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Liaison Notebook: Why Media Law Is Important for Every Law Student


By Alicia Wagner Calzada.

There were a mere 14 students in my copyright class last year. About twice that many were in my First Amendment class. And yet, blogging and social networking sites are pervasive in the legal community, the law school community, and, certainly, in society as a whole. Without even knowing it, all of us are licensing images, exercising free speech rights, and sometimes, breaking laws. Legal issues relating to publishing and the media are becoming more and more important to everyday Americans. With the very definition of “media” changing, the issues are in constant flux and impact everything from what you watch on television to what you know about the wars we fight.

In modern society, understanding the nuts and bolts of media law is useful for anyone who serves businesses. But following contemporary issues, which are years away from seeing a courthouse, is also important. The ABA Forum on Communications Law is a network of lawyers who are involved in this dynamic area of the law. To that end, the forum’s annual conference is a significant opportunity to learn about emerging issues in this area.

If you have been to the conference in the past few years, you might have found yourself in a debate about content policies with a lawyer from Wikipedia; playing tennis with a lawyer who represents your favorite newspaper or website; or listening intently to the late Daniel Schorr, renowned NPR correspondent, describe the moment when he found out that he was on President Nixon’s “Enemies List,” (while sitting on a panel next to Nixon White House counsel John Dean). The conference organizers typically invite speakers who are linked to historical events in media law, such as Schorr and Dean, as well as speakers whose work is on the cutting edge of modern media, such as lawyers from Google, HBO, and the Associated Press. In 2010, one of the most memorable panels included significant figures from the infamous O.J. Simpson trial discussing the past and future of cameras in the court.

The Media Advocacy Workshop that is offered in conjunction with the conference is a wonderful opportunity to practice oral advocacy skills. In 2010, the hypothetical issues for oral argument included a right-of-publicity lawsuit against a reality TV show and a media access hearing.

The ABA Forum on Communications Law 16th Annual Conference is being held February 3–5, 2011, at the Westin Mission Hills Resort, Rancho Mirage, California. Two to three scholarships are awarded every year. The scholarship includes registration, airfare, and hotel. The deadline for the 2011 conference scholarship is November 15, 2010.

At the annual conference, law students and recent grads should pay special attention to:

  • The Media Advocacy Workshop. Held in conjunction with the annual conference. The cost in previous years was $100 for students.
  • Networking. Opportunities at the annual conference include tennis and golf tournaments as well as cocktail receptions and meals designed for networking.
  • Other opportunities offered by the Forum on Communications Law include:
  • Media Law Diversity Moot Court Competition. Student should be on the lookout for early deadlines to join the competition and structural changes for the 2010–11 competition.
  • Mentorship program. This program is offered on an annual basis from June to June. Interested students should contact Martha Heller at, for more information.
  • Southwestern Journal of International Media and Entertainment Law. This is a peer-reviewed law journal sponsored by the Forum.
  • Webinars and sponsored programs throughout the year. There are several programs throughout the year that are typically discounted for students.


Vol. 39 No. 2

Alicia Wagner Calzada, a student at St. Mary’s University School of Law, was the 2009–10 Law Student Liaison to the ABA Forum on Communications Law.

Student Lawyer Student Lawyer magazine provides guidance on educational, career, and related issues for ABA Law Student Division members and other subscribers. It is published four times a year by the Law Student Division of the American Bar Association. Student Lawyer is available online to members of the ABA Law Student Division and to print subscribers.