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The state of the Law Student Division

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Fabiani Duarte

It’s the time of year in the Law Student Division when our 15 circuits hold their meetings. And leading up to them, Fabiani Duarte, division chair, updated the circuits on law student member benefits and advocacy issues – the Uniform Bar Exam, Public Service Loan Forgiveness, and paid credit for internships and externships – that the ABA LSD Board of Governors has been pursuing over the past year.

Here is the video and a transcript of his speech:

Hello, my name is Fabiani Duarte, and I’m the chair of the ABA Law Student Division and I’m a third-year law student at Mercer University School of Law in Georgia and I originally hail from Huntsville, Alabama.

I’m pleased to report that the state of the ABA Law Student Division is very strong. We’ve had a great and very active year, and I’m proud to be at the helm of a very capable and committed group of leaders who comprise the Law Student Division Board of Governors.

Today, I want to talk to you about the benefits of being a member of the ABA Law Student Division and the meaningful advocacy work that we’re doing.

Member benefits

Perhaps the most exciting and tangible value that being a member of the ABA Law Student Division brings are our member benefits. As you probably know, it’s now free to be a member of the ABA Law Student Division as a law student; and that means automatic membership in the Young Lawyers Division and up to five SDFs – Sections, Divisions and Forums – you have over 60 to choose from in the ABA, ranging from the Law Practice Division to the Section of International Law.

Today, we have over 63,000 members. That’s double of where we were last year at this same time. In addition to membership being free, there’s a lot of benefits that are attracting members to us.

First is Quimbee. It’s an online study tool that maybe you’re familiar with. It allows for briefs and outlines of books that are used in law schools. And it’s a free membership for six months if you’re a member of the ABA Law Student Division – that’s $144 – $24 a month – for free just because you joined the ABA LSD. Four thousand people joined Quimbee in the first semester it was offered, and many have said that the reason they joined the ABA Law Student Division is because Quimbee is a value proposition.

Keeping law students informed

We also have a new website that you’ve probably seen, ABAforLawStudents.com, that launched this past fall. Here, we have a centralized events calendar for law students. You can take a legal career quiz. We list career resources on a job board; links to scholarships and internships and even competitions that you can enter. And we explain how you can even become a board member or liaison for the ABA Law Student Division.

On our new website, we also house the Before the Bar blog where students like you and me, or practitioners and leaders in the law, write tips and helpful articles that guide us through law school and launch us to our careers.

We also obviously have our Student Lawyer magazine that maybe you get quarterly. This is a way for us to not only share articles in a different format but for you to quarterly see different themes that we want to focus on – like how to manage money; or an international focus if you want to study abroad; or how do you use new areas of technology that are entering the legal practice field.

We also have a new podcast that we launched that I’m a particular fan of as one of its co-hosts with my fellow governor Madison Burke. We host it on iTunes and also on any app for Android podcasts. It’s produced by the Legal Talk Network and it’s called the ABA Law Student Podcast – real original. You can listen to interviews that we’ve done with ABA President Paulette Brown or the founder of BarBri, Richard Conviser, or even U.S. Senator and recent presidential candidate Lindsey Graham from South Carolina.

We are starting to offer new and free webinars as well to our members. And this is a way for us to again connect on a more practical and relevant level to student members who might not be able to travel to meetings or conferences across the country. One that’s been very successful that we’ve kind of launched as our flagship is the “Demystifying the Judicial Clerkship Application Process,” which is a series of webinars that allow students to figure out just the best way to do that. And we hope to offer many more in the months to come.

If you have ideas or you have a topic or theme that you’d like us to focus on, we will bring the experts in and we’ll be happy to provide those.

New premium membership

In addition to all those free member benefits, we are also going to be launching a new premium membership this summer for $25 which will open up even more and new exclusive member offers. For example, we’re gonna have a major discount from a prominent bar review company. We have to keep it kind of “top secret” because we are excited to unveil it formally this summer. But that is just one example of one of the ways that you can enhance your membership, which is already free in the ABA Law Student Division.

Advocacy

As you are probably aware, we do a lot of advocacy. You might have seen some of the work that we’ve been doing on our Twitter feed, we’re at @ABALSD, or on our Facebook page, ABA For Law Students. Or of course, our website.

Three of the areas that we’re focusing on are the “UBE,” the Uniform Bar Exam; the Public Service Loan Forgiveness program; and also 305-2, the pay-credit issue that we’ve been fighting for for many years now.

The Uniform Bar Exam

The UBE exam is essentially a bar exam that many of you are familiar with. It allows for a portable score to be carried from jurisdiction to jurisdiction that has the UBE. There are 22 states or jurisdictions so far that have adopted it. And this helps students not only have a mobile score in this current economy but also allows them to be able to react within those first five years after they passed the bar if they need to care for a loved one in another state, if they find a job in another state, if they get married, if they serve in the military and want to return and practice somewhere else.

This is a matter that I’m thrilled to report that we’ve been very successful in because this past February at the ABA House of Delegates in San Diego, the UBE resolution that was sponsored by the Law Student Division was passed – and now the UBE is an ABA policy that is endorsed by the ABA. And now it’s up to the rest of the states.

We are starting a targeted campaign with the ABA Government Affairs Office, and we need your help as well to help spread the word about how the UBE matters to law students. If you want to help us, you can sign up with your circuit governor and we’ll come back to you once the campaign is underway so that you can share your story for why the UBE will make a difference in your legal career.

Public Service Loan Forgiveness

The PSLF program – Public Service Loan Forgiveness – is one that many of you are familiar with if you seek to enter public service – like me, who wants to become a JAG officer, or somebody who wants to work in a DA’s office, or as a public defender, or in legal aid – you know that this program offers you 10 years to work in that realm, and then the remainder of your loan balance will be forgiven after that.

But unfortunately, the U.S. House of Representatives and the president’s budget over the last couple of years either completely eliminate or significantly reduce the funding for the PSLF program. And it now rests on the Senate to make a decision.

We were able to launch a very successful social media campaign where we asked students like you and our board members to create videos – short, 30 seconds or less videos – with the hashtag #loan4giveness, save #loan4giveness, and we attached the Twitter handles or Facebook handles of the different senators from every state. And successfully, we were able to have five million people be reached by that social media campaign. And there were 2.3 million impressions on Twitter alone.

The vote hasn’t happened yet, so that effort continues. But we’re happy to say that ABA Grassroots caught attention of our campaign. We partnered with them of course. But they were very impressed with all the videos, and they selected three video creators, two law students and a young lawyer, that they’re going to be flying up to Washington and will be honoring at a Capitol Hill reception for their work on advocacy in this issue.

Pay and credit for externships

And finally 305-2, the pay-credit debate, is one that as I mentioned for many years, the Law Student Division has advocated for so that students who receive academic credit in an externship can also receive compensation, especially in light of the growing student debt that law students face. Also, because we believe that law students who work for an externship should have experience that mimics reality as much as possible. And as you probably are aware, externships and internship experiences are very similar. So eliminating that barrier is one that matters to us, and the ABA Council for the Section of Legal Education will vote decidedly on whether or not to eliminate interpretation 305-2, which prohibits pay-credit. And if that passes, or either way that goes, a final decision will be made this summer at the ABA Annual Meeting.

Be a part of the division

Which brings me to looking ahead. I hope to see you guys at the ABA Annual Meeting, August 4th through 7th in San Francisco. If you can join us, that’ll be great. There’s many ways to get involved before then.

Obviously, you can apply to be a liaison to the over 60 sections, division and forums. The deadline is March 15th for that.

You could run for one of the four open board positions that are going to be available by the June 1 deadline.

And you can also just check out our website for any more updates that we have to offer, from the grant fund program – (you can) request that we provide up to $1,000 for programs that you put on at your school – to many other member benefits that we hope to continue to roll out as the months go by.

These are just a few updates, and I’m excited that we are continuing to do great things with the Law Student Division. We are committed to empowering law students to achieve excellence in the legal profession, and we want to continue to advocate on a national scale for things that matter to you.

So it’s my honor to lead our team, and I pledge to continue to serve you faithfully with our fellow board members to work diligently and humbly represent the law student members of the American Bar Association and the 115,000 law students whose lives we impact through the work we do.

So thank you, and all the best in your circuit meeting. I hope to see you soon. Goodbye.

Fabiani Duarte Fabiani Duarte is the 2015-2016 Chair of the American Bar Association’s Law Student Division and is a recent graduate of Mercer University’s School of Law. He is currently pursuing a Masters of Arts in Christian Ministry and a career with the Air Force JAG Corps. Prior to his current ambitions, Fabiani attended Vanderbilt University, where he created a major that combined communication studies, political science, Spanish, French, and Italian. He has also worked as an AmeriCorps VISTA member where he helped veterans find jobs, receive counseling, and obtain VA benefits.