BY ANDREA SAENZ
It’s that time of year — the time when Bryan Stevenson comes to town and makes the 1Ls cry.
Stevenson was the keynote speaker at the Office of Public Interest Advising’s September 9th orientation, which took place in a packed Austin North. Almost half the 1L class attended the session, which included remarks from Dean Elena Kagan before Stevenson, an HLS alum and director of the Equal Justice Initiative, took the floor.
Stevenson told several heart-wrenching stories from his career fighting death penalty sentences in Alabama, and exhorted 1Ls to carry through on the passions that brought them to law school. When he finished, the room gave him a standing ovation, and there were more than a few red eyes in the audience.
Professor David Barron also spoke to the crowd, acknowledging that Stevenson was a tough act to follow. “I’ve now seen him speak for six years,” Barron noted, “and he still makes me want to cry.” Barron went on to outline many of the reasons that law students turn away from initial commitments to public interest law — family pressure, money, and the Òherd mentality,Ó among others — and why each need not be an obstacle to students in their career searches. OPIA Director Alexa Shabecoff outlined the many programs, publications, and counseling resources OPIA offers, as well as two opportunities for 1Ls to get involved in the public interest community this year: the OPIA Section Representatives program, and the Public Interest Auction. 1Ls were also given the newest edition of the public interest career bible, Serving the Public.
For students who missed the orientation, OPIA has copies of Serving the Public and their other publications available at all times in Pound 329. Public interest career panels and information sessions on fellowships, LIPP, and other topics are ongoing throughout the year.