Duke Law Students Learn and Network at ABA National Security Law Conference

The Center on Law, Ethics and National Security (LENS) hosted select members of Duke Law’s National Security Law Society (NSLS) at the American Bar Association 32nd Annual Review of the Field of National Security Law Conference this week.  Here’s what 3L Andrew Gabel said about the experience:

3L Andrew Gabel with NSLS classmates

“The National Security Law Conference was, without doubt, among the most interesting, edifying, and enjoyable experiences I have had during my time at Duke. I consider it a capstone experience that synthesized, sharpened, and expanded upon many of the topics we studied in class.

Moreover, as someone returning to DC post-graduation, the trip served as a professional bridge from the academy to the profession. I met many DC-based lawyers currently practicing in a wide array of areas. I look forward to re-connecting with them upon my return in a few months.”

The event is the largest national security law conference in the country–650+ attendees–with Duke’s annual LENS conference (February 24-25, 2023) usually the second largest.

It was a pleasure to introduce National Security Law officers Nicole De Brigard, Madison Cash and Riley Flewelling along with Johanna Crisman, Madison Dunbar, Katherine French, Andrew Gabel, Gabby Levikow, Katie Retzbach, and Alex Snyder to this first-class event that explores legal issues of national security

Students heard experts in the national security area speak on changes in national security law over the years and predictions for the future. 

“I appreciated the opportunity to hear from lead academics and practitioners from across the national security sector. I learned a great deal about emerging national security issues and how the law will contribute to their solutions!” said 1L Alex Snyder.

Discussions about economics, climate change and crisis related to national security law, as well as civilian harm mitigation, security, international law and the Ukraine took center stage here. 

“It was cool to hear a panel on a topic we just went over in National Security Law class and understand what was going on,” said 2L Madison Dunbar.

2L Riley Flewelling posing a question

Students asked thoughtful and insightful questions that added to the depth of the discussions. 

“I asked one of the panels a question regarding the future of US-led information and influence operations, and I was met with responses which thoughtfully addressed the difficult balancing act between strategic flexibility and democratic values,” said Riley Flewelling. 

They also took advantage of opportunities to meet the speakers as well as experienced attorneys attending the conference.  “We had a number of government attorneys mention the honors positions in their agencies, and many gave us cards and told us to reach out with questions. I’m so thankful to have had the opportunity to be there! added Flewelling. 

The LENS-hosted group of students also got the opportunity to network with attorneys who practice national security law in intelligence, military service, government, and law firms.  One of the highlights was the conference dinner where former LENS conference speaker Glenn Gerstell and Bob Litt engaged in a ‘fireside chat’ wih Suzanne Spaulding on the hot topic of “FISA 702 at the Brink.”

My wife (Joy) and I with NSLS students at the conference dinner

And, what a personal privilege it was to introduce these super smart and driven students to industry leaders – confident that if these talented young women and men choose to continue this path, some will one day be on the conference dais and in national security leadership!

“I met so many and heard from so many legends in the field.  I am grateful for the opportunity from LENS to have this invaluable experience,” said Dunbar.

Mr. Williamson chatting with students

Among the many practitioners they got to meet was Charlie Williams, a retired Air Force judge advocate who is now a member of the Senior Executive Sevice (SES) in the Army’s General Counsel Office serving as a Senior National Security Advisor.

A special treat for me was to introduce the students to the Executive Director of the ABA Lt Gen (ret.) Jack Rives.  Gen. Rives and I have known each other for more than forty years, and during my final assigment I served as his deputy in the Pentagon (where we had many ‘adventures’!).

Pictured below is General Rives as well as ABA stalwart Jill Rhodes, who was one of the editors of the just-published ABA Cybersecurity Handbook: A Resource for Attorneys, Law Firms, and Business Professionals. 

Another person I was extremely glad to be able to introduce to the Duke NSLS contingent was my old friend, Col (ret.) Tia Johnson–currently a professor at Georgetown Law–who spoke with the students about her career.  The exciting news is that she is now President Biden’s nominee for a judgeship on the United States Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces.

Now, a little more about the special pre-conference LENS dinner at the Army and Navy Club mentioned in the previous post.

DeAnna Evans ’13, answers questions and offers insights to the students. 

We were fortunate to have several Duke alumni and practitioners join us, including DeAnna Evans, Class of 2013 (WilmerHale) who shared real-life experiences of her practice that includes national security law issues.

Hensey Fenton ’19 discusses his cybersecurity practice

Hensey Fenton, Class of 2019 (Covington) also attended, and shared insights about his practice that includes cybersecurity issues.  In addition, tax court judicial clerk (and my former Research Assistant)  Gina Bianchi, Class of 2021 joined us, as did Samantha Caesar–a top NSL student of the class of 2017–who now handles complex immigration issues.

Also a vital part of experience-sharing and Q&A with students were national security and military practitioners National Defense University Professor (Col, ret.)  Adam Oler, U.S. Court of Claims Special Master (Col., ret) Kate Oler and Air Force Judge Advocate Maj Greg Speirs. 

As NSLS President Nicole De Brigard stated:

“This conference has been an amazing opportunity for our Duke Law students to learn from and connect with practitioners and leaders in the national security law area. Sometimes the best kind of learning takes place outside of the classroom!” 

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