William & Mary Law Students Learn from the Practicing Bar at American Law Institute-Continuing Legal Education’s National Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation Conference

  • Advanced Course
    Advanced Course  William & Mary students attended the event at the invitation of Robert H. Thomas and Joseph T. Waldo '78, who serve as the conference’s Planning Chairs. Several of the students were guests while there on an episode of the nationally recognized "Eminent Domain Podcast."  
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Eight William & Mary Law School students traveled to Nashville last month to attend the 37th Annual Eminent Domain and Land Valuation Litigation Conference hosted by the American Law Institute’s Continuing Legal Education (ALI-CLE) program on January 23-25.

The students attended the event at the invitation of Robert H. Thomas and Joseph T. Waldo, who serve as the conference’s Planning Chairs. ALI-CLE generously granted the students full scholarships and waived the registration fees. The students included Kelsey C. Abell, Kacie L. Couch, Lindsey P. Folcik, Makenna X. Johnson, Joseph T. Melton, Andrew S. Parslow, Delia N. Root, and Benming Zhang. An additional William & Mary student, Ryan D. Franklin, participated via a livestream of the proceedings.

Nearly 300 lawyers, judges, appraisers, economists, law professors and law students attended the conference. The Planning Chairs and a number of faculty have close ties with the William & Mary Property Rights Project. Waldo, an alumnus of the Law School (Class of 1978), was the driving force behind the Project’s annual Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference, which he co-chaired from 2004 to 2017. Thomas is the inaugural holder of the Law School’s Visiting Chair in Property Rights Law named in Waldo’s honor and is a member of the Brigham-Kanner Conference Advisory Board. Others involved in the Nashville conference with ties to the Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference included Andrew Prince Brigham, a member of the three-member Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference Committee, and the Conference Advisory Board, as well as Alan T. Ackerman, Mark F. (Thor) Hearne II, Joshua Baker '06, Stephen Clarke '06 and Jeremy P. Hopkins '02—all of whom serve on the Conference Advisory Board.

The Nashville conference could be called a “continuing education” experience for the William & Mary students in that all but one took Thomas’s fall course on eminent domain and property rights.

Third-year law student Benming Zhang was among the students who traveled to Nashville and said he enjoyed having an opportunity to learn about new developments in eminent domain practice at the conference. He is a Fellow of the William & Property Project, where he works closely with Director and Chancellor Professor of Law Lynda L. Butler. Zhang said he and other students received a warm welcome from Waldo, Thomas and many other attendees who heard that a contingent from William & Mary was coming. Clint Schumacher, host of the nationally recognized "Eminent Domain Podcast," interviewed several of the students during the event (listen).

Thomas said he was impressed that the students “took the time, expense and initiative to jump into an advanced course with 300 potentially intimidating professionals.” They were engaged participants and proved, he said, that “they can hang with the best of them.”

A number of attendees remarked on the students’ sophistication and professional demeanor, he said. It was not a one-way street, he added. “Several told me that the William & Mary students’ presence added a new ‘spark’ to the conference, and that they hope these (and other) students become regular attendees.”

For Thomas and Waldo, it is a duty and pleasure to welcome and encourage the next generation of practitioners. “Part of becoming a lawyer is becoming ‘socialized’ to the bar,” said Thomas. “Lawyers, and I think this is especially true of eminent domain and property lawyers, are very collegial. A large part of practice is understanding how we can and do work together best, even if we represent clients with conflicting interests.”

For Zhang, one of the bonuses of the event was the chance to network. He will join Norfolk, Virginia-based Kaufman & Canoles after taking the bar this summer and unexpectedly crossed paths with one of the firm’s attorneys at the Nashville meeting. “We connected afterward on LinkedIn and I told him I would love to have an opportunity to assist him on eminent domain cases,” he said.

Butler, who has served as Director of the William & Mary Property Rights Project since 2009, said she was delighted that the students had a chance to learn from and rub elbows with so many leading attorneys in the field in Nashville. “Joe Waldo and Robert Thomas are wonderful ambassadors to this area of practice,” she said. “They are extraordinarily generous with their time, both with respect to the Property Rights Project and to William & Mary law students. Our students are fortunate to have their encouragement and mentorship.”

Save the Dates! The 17th Annual Brigham-Kanner Property Rights Conference will be held at William & Mary Law School on October 1-2. If you would like to receive information about the schedule and registration, please contact Ali Trivette at [[w|mtrivette]].

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