Duke Law students max impact in DC at ABA NSL Conference!

An energetic group of Duke Law students had a unique opportunity last week not only to learn about the scope of national security law, but also to personally meet several of the leaders in the discipline.  The Center on Law, Ethics and National Security (LENS) provided an opportunity for select Duke Law students to expand their knowledge and develop career connections by hosting eleven members of Duke Law’s National Security Law Society (NSLS) at the American Bar Association’s 33rd Annual National Security Law Conference last week.

at WilmerHale

On Wednesday evening the students attended the conference reception at WilmerHale where they met some of the experts including Stephen Preston who heads WilmerHale’s Defense, National Security and Government Contracts Practice.  He also leads the ABA Standing Committee on Law and National Security (SCOLANS) which sponsors the conference.

They then moved on to the legendary Army and Navy Club where LENS sponsored a special dinner for them which included Duke Law grads Amb. Nathan Sales, Hensey Fenton, Daniel Berrick, and Kayla Fries.  Also attending were Michele Pearce and Kate Oler.  All of them are having distinguished careers related to national security, and generously shared their experiences with the students.

The guest list was rounded out by geoeconomic and political economy researcher Robert Delfeld, and my wife, Joy.  (She  presented a pre-conference networking session based on her previous work in DC.)

Dinner tables at the Army and Navy Club

For the next day and a half the students attended the conference at the Westin hotel.  With more than 600 attendees, the ABA event is the largest national security law conference in the country; Duke’s annual LENS conference, which will be held next year February 23-24, is the second largest and fills to capacity.

with Cody Markel, Matt Poliakoff, and Raj Koshal

Topics addressed by speakers and panelists included:  Transnational Repression; Teaching and Practicing Ethics; Private Warriors – Emerging Technologies and the Democratization of Warfare; Secrecy, Classification, and the Law; The Future of Section 702; Arctic Security, Climate Change, and Law of the Sea; Generative Ethics: The Model Rules and the Practice of National Security Law in the Age of AI; U.S.-China Technology Competition: National Security Innovation, Regulation, IP Theft, and Industrial Policy.

Here’s what 1L Matthew Berry shared about the experience:

“I am grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the conference. It has been fascinating to learn about the most pressing national security legal concerns our country faces and the ways they are being handled both in government and the private sector.

Further, the conference has given me an unparalleled opportunity to network with the DC legal community and deepen my relationships with other Duke Law students. It has been insightful and allowed me to invest in my future.”

In addition, students heard General David H. Petraeus, USA (ret.), former Director, CIA; Commander, International Security Assistance Force/U.S. Forces – Afghanistan; and Commander, U.S. Central Command, speak about his new book, Conflict: The Evolution of Warfare from 1945 to Ukraine.

At the conference dinner there was a ‘fireside chat’ about “Covering National Security Legal Policy” with Charlie Savage, New York Times and Oona Hathaway, Yale Law School.

Katherine French, CPT Johanna Crisman, and Madison Cash

Returning to the conference this year were NSLS co-presidents 3Ls Madison Cash and Riley Flewelling, along with NSLS officers 2Ls Johanna Crisman and Katherine French. “I was honored to attend the ABA SCOLANS conference for a second year. I learned so much this year, especially from the excellent insights from General Petraeus and Charlie Savage. The panels were diverse, fascinating, and accessible to law students,” said Cash.

Also selected to attend were 1Ls Matthew Berry, Lea Frenkel, Emery Hansell, and Raj Koshal, as well as 2Ls Cody Markel, Matt Poliakoff, and Jimmy Scoville.  Throughout the conference, students learned from experts discussing challenges and changes in national security law.  Here’s what Raj Koshal said about the event:

“I had a wonderful time attending the ABA SCOLANS’s 33rd Annual Conference on Law and National Security these past few days. I enjoyed learning about topics like prosecuting transnational repression, the law of armed conflict, and national security decision making. This experience has certainly reinforced my desire to pursue a career in this space.”

Riley Flewelling posing a question

Our Duke Law students did not hesitate to engage speakers and panelists with thought-generating questions that often opened the door for added levels of discussion. I can’t tell you how many of the presenters and attendees told me how impressed they were with the Duke Law cadre. 

The students also took advantage of the opportunity to make connections with the speakers, and many had the chance to have extended conversations with practitioners who were also attending.

Judge Johnson with Katherine French and CPT Crisman

Future Army judge advocates (JAGs) Johanna Crisman and Katherine French had a chance to talk with my longtime friend retired Army JAG, now Judge on the Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces (CAAF), Tia Johnson about her career path which involved numerous international and operations law assignments before taking her to the epicenter military justice jurisprudence as a CAAF judge.

Duke students with Ms. Krass

DoD General Counsel Caroline Krass took time after her panel to speak with Duke Law students.  Ms. Krass has had a long and varied career in the CIA, private practice, and now DoD, and she’s been a stalwart of the SCOLANS. 

Speaking of the CIA, I was able to talk briefly with CIA General Counsel Kate Heinzelman, and I think I convinced her to speak at Duke next semester.  Let’s keep our fingers crossed!

It was also a lot of fun for me to see old friends and former students.  It was terrific to run into Lt Peyton Coleman, Duke Law ’21,  who is now serving in the highly-sought billet as the flag aide to RADM Richard E. Batson, the Judge Advocate General and Chief Counsel for the U.S. Coast Guard.

Mark Nevitt, the nation’s top lawyer on the intersection between climate change and national security, enjoys a word with Cody Markel

The LENS-hosted group of students not only took advantage of the opportunity to meet speakers and panelists but also to network with attending national security lawyers who practice in law firms, the military, and government agencies.

1L Emery Hansell had this reflection:

Emery Hansell and Lea Frenkel

“The opportunity to attend the ABA SCOLANS conference was the most impactful experience of my first semester of law school. The conference provided a reminder of why I chose to attend law school in the first place, as well as providing a unique opportunity to speak with people dedicated to their careers in the niche fields I hope to join after graduation.

The value of a reminder of purpose and rekindling of excitement for careers post-graduation cannot be overstated.”

1L Lea Frenkel offers this takeaway:

“The conference was an incredible chance to be plunged into the culture of service of national security lawyers. I am leaving inspired by their commitment to protecting the country using the law, and motivated to work towards one day joining their community!”

I am so proud of these super-smart and extremely impressive Duke Law students who chose to invest their time in this special educational and networking experience. I look forward to following their careers, and fully expect to see Duke Law grads as future national security law experts.

Students with guests at the Army and Navy Club

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