On Friday, March 26, 2021, the Center for Consumer Law & Economic Justice, Berkeley Law’s Consumer Advocacy and Protection Society (CAPS), and the National Association of Consumer Advocates (NACA) hosted the first-ever Consumer Law Students Summit. The Summit was the culmination of the first two years of the CLASS (Consumer Law Advocates, Scholars and Students) Network, which supports consumer law and economic justice programs in law schools around the United States. Almost 50 students from more than twenty law schools gathered to hear from experts in the field, to learn from prominent attorney mentors, and to discuss how to expand the consumer law and economic justice programs at their schools.
The gathering included keynote conversations with guest stars Richard Cordray, the first director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and Elizabeth Cabraser, the preeminent plaintiff-side class-action litigator. Both keynoters offered wisdom to the students, answering questions about pressing topics in economic justice and the practice of consumer law.
Students also had the chance to engage in “mentorship pods” with practicing attorneys in the nonprofit, government, or private (plaintiff) sectors, depending on students' individual preferences. It was a chance for students to meet seasoned attorneys and ask the questions they’ve always wanted to ask. As one student put it, “The mentor breakout room was very cool. It was exciting to speak with two attorneys, each doing a type of consumer law that I'm potentially interested in.”
Attendees also broke up into small groups to discuss ways to develop the consumer law programs at their schools. Some of the ideas generated included collaborating with other campus groups to engage students, creating consumer law pro bono projects, and even starting a consumer law book club.
Finally, Prof. Vijay Raghavan of Brooklyn Law School and Monica Vaca from the FTC offered insight into what the next five years of consumer law and economic justice might look like, giving students a taste of what substantive issues they might encounter when they start their work in the field.
The Summit wrapped up with a call to stay involved and to generate further opportunities for conversation and collaboration. The first such step: a commitment to hold the Student Summit again next year.
Here’s what the students in attendance had to say:
“The breakout rooms allowed students and attorneys to get to know one another in a small setting. It was a very well-organized summit.”
“Hearing about consumer justice activities at other law schools and getting to ask Elizabeth Cabraser questions were my favorite aspects.”
“I really enjoyed the full day, truly. I liked mixing up interactive parts (like the mentorship pods and student discussion) with the more informative sessions.”
Conference virtual swag included Zoom backgrounds and a Consumer Law Students Spotify playlist
The Center is proud and grateful to have hosted the Summit with NACA and CAPS. We are already looking forward to next year! Enormous thanks to the organizing committee, attorney mentors, speakers, and especially the students who made it all happen.
If you would like to get involved in next year’s summit, in being a mentor, in having a mentor, or in supporting the CLASS Network in other ways, let us know.