managed to balance law school with family, work and — most certainly — leisure. Some went together to watch the latest flick, others preferred a weekend drink at a bar. Students visited the legendary French Quarter, saw the Halloween parade and took part in celebrating New Year’s Eve. Law school and students’ associations also performed their sets of rituals, including organizing formal balls and pizza parties. The Mardi Gras parades in February were a centerpiece of the New Orleans experience. The celebrations coinciding with the 71st birth anniversary of Bob Marley were icing on the cake. One night, after experiencing the extensive parades in the French Quarter, we righteously grabbed some coke and rums at Café Negril on Frenchmen Street, where the live band sang:

You’re gonna lively up yourself and don’t be no drag, you lively up yourself and don’t say no … you rock so like you never did before … be alive today!

While we progressed in our graduate study in law, Tulane and New Orleans suitably embraced us with open arms and let us live like never before. I learnt a lot about America’s evolution through various civil and political struggles and how law contributed in them. The 14th Amendment and cases such as Brown v. Board of Education and Obergefell v. Hodges have been some of the legal landmarks instrumental in America’s shaping. During a day tour to the Whitney Plantation Museum of Slavery, our tour guide quoted Marcus Garvey: “the man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind.” Prejudice and suppression have prevailed in all nations and among all races, and slavery exists even today in many forms, the guide observed.

Bob Marley, too, was influenced by Garvey’s speech in Nova Scotia in October 1937 when he wrote the “Redemption Song”:

Emancipate yourself from mental slavery, none but ourselves can free our minds … won’t you help to sing, these songs of freedom.

Humanity, nonetheless, has come a long way ahead from the “separate but equal” doctrine, segregation laws and colonialism. I have also learned that music has been one of the tools of liberation from suffering and poverty. In Kingston, Bob Marley found it through reggae. In New Orleans, Louis Armstrong found it through jazz.

Kaul and friends celebrated the conclusion of their LLM year with a cruise.

Kaul and friends celebrated the conclusion of their LLM year with a cruise.

No doubt my learnings at Tulane were more than academic. I discerned a portrayal of various national characters from my LLM batch-mates such as Italian enthusiasm, German compassion, Greek resilience, Irish wittiness, Chinese humility, Bolivian wisdom, Turkish generosity, Panamanian boldness, Nigerian calmness, Zimbabwean contentedness, Venezuelan perseverance, Albanian forthrightness and American openness. I must admit that I learnt the correct way to practice meditation through the ancient Indian tradition of Yoga only after attending Professor Keith Werhan’s “mindful lawyering” sessions. I realized that sometimes one needed an outsider’s perspective to understand the pros and cons of one’s national system and appreciate it better.

Just before my spring exams commenced, I also came to know that Bob Marley’s grandson, Nico Marley, who is a business student and football player at Tulane.

My Zimbabwean batch-mate, James, once mentioned a Zulu saying, “Umuntu Ngumuntu Ngabantu,” meaning a person is a person because of people. That swiftly reminded me of an ancient Indian proverb with similar connotations, “Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam,” meaning the world is one family. Bob Marley justly summarized these ancient words of wisdom:

Me only have one ambition, y’know. I only have one thing I really like to see happen. I like to see mankind live together – black, white, Chinese, everyone – that’s all.

A gulf sunset near Cuba.

Tulane truly has been a global village where our academic upbringing ensued with members of global community instilling in us precious values from all over the world. After spring exams, my LLM journey culminated with a seven-day cruise with my six batch-mates from New Orleans to the Caribbean, covering Mexico, the Cayman Islands and Jamaica. 

International law student explores U.S., finds lifelong friendships

Tulane Law | Dennis Zhao (LLM '15)

Chinese student Dennis Zhao (LLM ’15) moved to New Orleans to complete his LLM in Admiralty degree at Tulane Law. Photo courtesy of Dennis Zhao.

Dennis Zhao (LLM ’15) had never taken an American-style road trip before starting Tulane Law’s LLM program.

In his native China, Zhao relied on public transport for daily travel, and venturing far outside his hometown was difficult without a vehicle, he said. He’d never thought to simply hop into a car and drive cross-country.

That changed on his birthday in October 2014, when six Tulane Law classmates showed up at his New Orleans apartment and told him they were taking a trip. Justus Langelittig (Germany), Enrique Rubio (Spain), Joaquin De Obarrio (Panama), Nathan Sarkas (South Africa), David Morales (Mexico) and Zhao then set out to explore the Deep South over fall break. With a rented van and several maps, they took highways through historic plantation towns, rolling hills and oak-covered landscapes through Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama, Florida, Georgia and Tennessee.

Zhao discovered southern communities and culture that was “totally different from what I learned in books and movies when I was in China – another beautiful side of the United States,” he said.

And it led to lasting camaraderie with his Tulane Law classmates.

“I realized that we were six guys from six different countries,” Zhao said. “We shared stories and opinions on the road. We made jokes. This was the first time that I felt no concept of ‘foreigners’ in my mind. We established life-long, international friendships.”

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Throughout his time as a Tulane Law grad student, Zhao kept exploring (and photographing) sights in New Orleans and beyond: Lush landscapes and vibrant student life on Tulane’s campus. Sailing Lake Pontchartrain with Adjunct Professor Mike Butterworth (L ‘89). The Mississippi River’s bustling shipping industry. The unmatched energy of New Orleans Saints and Pelicans games – and Mardi Gras. Picturesque and historic architecture throughout the South. Thriving cities like New York and Washington, D.C.

Zhao even ventured to Alaska with classmate Joaquin de Obarrio (LLM ’15) during spring break.

After graduating, Zhao took one more road trip solo, visiting southern states he and his classmates weren’t able to reach: North Carolina, South Carolina and eastern Georgia.

And, although he and his friends are now spread across the world, Zhao said they still talk daily.

He credits Tulane for encouraging students to explore their surroundings, be open to other cultures and contribute to their communities.

“We opened our minds and hearts to share ideas and opinions. And we finally became a unique international family,” Zhao said. “I think this is the most important thing we got as LLMs.”

“Every international student has the same feeling: Tulane and NOLA are our home.”

Zhao is set to take the New York bar exam in February 2016 before returning to China.

Faculty summer adventures

Spent your summer tackling new work projects, stealing a few long-weekends and catching up on your reading list?

Your Tulane Law professors’ summers haven’t been so different from yours. Find out what they’re working on, where they’ve traveled and what must-read books they recommend before school starts back.

Professor Sally Richardson

Prof. Sally Richardson used her Gamm Scholar support to host the first annual Tulane Property Roundtable this spring, where she presented her popular paper "Reframing Ameliorative Waste."

With support as the Gamm Scholar, Prof. Sally Richardson hosted the first annual Tulane Property Roundtable this spring, where she presented her popular paper “Reframing Ameliorative Waste.”

Professor Sally Brown Richardson is one of Tulane Law’s rising-star scholars – and a student favorite in the classroom. This year, she was named the law school’s second
Gordon Gamm Faculty Scholar
, an award that boosts early-career law professors. And the Class of 2015 voted her winner of the Felix Frankfurter Distinguished Teaching Award, the law school’s highest teaching honor.

Over the summer, Richardson filled
her “break” with projects and travel, while finding creative ideas to enjoy New Orleans.

Academic projects:
Richardson’s summer scholarship took her to the Association for Law, Property & Society annual meeting at University of Georgia School of Law, where she presented the first stages of her scholarship rethinking adverse possession. As the core of her research, she plans to survey recent good- and bad-faith property possession cases – which will require reading 2000 appellate decisions during the spring 2016 semester. She presented an early version of her paper at ALPS to get feedback on her methodology from property scholars nationwide.

In June, she traveled to Boston to present her research at the Junior Faculty Forum, a showcase sponsored by Harvard, Stanford and Yale law schools. This year’s conference featured 16 papers selected through national blind judging, and the presenters got feedback from senior scholars from the three sponsor schools, plus University of Pennsylvania and New York, Columbia and Boston universities.

Prof. Sally Richardson walked the Anderson Memorial Bridge, taking in scenic views of the Charles River and Harvard’s campus during the Junior Faculty Forum.

Richardson presented her paper “Reframing Ameliorative Waste,” which focuses on better legal solutions for disputes over alterations of rental property. She said she was delighted to get input from Henry Smith, a Harvard property law expert, and called the workshop “very inspiring and very intellectually rewarding.”

She’s also continuing thought-provoking research on modern couples’ privacy rights, such as whether spouses have a right to read each other’s texts and emails — a particular issue in community property states, where anything created during a marriage is co-owned.

Suggested reading:
Richardson reads extensively on property, civil and comparative law at work, but for vacation, she picks up Victorian literature.

“If it’s a book set in the 1920s or 1930s with a female protagonist, I’m going to read it,” she said.

She scouts the New York Times bestsellers list for new books and recently finished “The Rules of Civility,” which she highly recommends.

“The last 50 pages or so were a bit depressing compared to the preceding 250 pages, but that’s typically what you get with this genre,” she joked.

Next up on her book list: “The Paris Wife” and “The Chaperone.”

Prof. Sally Richardson visited Harvard Law School’s Wasserstein Hall to present “Reframing Ameliorative Waste” at the Junior Faculty Forum.

New Orleans summer coping strategies:
First, hit the pool.

“I’ve actually been swimming early almost every morning at the Reily Center, which I love – although I’m usually the youngest person there at that hour,” Richardson said.

Second, ride a bike. Richardson said she cycles through Audubon Park before swimming most mornings. For a simple, enjoyable route, she recommends riding down St. Charles (which is newly repaved and has ample bike lanes), looping around the park and then heading to Tulane’s campus.

Third, cool off with afternoon cocktails. Richardson recommends the city’s myriad free tasting events. Among her favorite places: Avenue Pub, where she recently sampled inventive ciders, including a pineapple-flavored version; St. James Cheese Company, where foodies can try wine-and-cheese pairings once a month; and Hopper’s Carte des Vins, which holds free Saturday afternoon wine tastings.

“Uptown offers so many options like these and is a wonderful part of town to explore,” she said. “I suggest students take advantage of these opportunities, get outside and go try something new.”

Professor Ann Lipton

The law school’s newest faculty member, Professor Ann Lipton has formidable business and securities law expertise.She clerked for U.S. Supreme Court Justice David Souter before he retired, practiced as a securities litigator in New York for more than 11 years and taught at Duke Law School for two years before joining Tulane.

Professor Ann Lipton (pictured with Dean David Meyer) joins the Tulane Law faculty for the fall 2015 semester.

Prof. Ann Lipton (pictured with Dean David Meyer) joins the Tulane Law faculty for the fall 2015 semester.

Transitioning to New Orleans:
After moving to New Orleans in late May, Lipton has spent the bulk of her summer emptying boxes and getting settled – a process to which many incoming Tulane Law students can relate.

“I’ve been unpacking in small doses to make it more manageable, but I still have boxes everywhere despite being here for more than a month already,” she said.

She’s also learning to navigate narrow uptown streets. Lipton said New Orleans driving has been challenging, coming from the wide roads and extensive highways of Durham, North Carolina. After working exclusively in urban areas for the bulk of her career, she learned to drive in Manhattan just two years ago, in preparation for her Duke professorship.

“It’s been an adventure, but I’m finally learning my way around New Orleans,” Lipton said. “The training wheels are off now.”

Academic projects:
When she’s not unpacking and sorting, Lipton has been planning her first class, Business Enterprises, which she’s teaching this fall.

As part of her preparations, she’s picking the casebook by carefully reviewing — in just two months — more than 10 Business Enterprises textbooks and manuals available. She sees it as due diligence to check all the options.

Tulane Law | Prof. Ann Lipton

Prof. Ann Lipton prepares for her first Business Enterprises class at Tulane Law.

She also blogs weekly for Business Law Prof Blog, exploring cutting-edge corporate law and securities regulation developments. (Catch her posts on Saturdays here.)

Lipton she said she’s enjoying getting settled in the Tulane Law community. Weekly faculty lunch seminars have allowed her to discuss her ongoing research along with colleagues’ projects. And she got her first taste of campus life seeing “The Importance of Being Earnest” at the New Orleans Shakespeare Festival at Tulane with Professor Catherine Hancock.

“The faculty here have all been very welcoming,” Lipton said. “Being at Tulane has been wonderful so far.”

New Orleans to-do list:
Lipton said she laments not yet getting to explore much of the city, but she knows where she wants to spend some time: “The zoo and aquarium are at the top of my list,” she said. “Absolutely not the insectarium, though!”

Professor Herb Larson

Tulane Law | Siena summer abroad program

Tulane Siena summer abroad students learn art and cultural property law at University of Siena Facoltà di Giurisprudenz.

As Tulane Law’s international legal programs director, Professor Herb Larson oversees all summer programs abroad. He also leads one of those programs, the Tulane-Siena Institute for International Law, Cultural Heritage & the Arts, where students analyze the law of international art preservation, dealing and protection.

Summer travel adventures:
Larson spent June overseeing and teaching in picturesque Siena, Italy, where Tulane’s summer abroad program explores legal mechanisms for protecting “cultural property” – a broad term encompassing a civilization’s art, architecture and antiquities.

He said it’s a relatively new field focused on two principles: “Cultural property is worth protecting, not only because of its beauty, but also because it’s intrinsically linked to the identity of the people who created it.”

Modern art and cultural property scholarship focuses on preserving objects from a spectrum of threats, including wars, environmental disasters, looting, pollution and degradation over time.

The Siena program, which Larson calls “the best of its kind in the world,” explores the complex, evolving field from competing viewpoints of different stakeholders, such as collectors, museum curators, art dealers, archaeologists and governments. The program is open to law students and graduate students studying art, archaeology, art history and anthropology, plus practicing attorneys.

Larson re-established Tulane’s Italian summer abroad program after a two-year hiatus following Hurricane Katrina. Recognizing international growth in the field, he refocused the program on art and cultural property law.

Tulane Law | Siena summer abroad program

Prof. Herb Larson directs Tulane’s summer abroad program in Siena – a picturesque, 16th-century town surrounded by historic walls and gates.

This summer, he taught a course on the black art market and co-directed the program with Patty Gerstenblith of DePaul University College of Law, who is President Obama’s appointed chair of the U.S. Cultural Property Advisory Committee.

“Being in Siena is like living in a museum,” Larson said. “I couldn’t pick a better place to study cultural property, because in Siena, you can see the magical effect of how people can live in the 21st Century in a way that’s compatible with their cultural heritage.”

Tulane Law | Siena summer abroad program

Students gather outside the Palazzo Publico before touring the Museo Civico and Pinacoteca Nazionale museums and Siena’s Duomo.

The program’s idyllic setting also provided memorable study breaks: Sampling gelato at Piazza del Campo’s bustling cafes; listening to classical music and Italian opera at free concerts; and taking weekend excursions across Tuscany.

Larson said he hadn’t taught the entire Siena program in year, but it didn’t take much convincing to get him back. “If you make me go to Tuscany to be surrounded by art, eat wonderful Italian food and drink wine in a beautiful setting for the month of June, I’ll do it,” he said.

Larson also spent a week vacationing in Portugal with his wife, on a trip designed by Portuguese native Maria Landry, Tulane Law’s assistant director for international and graduate programs.

Academic projects:
Back in New Orleans, Larson has carried on his cultural property scholarship, working on a position paper for The Antiquities Coalition that advocates creating a private right of action to prosecute art theft under the National Stolen Property Act.

Empowering civil litigants to sue and recover for stolen art would bolster the fight against cultural property theft by shifting some of the prosecution burden from already-overloaded law enforcement, he explained.

Siena program students explore Tuscany's best sights, food and culture on weekend trips to surrounding towns.

Siena program students explore Tuscany’s best sights, food and culture on weekend trips to surrounding towns.

Suggested reading:
Larson’s recommendation continues the stolen-art theme: “The Lady in Gold,” a nonfiction account of a woman’s fight to recover paintings stolen from her family by the Nazis during World War II, including a Gustav Klimt portrait of her aunt. The story was adapted into a movie, “The Woman in Gold,” starring Helen Mirren and Ryan Reynolds.

“It’s a great read for any law student, because the lawyer is actually the hero in the end,” Larson said.

Spring 2015 highlights

Happy summer, and congratulations to the Tulane Law Class of 2015!

It’s only been one week since Commencement, and we’re already missing our students at Weinmann Hall. But as we reflect on a spring semester packed with one-of-a-kind experiences and celebrations, spanning events such as the Summit on Environmental Law & Policy to Thank You Thursdays, we’re prouder than ever to be part of the Tulane Law community. And we can’t wait to do it all again next year.

Click the thumbnails below to view them as full images.

PS: Don’t be strangers! Share your summer experiences with us on social media using #TulaneLawSummer.