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.

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.

Fall 2015 highlights

Happy holidays from Tulane Law School!

As semester exams wind down, students, faculty and staff are heading home for winter break. And we’re looking back with gratitude on the experiences, connections and celebrations that have filled Weinmann Hall this fall. We’re thankful to have shared these opportunities with our Tulane Law community, and we can only look forward to more excitement in 2016.

Click the thumbnails below to view them as full images.

The first semester: 1Ls reflect on law school life

For veteran Tulane Law students, the October fall break is a welcome time away from classes – but for 1Ls, it’s an important opportunity to reflect on the first weeks of their legal careers.

And to help first-year students transition into law school, new Assistant Dean of Students Abigail Gaunt is spearheading academic and wellness programs that encourage smart study habits and healthy lifestyles. Workshops open to all students focus on outlining skills and exam prep, while an in-depth academic support program for 1Ls provides tutoring from upper-level students who are in the top 15 percent of their classes.

But 1Ls are honing more than study skills. They’re also learning to stay balanced while juggling coursework and school activities.

Assistant Dean of Students Abigail Gaunt (center) chats with students over New Orleans-style snowballs at an event promoting Tulane's health and wellness services.

Assistant Dean of Students Abigail Gaunt (center) chats with students over New Orleans-style snowballs at an event promoting Tulane’s health and wellness services.

“Mastering the skills to deal with stress in law school will help students manage the challenges they will face throughout their professional careers,” Gaunt said.

This semester, she’s organizing a health and stress management session during the Career Development Office’s 1L mini-course, while Professors Keith Werhan and Pam Metzger are leading a school-wide mindfulness course. Both programs dovetail with enhanced wellness initiatives across campus.

Looking back on her own law school experience, Gaunt advises first-year students to “trust the studying habits that work best for them; take time for themselves to do things outside school; and not compare themselves to their classmates.”

“Above all, try to keep perspective. Law school is incredibly important, but it’s not as important as your health and happiness,” Gaunt said.

Below, three first-year students with degrees and experiences from across the country share their distinct backgrounds, favorite New Orleans finds and experiences juggling their first semesters at Tulane Law.

Annie Hundley

Tulane Law | Annie Hundley (L '18)

Louisiana native and former New York art director Annie Hundley (L ’18) says her favorite thing about Tulane Law has been “how kind and helpful everyone is.”

Hometown: Mowata, Louisiana. I grew up on a crawfish and rice farm there, approximately 150 miles west of New Orleans.

College: LSU, Baton Rouge.

Before Tulane Law: I was the digital art director at SKDKnickerbocker, a political communications firm in New York, for four years.

Started law school because: I’d always wanted to go to law school, but wanted to take some time after undergrad to make sure I wasn’t blindly following a path I’d set out at an impressionable age. After working for a few years, I was sure this was what I wanted. Law seemed like more of a sure thing than art, which can be inconsistent and often subjective. Also, my LSAT score was expiring, so it was something of a now-or-never moment.

Best Tulane discovery: The best thing about Tulane is how kind and helpful everyone is. It sounds disingenuous to make such a blanket generalization, but it’s truly the most defining characteristic I’ve found. People are always offering advice or outlines or “anything you need” — it’s so far from the stereotypical law school experience. And if you put in the work, you can find free food somewhere in the building at least twice a week.

Best New Orleans discovery: Again, so much food, all the time. Also, people wave or say good morning or interact with you in some way when they pass you on the sidewalk.

Mid-semester thoughts on Tulane Law: I never expected to be surrounded by so many smart, interesting people whose ambition doesn’t keep them from treating others well. Plenty of people here are accomplished enough to be overly snobbish, but you’d never know it. There’s a ton of camaraderie for what’s an inevitably competitive environment, and I feel lucky to be a part of it.

Lauren Starnes

Lauren Starnes (L '18) taught middle school English in North Carolina before starting Tulane Law School.

Lauren Starnes (L ’18) taught middle school English in North Carolina before starting Tulane Law School. Photos courtesy of Lauren Starnes.

Hometown: Chattanooga, Tennessee.

College: Washington and Lee University, Lexington, Virginia.

Before Tulane Law: I took three years off between undergrad and law school. During the first two years, I taught middle school English at a private school in North Carolina. I spent the last year working as the office manager and legal assistant at Williams Anderson Ryan & Carroll, a boutique law firm in Dallas.

Started law school because: I decided to go to law school after completing a winter internship with Federal Defender Services of Eastern Tennessee. I found this experience incredibly moving. It fueled my desire to attend law school, so I could guide people through our complex and often confusing legal system.

Best Tulane discovery: I was pleasantly surprised to discover that Tulane gets the most interesting people to speak at the school! Just in the first month, I have heard Bill Nye and Tig Nataro speak.

Lauren Starnes (center) volunteered with her eighth grade students at The Book Harvest, an organization that distributes donated books to schools and families in need.

Lauren Starnes (center) volunteered with her eighth grade students at The Book Harvest, an organization that distributes donated books to schools and families in need.

Best New Orleans discovery:
Audubon Park! I run there every day. The giant live oak trees make exercising a little bit more bearable.

Mid-semester thoughts on Tulane Law: Everyone who has attended law school elsewhere has horror stories of evil classmates and professors. However, at Tulane Law School, my classmates and professors are incredibly nice and supportive. It is such a wonderful community!

Fall break getaway: In between studying and outlining, I soaked up some sun in Seaside, Florida.

Shane Copelin

Shane Copelin (L '18) grew up in New Orleans and, after earning his undergrad degree at Carnegie Mellon University, returned to his hometown for law school.

Shane Copelin (L ’18) grew up in New Orleans and, after earning his undergrad degree at Carnegie Mellon University, returned to his hometown for law school.

Hometown: New Orleans.

College: Carnegie Mellon University, Pittsburgh.

Started law school because: I thought law would be a good career for me that suited my personality, and I thought it would help add to my public policy undergraduate degree. I’ve always been fairly solemn, quiet and a logical thinker. I rarely believe things at face value. Becoming a lawyer was something I originally considered as a kid but did not come back to until I was a sophomore in college. [I later realized] law fit my personality, because lawyers are often calm, cool and collected thinkers, able to argue positions from multiple sides without emotional bias and after considering all possibilities. I think these personality traits align with my own, and I think law will harness my need to analyze things.

Most interesting law discovery: My most interesting law discovery is learning about “heat of passion” defenses in criminal law. Before law school, I used to wonder whether there were exceptions to murder in situations such as self-defense or when a women is escaping an abusive relationship. I found it interesting that my notions were already ingrained into the law almost 100 years ago.

Mid-semester thoughts on Tulane Law: I’m definitely enjoying law school thus far. It’s not quite as time consuming as people lead me to believe coming into it. I’m happy to be up early every day and learning something new that’s directly applicable to real-life scenarios, since everything we learn is from actual cases. The only thing I would say that caught me off guard about law school thus far was the amount of time spent on legal research and writing.

Spent fall break: I outlined for class and used my free time to work out, catch up on sleep and see my friends who don’t go to law school. I also watched the Saints beat the Falcons at the Superdome, which was great to see!