The end of bar exam season results in many happy law grads, an exciting future of career paths, and a new ABA Law Student Podcast host! In this episode of the ABA Law Student Podcast, host Kareem Aref talks to new host John Weber about why he chose to run for the Law Student Division’s delegate of communications and why it’s important that law students get more involved with the division. John also discusses his time as an AP government teacher during the 2012 election and seeing firsthand the impact of that election on his students. As he says, John has big hosting shoes to fill, but he is excited for the opportunity to discuss the issues that matter most to law students.
John Weber is a rising 3L at the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law. He is also delegate of communications, publications, and outreach for the ABA Law Student Division.
ABA Law Student Podcast
Introducing the New ABA Law Student Podcast Host, John Weber
Intro: Welcome to the official ABA Law Student Podcast where we talk about issues that affect law students and recent grads. From finals and graduation to the bar exam and finding a job, this show is your trusted resource for the next big step. You are listening to the Legal Talk Network.
Kareem Aref: Hello and welcome to another edition of the ABA Law Student Podcast on Legal Talk Network. I am Kareem Aref and I currently serve as — well, as of a couple of hours ago the Immediate Past Chair of the Law Student Division of the ABA. I hail from California and as a recent graduate from UC Davis Law School, I get to enjoy being unemployed until I start my job in October. So it’s a phenomenal time to enjoy the world.
But our show today is sponsored by the American Bar Association’s Law Student Division and in this monthly podcast we are going to cover topics of interest to you. Specifically on this one, we are going to be introducing you to my colleague and your new host, Mr. John Weber.
Hi John. How are you doing?
John Weber: I am great Kareem. Good to be here with you.
Kareem Aref: It’s fantastic to have you on John. I want to take a chance and introduce you to our audience. So tell us John, where are you from?
John Weber: I am from the University of Louisville, Brandeis School of Law. I am a Rising 3L and I am born and raised in Louisville, Kentucky as well.
Kareem Aref: So you are going to law school out there, did you do undergrad in Louisville as well?
John Weber: I did. But in the meantime, I moved down to Nashville for a couple of years after undergrad to Teach for America.
Kareem Aref: That’s fantastic.
John Weber: I taught senior government during the 2012 election and had really a wonderful time there and now have seen some of my students graduate college and have kept up with them even during law school.
Kareem Aref: I have heard some great stories about Teach for America. What was your favorite part about that program?
John Weber: One of the things that they said to me a lot, my students was, Mr. Weber, you play too much. That was probably my favorite part was just in all seriousness developing relationships with the kids, and like I said, maintaining them after they graduated and after I left.
But I got to coach, I got to teach, and again develop relationships. That was the most significant thing to me outside of the classroom, so to speak.
But I am a political science major, absolutely loved teaching government, teaching about the election and seeing their perspectives, my students’ perspectives on President Obama being reelected, obviously its history, the first African-American president of our country and my students, many of them, saw it differently than I did.
Kareem Aref: How so?
John Weber: It was a much more emotional experience and it was for me too and I certainly appreciated its significance in US history, but my students and their families and their communities were deeply, deeply invested. And sure, because of policies of President Obama, but also because of what it stood for. 60 years after Civil Rights, less than that, just over 50 years after the Civil Rights Movement to have an African-American President was a really big deal.
And my school, it was very diverse, had lots of various racial and ethnic backgrounds, and in addition to that, had immigrants, some of which were undocumented. And so DACA and policies like that were going to really mean a lot to them. You can see it now with President Trump.
Kareem Aref: Well John, it sounds like you had quite the experience with Teach for America, you had quite the experience in your undergrad. How on earth do you go from doing all these cool things and seems like you are passionate about it, to getting involved in the ABA? Talk to us a little bit about that.
John Weber: So I think I am a people person and the relationships part of Teach for America was the thing that immediately came to mind and that remains to be true in law school. And so, I found the SBA President at my school identified me as a 1L, as somebody that might be interested in taking a leadership role and getting to know other law student leaders from all across the country.
And so he tapped me to run for a Circuit Governor position and I was fortunate enough to win that and go on to serve in other capacities. Now I am serving in the House of Delegates, I have for a year.
Kareem Aref: And as I understand it, you just underwent a third election, didn’t you?
John Weber: That’s right.
Kareem Aref: So you were elected as Circuit Governor, right?
John Weber: Uh-huh.
Kareem Aref: And you were elected as Delegate last year and then what were you running for this year?
John Weber: So I was reelected essentially to be a Delegate, but we restructured the division a little bit so Circuit Governors don’t exist anymore and the Delegates now will take a little bit more responsibility for things going on inside the division.
So I am the Delegate for Communications. One of those responsibilities will be talking on this podcast, working on our blog and the Student Lawyer Magazine.
Kareem Aref: So tell me why you picked Delegate of Communications to run for?
John Weber: I was interested in the Delegate for Communications position because I think that the ABA is doing a lot of good work. I have been on the Law Student Division Council, I have been in the House of Delegates and seen really impactful things that we have done in the last year-and-a-half or so that I have been involved, and of course long before that.
But it’s important to get the word out and get the message out, and I want law students to realize that this is not an organization where we want your dues payment, so that you can put that line on your resume that you are a part of the American Bar Association. Instead, I want to convey that it’s important that we are doing work that will directly impact you; whether, it’s public service loan forgiveness, whether it’s expanding the universal bar exam, getting paid externships at individual schools to allow individual law students to make money doing a job that they were already doing and get credit for that, the things around mental health or student loans and student debt.
We need leaders of the Law Student Division to advocate for these positions. We are doing that. We need law students to realize what’s going on and to get engaged in these discussions on their own campuses, because that allows us to do even more and even better work at the national level.
Kareem Aref: Well John, how do these people get involved? How do the law students at home get involved if they weren’t picked out by their SBA President like you were?
John Weber: Well, that’s a great question because I was lucky that my SBA President went to annual meeting and I talked to lots of SBA presidents and ABA representatives at this year’s annual meeting and told them that story. Go back to your school, identify somebody that you think would benefit from this, that would enjoy this and would be able to contribute to the association and the profession now and throughout the rest of their career.
So that’s the first thing that I would recommend is those leaders that are — if you are listening to this, you have started in a good way. Let’s follow up on it. So what can you do at that point, we have got caucuses, we have got committees, we have got even just, task force is not the official word, but things will pop up around issues and we need students to champion them. So if —
Kareem Aref: Well John, hold on, let me stop you for a second, what is a caucus?
John Weber: So a caucus is part of our brand-new restructure of the division. We used to have a much larger board where you would run for a position and serve nationally. It was by geography. It was by circuits. Now we have given a little bit more flexibility to law students, where they can create a caucus around LGBTQ issues or around immigration law or whatever the case may be, women’s law, whether it’s a type of group, like racial gender, something like that, or around a specific issue or policy or type of law that you are interested in; essentially, we have given the flexibility to law students to tell us what they care about, organize around that, and get a leadership experience in something that’s going to be directly applicable to them.
Kareem Aref: Well, I just pulled up a list of the caucuses right now, and I see we have a Black Caucus, we have a Southeast Asian Caucus, we have the Midwest Caucus; we have several listed here. If someone is interested in a policy area but they don’t see a caucus listed, can they create their own?
John Weber: Absolutely. So again, flexibility, we wanted to decentralize some of the leadership in the Law Student Division and empower SBA presidents, ABA representatives and not just even campus leaders, but every law student who belongs to the ABA. Of course with free membership now we have seen our numbers grow exponentially. And even with our premium membership, we have seen —
Kareem Aref: 14,000 members, right.
John Weber: Absolutely. And so we get to stand on their shoulders and advocate for these issues on a national level, but again, we wanted to decentralize it so that if there was an issue that one person in the ABA Law Student Division was passionate about, they could start it, because likely they are not the only one across the country and they would be able to tap into a network of other people that are interested and passionate about the same things that they are.
Kareem Aref: Fantastic.
John Weber: So I should probably add, Morgan Nelson is our Director of Caucuses, I don’t know if that’s our official title.
Kareem Aref: I believe she is the Caucus Committee Chair and that’s Morgan Nelson out of University of South Dakota, right?
John Weber: Right, right, and she served with us on the Law Student Division Board last year and will be a wonderful resource, although I would be more than happy to reach out or for law students to reach out to me as well if they had an idea or just wanted to get involved, because bottom line, we need good people and if you are interested in being a part of this organization, we are going to find a place for you.
Kareem Aref: Fantastic. Well John, I know you are going to be involved with them next year and congratulations on your recent election.
John Weber: Thank you. Thank you.
Kareem Aref: Now, for the individuals out there listening and before we sign off I want to ask if there’s a way that the folks listening can contact you so they can get in touch and get involved, like you are talking about and kind of follow in your footsteps and continue to make those differences you were talking about.
John Weber: Well, I am glad you said that, because I spoke with various leaders at annual meeting, because I was up for election and I was glad to earn their vote and confidence in order to be reelected. But what I told them afterwards was this conversation is not over; in fact, this is the beginning and I would be totally disingenuous if I only ask for your vote and then was done.
So I hope that any law student, again whether it’s an SBA president, ABA representative or just somebody interested that is a law student would reach out to me. So there are a couple of ways to do that, like you said, first find me on Facebook, that’s the easy way. I will be pushing out this podcast, as will others. So please find me there.
My email is also a great way, HYPERLINK “mailto:[email protected]” [email protected].
Kareem Aref: Fantastic. Thank you so much John. We really appreciate you coming on the show. And I know we are in for a great treat with you hosting the podcast for the rest of the year.
John Weber: Well, I cannot let you end it on that note, because I just need to say, I have big shoes to fill, with you, Chris Morgan and Sandy Gallant-Jones, all the work that you all have done this year, I appreciate it. I am excited to carry the torch and to talk about issues that matter to law students and to bring in some people that will be really interesting and impart some wisdom on all of us.
Kareem Aref: Well, I know I for one will be tuning in.
To our listeners, we hope you have enjoyed another episode of our Law Student Podcast. We would like to encourage you to subscribe to the ABA Law Student Podcast on iTunes and to take a moment to rate and review us as well. You can also reach us on Twitter, @abalsd, using the #LawStudentPodcast. We want to hear what’s on your mind.
Signing off for the final time, I am Kareem Aref, and we want to thank you for listening to the ABA Law Student Podcast.
Stay tuned, expect more, dare to dream, until next time podcasters.
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