Program on Law and Government 25th Anniversary
Professor Fernando Laguarda, director of the Program on Law and Government, with program co-founder Rep. Jamie Raskin.

AUWCL's Program on Law and Government Celebrates 25 Years

April 23, 2018

For the last 25 years, American University Washington College of Law’s Program on Law and Government has united law students with the nation’s capital and provided them a firm foundation for a successful career in governmental service.

Faculty, staff, students, and alumni recognized the program’s quadranscentennial on Friday, April 20 with a celebration, featuring an alumni panel discussion and a keynote address by Rep. Jamie Raskin, who along with the late Tom Sargentich, founded the Program on Law and Government in 1993.

“Everybody in this room is involved in making government work in a time where the whole idea of democracy is under siege here and around the world,” said Raskin, following his introduction by Director of the Program on Law and Government, Professor Fernando Laguarda. “There are basic norms and values of our society that are being tested all the time. I think the great crucible of our moment is whether we can actually get government to align itself with the people on so many of the critical issues of the today.”

Initially, the Program on Law and Government was created to enhance the experience of law students at AUWCL and to play a role in debates in Washington, said Professor Stephen Wermiel. While the program worked closely for many years with the student-led Law and Government Society, the number of organizations and groups at AUWCL began to grow and the demand for the society waned, he said. But the program persisted, and has since provided a forum for discussion of important issues of the day.

After only a few years of existence, the LL.M. specialty was added to the program, which “continues to provide an exciting opportunity for lawyers to hone their interests, knowledge, and skills related to government service, public policy and particular areas of practice,” Wermiel said.

Additionally, Raskin and Wermiel founded the program’s Marshall-Brennan Constitutional Literacy Project, which places AUWCL students in public high school classrooms across D.C. to teach semester-long courses about the Constitution and Bill of Rights. Since its conception, the project has spread across the country to more than 20 different law schools.

“Everybody in this room is involved in making government work in a time where the whole idea of democracy is under siege here and around the world.”

Rep. Jamie Raskin
Co-Founder, AUWCL's Program on Law and Government

“The Law and Government program has been one of those hallmark programs here at the Washington College of Law for students who want to go to school in D.C. because it’s the nation’s capital,” said Professor Lisa Curtis, associate director of the Marshall-Brennan Project. “The program is that vehicle for providing that connection to the government – the Legislature, the White House, and government agencies and organizations.”

Laguarda said while almost every other major law school in the country sends its students and alumni to D.C. at some point, no other school offers such a wide range of experiential, curricular, and co-curricular programs designed to make the most of being at the center of the modern administrative state.

“The Program on Law and Government is about making everything we promise about being in D.C. a reality for our students and community,” he said. “We aim to help students ‘Decode D.C.’ so they can embark upon rewarding and productive careers at the intersection of law and domestic public policy.”

Much of the program’s distinctiveness and strength can be found within its diverse and experienced faculty.

“The guts of the operation have been our talented and diverse array of adjunct professors who teach, coach, and mentor so many of our students,” said Professor William Snape, assistant dean for adjunct faculty at AUWCL. “Whether the perspective is the White House and the executive agencies, Capitol Hill, the judiciary, K Street, or non-profit advocacy, our adjunct practitioners bring effective real life experience to the WCL classroom.”

Friday’s celebratory event included a panel discussion, “Making a Difference: Alumni in Government,” which underscored the importance of government service and advice from distinguished alumni. Panelists included Judge Margaret Bartley '93, United States Court of Appeals for Veterans Claims; Councilor Lydia Edwards '06, Boston City Councilor; Jill Weissman '94, general counsel, Criminal Division, United States Department of Justice; Sharon Woods ’06, general counsel, Defense Digital Service, Department of Defense; Eileen Filler-Corn ‘93, Delegate, Virginia House of Delegates; Kirill Reznik ’03, Delegate, Maryland House of Delegates; and Erica Bomsey ’01, deputy general counsel for Counterterrorism, Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

“We have trained federal agency lawyers and administrative judges. We have debated important legal doctrines and policies in the federal bureaucracy, discussed important ethics questions for Congress and the executive branch, as well as the direction of the Supreme Court and the nomination process,” Wermiel said. “In all of these topics and more, we have enriched the life of WCL and contributed to the debate in Washington more broadly. We have helped law students see the value of government service, and have helped them find those opportunities at every level of government.”

Show your support for the Program on Law and Government with a gift to the Jamie Raskin Scholarship fund.