Just before dawn on January 20, a bus load of students, alumni, and faculty members headed for Annapolis to exercise their advocacy skills in meeting with members of Maryland’s General Assembly to talk about UM Carey Law and its programs, learn about the legislative process, and explore this session’s key issues. About thirty students and alumni attended, along with faculty members Brenda Bratton Blom, Professor of Law; Kathleen Dachille, Director of the Network for Public Health Law, Eastern Region, and Director of the Tobacco Resource Center; and Michael Pinard, Professor of Law and Director of UM Carey Law’s Clinical Law Program.
Five students shadowed legislators for the morning, while the rest divided into groups of three or four. Delegate Sandy Rosenberg (District 41), vice chair of the Appropriations Committee and a longtime adjunct professor at the law school, spoke to the attendees about strategies for advocacy and how to frame an issue. And then they were off!
“The event was informative and exciting,” said Ian Clark ’14D, whose group met with Senator Lisa A. Gladden ’91 (District 41), Delegate Melvin L. Stukes (District 44), Delegate Shirley Nathan-Pulliam, Nursing ’80 (District 10), and Delegate Keiffer Jackson Mitchell, Jr. (District 44). Elsa Clausen ’14E noted “how amenable [the legislators] all seemed to being contacted, and to working on issues in conjunction with UM Carey Law.” The students were pleased “to see how well-known and well-respected in Annapolis the law school is, as well as Dean Haddon,” Clausen remarked.
The students who shadowed legislators also enjoyed the learning experience. “I had a wonderful time,” said Erik Hontz ’12, who spent the morning observing Delegate Susan C. Lee’s (District 16) leadership in biotechnology, business development, and educational funding.
The attendees watched floor sessions in the Senate and the House of Delegates. President of Senate Thomas V. Mike Miller, Jr. ’67 welcomed the UM Carey Law group. After introducing Dr. Jay Perman, president of the University of Maryland Baltimore, and Dean Phoebe A. Haddon, Senator Gladden spoke about her pride in UM Carey Law and its clinical program, in which she participated as a student. Senator Jamie Raskin (Majority Whip, District 20) also extended a special welcome to Dean Haddon and praised her Great Teacher Award from the Society of American Law Teachers.
Several legislators enlivened the lunch hour by sharing their perspectives on law and policy. After discussing his experiences in Teach for America, Senator Bill Ferguson ’10 (District 40) talked about the legislative process as a problem-solving tool. Delegate Mitchell said that his family’s civil rights activism inspired his career as an attorney and a public servant, while Dan Friedman ’94, counsel to the General Assembly, noted that collegiality and an ability to negotiate with people who hold opposing views are essential skills for legislators and advocates. Finally, Delegate Keith E. Haynes (District 44) discussed the challenges and rewards of advocacy. Delegate Haynes’s responsibilities include a seat on the Appropriations Committee, which, he said, “does great things, such as funding law schools.” Everyone from UM Carey Law had a cheer for that!
The annual trip to Annapolis “allows students to learn about legislative advocacy and the major issues in front of the General Assembly,” said Teresa K. LaMaster, Associate Dean for Planning and External Affairs and Lecturer in Law. Seeing “another version of advocacy besides the courtroom” can open students’ eyes to additional “professional possibilities for lawyers,” said Dawna Cobb, Assistant Dean for Student Affairs and Lecturer in Law. Students also “gained a level of confidence in themselves,” commented Dachille. But anyone concerned about making a good impression needn’t have worried: “As usual,” she added, “our students were impressive with their poise and professionalism.”
The day lets UM Carey Law show its appreciation for the legislature’s support. “We have a terrific group of graduates and friends in Annapolis, who are tremendously supportive of the law school and our students,” said LaMaster. “So it is also always a day to say thanks.”
***Photos by Jeff Raymond, UM News Bureau