Spring Break Travel, and Learning, All Over the Globe

It’s Spring Break at the Law School, which means dozens of our students are all over the country and the world, serving those in need, practicing law, and learning.

Thirty-seven students are on Spring Break of Service trips to Biloxi, Miss., Knoxville, Tenn., and New Orleans. They are working alongside legal aid lawyers on behalf of low-income clients. Another 30 students are in China, Kenya, and the Netherlands as part of the Law School’s International Immersion program. In each country, students are learning about the legal system and its institutions. And three students enrolled in the International Human Rights Clinic are in India with Professor Sital Kalantry and Clinic Fellow Brian Citro, working on a project to improve housing conditions for those living in Delhi’s slums.

“I’m never surprised at the kinds of adventures our students undertake, in terms of travel or intellectual challenge or service,” Dean of Students Amy Gardner said. “They make the most out of their time off, and they become better legal thinkers.”

Spring Break of Service (SBOS) started six years ago, when students first visited the Mississippi Center for Justice, a public interest law firm in Biloxi. This year, nine students are working at the center, each assigned to an attorney and a project. In the past, those projects have included BP oil spill litigation and educational issues. The rest of the SBOS students are spending the week in public defender offices in Knoxville and New Orleans. They’re assisting attorneys, visiting courts, and helping these cash-strapped organizations make progress on their overwhelming caseloads.

SBOS leader Sarah Kang, ’15, who is in New Orleans, pointed out that for many 1Ls, this Spring Break trip is their first legal experience outside of a classroom. And they get to put their legal skills to work in some of the most disadvantaged areas of the United States.

The International Immersion trips, as the name suggests, have a different objective. That program immerses students in a foreign legal system to teach them more about international and comparative law. Each trip has its own focus area. In China, the theme is “Law and Economic Development,” and eight students are visiting law schools, law firms, nongovernmental organizations, businesses, and courts to talk about corporate governance and China’s growing economy. They will also visit the Confucius Institute Headquarters, a rare opportunity to look inside the institution tasked with promoting Chinese culture and language around the world.

In Kenya, under an itinerary focused on “Law, Government, and Democratic Transition,” 12 students are visiting law schools, meeting members of the Kenyan parliament, and talking to lawyers who work on human rights and environmental law. Most importantly, the students will meet justices of the Supreme Court and visit the Judiciary Training Institute to learn about judicial reform in Kenya.

Finally, 10 students in the Netherlands are traveling to The Hague, Rotterdam, Amsterdam, and Utrecht. They will visit international courts and local law schools and participate in events related to the Nuclear Security Summit. That trip, of course, is focused on “International Law and International Organizations.”

In India, Kalantry, Citro, and three of their students (Marco Segatti, a JSD, Brian Ahn, ’14, and Alex Kiles, ’14) are continuing work they started Autumn Quarter, developing litigation and policy strategies to improve the living conditions of slum dwellers in Delhi. They’re working with a nonprofit law firm and interviewing High Court of Delhi justices, government officials, workers at housing nonprofits, and people who live in the slums.

International Programs Director Aican Nguyen, who planned the International Immersion trips, said students traveling and learning over break is an invaluable experience, whether they’re staying as close as Mississippi or going as far as China.

“It broadens their horizons and offers them opportunities to see legal issues in different lights and from different perspectives,” she said. “That’s indispensable to succeed in the legal profession.”

Classes resume March 27.

Editor's note: The photograph on the front page is of our students on a 2012 International Immersion trip to China. We will post photographs of this year's trips when students return.