rebellious lawyering

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so I’ve been meaning to write about the reblaw conference I went to a couple of weeks ago (don’t mind the horrible-looking website), because it gave me fresh inspiration to study law again, and reminded me why I quit my job to come to law school.

about a dozen of us headed down for the conference, which was held over two days at yale in new haven, connecticut. our first notable experience was being held up at the US border by the lovely department of homeland security. as the officer photographed and fingerprinted the spaniard of our group, he urged us to “be careful in new haven, it’s dangerous!”, a warning we would continue to hear when we arrived at the small city. and yes, it’s disconcerting to walk in the pristine new-england campus of yale, when actually 24.4% of people in new haven live below the poverty line. after 6 pm every day a shuttle service brings students straight to the door of their homes, a tribute to the crime arising from the disparity between über-elite university and Rest-of-City.

“Think globally and act locally!” was an oft-cited slogan at the first panel I went to on human rights (ironically human rights in Nigeria was discussed more than anywhere else). the panel was on the critique of international human rights as a failure to actually empower the marginalized in developing countries, a feeling I’ve espoused but been afraid to vocalize (ok, maybe not afraid, but people don’t take me seriously anyway when I say “I don’t believe in human rights”). 😉 I continued to find nuggets of inspiration/ideas throughout the day as I participated in panels on standing in environmental litigation, the criminal justice system of new orleans pre & post-Katrina (I can tell you some pretty shocking stats), and civil rights protesting…

all in all, I really needed that weekend to feel normal again. as much as it was called ‘rebellious’, to me it was the type of law we’re supposed to be talking about anyway (I suspect the SPINlaw conference at osgoode is actually more radical, but modest Canadians would spurn the use of such overt rebel language). with a $30 registration fee and homestays with yale law students, there is absolutely no reason why we can’t send a large contingent of mcgillers every year–and maybe design our own such conference in the future as well.