Conference and Events Committee
Additional conferences are overseen by other committees such as Women in Law, Religious Freedom Committee, etc. Information regarding those conferences can be found on their history pages.
- General History
The Conference and Events Committee oversees the Annual JRCLS Conferences which began in 2004. A brief history of the Annual Conferences to date is included below.
In February 2004 the first LDS Law Student Conference was held at the Harvard Law School primarily for law students affiliated with The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Harvard law students HL Rogers and Zeke Johnson organized the conference. Their pioneering efforts included an extensive outreach to law students all over the United States.
The J. Reuben Clark Law Society ("JRCLS") helped support the conference and held a training meeting for those interested in the Society at the conference. Certain members of the JRCLS Board had been exploring the idea of holding a conference for the entire Society, and were interested in seeing how the Harvard conference would play out. Approximately 100 students and a few lawyers attended the conference, which featured several diverse presentations by legal scholars and panels of practicing lawyers. The conference was deemed a great success, and it was clear that future conferences would be held.
In February 2005 the second student conference was hosted by the J. Reuben Clark Law Society at Columbia University in New York City. The conference was attended by approximately 150 people. Once again the presentations and events associated with the student conference were considered of a high quality and obviously something that would be appealing to lawyers as well as to law students.
At the end of the 2005 student conference, it was announced that the conference in 2006 would be held at Georgetown University in Washington, DC. At the same time plans were being formulated to hold a JRCLS conference for attorneys. The student and attorney organizers decided to join forces, cross market their respective conferences, and hold them the same weekend.
On February 17, 2006 Elder Kofford, an emeritus member of the First Quorum of the Seventy of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints gave a key note address to open both the first JRCLS Attorney Conference and the Third Annual LDS Law Student Conference. Later that day the JRCLS DC Mid-Atlantic Chapter held its annual Rex Lee Advocacy Award Lunch as part of the conference. The Attorney General of the United States was the main speaker. The event was sold out with 300 attorneys and law students attending. That evening a joint reception was held at the Georgetown Law School, which also hosted sessions on Saturday. Over the two days, an estimated 500 attorneys, law students and their guests participated in one or more of the events. The joint conference had been a great success, and the benefits of having attorneys and law student members of the JRCLS meeting together in an annual conference were clear.
In February 2007, the conference was held at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. The setting overlooking the Pacific Ocean was spectacular, and the presentations were once again very uplifting. On Friday evening a dinner was held at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. Senator Gordon Smith was the featured speaker. Over 500 people attended the dinner. Elder Lance Wickman, General Counsel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke at the conference as did Dean Ken Starr of the Pepperdine Law School and many other distinguished speakers.
The 2008 conference was hosted by Arizona State University. Over 400 lawyers and law students registered for the conference and together with their quests produced crowds of almost 600 people at some of the conference events, setting new attendance records. The conference started on Thursday, February 14th with a golf tournament and a Valentine's Day fireside featuring Sherri Dew, president and CEO of Deseret Book. The JRCLS annual broadcast was televised from ASU on Friday the 15th to all members of the Society and featured Justice Sandra Day O'Connor. Friday evening following remarks by Judge Janice Rodgers Brown, there was a terrific dinner followed by a presentation by Judge Thomas Griffith. The conference, which also set records for the number of sponsors, concluded on Saturday the 16th with several presentations featuring a variety of excellent speakers.
We returned back to the Harvard Law School in February 2009. Despite the slowing economy, the conference attracted over 400 people, including participants from as far away as the Philippines and Fiji. The 2009 event started with a Thursday evening fireside featuring Professor Clayton Christensen, a well known member of the Harvard Business School faculty. Uplifting presentations on everything from national security to civility filled the sessions on Friday and Saturday. Friday night featured a lively dinner at Ned Devine's in Boston's Quincy Market. From there we walked to the Old South Meetinghouse, the birthplace of the Boston Tea Party. Laurel Thatcher Ulrich, a Pulitzer Prize winning author and professor at Harvard, gave a fascinating presentation from the raised pulpit of this historic structure. She was followed by Dean Ken Starr making it a most memorable evening. The conference concluded on Saturday with a moving session in which Kitione Vuataki, a solicitor from Fiji, recounted how he was incarcerated and tortured for representing the Tribal Council of Fiji, which he had persuaded to take a legal approach to a conflict with the government rather than a violent one.
2010 took the conference to the University of Utah in Salt Lake City, February 11-13. Recording breaking attendance brought over 800 people to the various conference events. The theme of the conference was “Service for Good Through the Law.” The conference started with a Thursday evening presentation by Elder Lance Wickman, General Counsel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. His remarks were followed by a wonderful reception at the Utah Museum of Fine Arts. Friday morning presentations featured remarks by Elder Cecil Samuelson, President of BYU and Michael Young, President of the University of Utah. Various panels made interesting presentations and most Sections of the Law Society held meetings. Dr. Stephen R. Covey spoke on becoming peacemakers at the historic Tabernacle on Temple Square. His remarks were broadcast to numerous chapters of the Law Society meeting in various locations. An amazing reception followed in the Conference Center that was based on foods from Olympic host cities as the opening ceremonies of the Winter Olympics were being held that night. The conference concluded on Saturday with a lunch presentation by various area legal counsel of the LDS Church discussing some of the issues that they have confronted in their assignments.
The 2011 conference was held in Dallas, Texas at Southern Methodist University. Over 500 attorneys, law students and their guests attended the events held February 17-19, 2011. BYU Law School Dean James Rasband started off the event Thursday evening with an overview of statistics and trends in the legal profession and legal education; on Friday, Ambassador Robert King introduced us to the human rights complexities of North Korea. Friday morning, attendees chose between a lively and humorous insight into trial practice, including several U.S. District Court Judges' pet peeves, and an interesting and informative analysis of the development of national security law. Attendees then tried to find standing room in a packed forum to hear Von Keetch present the legal developments -- from Hawaii to Prop 8 -- on same-sex marriage, while across the hall, Judges Elrod and Haynes of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, and Justice Tom Lee of the Utah Supreme Court offered their perspectives on appellate practice.
Former White House Counsel Harriet Miers offered a gracious and insightful keynote address on professionalism at lunch. Following her remarks, attendees chose from several panel options, concluding with a discussion of religious liberty issues, including conscience rights of medical personnel and the pledge of allegiance. Friday night we enjoyed a true Texas dinner and country dancing at Eddie Dean's Ranch.
Saturday morning participants attended practice-group meetings and presentations on entering the legal profession and pursuing clerkships, then assembled for the perennial fan-favorite presentations of the LDS Church's Office of General Counsel. This year, we heard from the Area Legal Counsel serving in Central America, the Caribbean and South America, who shared the power and influence of the Lord in the Church's international legal developments. At the concluding luncheon, Elder Lance B. Wickman, General Counsel of the Church, presented an overview of the Church's legal challenges, including the eroding principle of church autonomy in the United States and abroad.
The 2012 annual conference was held at the beautiful campus of Stanford University in California. Thursday night began with special musical performances by James Welch, a professional organist and Barbara Cramer, a soprano in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir. Jack Welch, a professor at BYU Law School spoke in between performances. This opening devotional was held in the beautiful Memorial Church on campus.
Friday began with a keynote address by Michael McConnell, a professor at Stanford Law School on the "The Role of History in the Hosanna-Tabor Decision." Friday's breakout sessions included panels on law versus morality, the perspective of social media and the law from in-house counsel, law enforcement and academia, and the future of faith and politics in the Middle East. Elder Wickman, General Counsel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints spoke on "Law, Religion, and the Church." Friday afternoon continued with more discussion on the Hosanna-Tabor case and two intellectual property panels on patent reform and venture capital in emerging technologies. Friday's events concluded with a keynote address by Michael Leavitt, former Secretary, United States Department of Health and Human Services and former Governor of Utah who spoke on health care reform legislation and federal conscience clauses. The students had a fun evening socializing over food, bowling and games.
Saturday's highlight was the Area Legal Counsel report moderated by Bill Atkin, the Associate General Counsel of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. This was followed by legal practice group section meetings. It was standing room only in the Ancient Law section with Jack Welch's discussion on "The Relevance or Irrelevance of Biblical and Book of Mormon Law in Modern American Law." The 2013 the annual conference was held February 14-16 in Washington, D.C. at Georgetown Law School. Activities opened in the Hart Auditorium at Georgetown Law Center with a beautiful violin performance by Jenny Oaks Baker and a talk by Senator Mike Lee. Senator Lee is the son of Rex Lee, founding Dean of BYU's J. Reuben Clark Law School. Senator Lee shared insights on how to achieve the mission statement of the Law Society which references the value brought to the law by an attorney's individual religious conviction.
Friday's sessions began with a breakfast panel sponsored by Women in the Law on flexibility and options in a law career. Nearly one hundred women and men attended. Friday's opening plenary session was a panel of law school deans from George Mason, Georgetown, George Washington, University of Virginia and BYU. They addressed topics especially pertinent for the hundreds of law students at the conference. Following the plenary session, attendees participated in one of three options: (1) a panel discussion about appellate advocacy moderated by Gene Schaerr featuring Beth Brinkmann, Maureen Mahoney, and Carter Phillips; (2) a panel led by Randall Guynn on "Emergency Legislation: Are We a Nation Adrift from the Rule of Law?" featuring Randal Quarles, Wayne Abernathy, and Anjan Sahni and (3) a panel on "Lawyers as Repairers of the Breach: Using Legal Skills to Prevent and Resolve Disputes in Law and Society" moderated by Rick Bryson featuring Judge Kent Jordan, Senator Mike Lee, Jonathan Johnson III, and Stephanie Pugsley.
The conference was honored to hear from Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas, keynote speaker at the D.C. chapter's annual award lunch on Friday at the Grand Hyatt in Washington. He spoke to a packed ballroom with close to 850 people in attendance. The D.C. Mid-Atlantic Chapter of the JRCLS each year presents the Rex Lee Advocacy award and the Shawn Bentley Public Service scholarship. Judge William C. Bryson, who previously worked in the Solicitor General's Office, and who recently took senior status as a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit received the Rex Lee Advocacy Award. He was introduced by Dean Rasband. Elder Jeffrey R. Holland presented the Bentley Scholarship to Jess Winn, a BYU law student, and Christianne Cannon, an American University law student. Both will be working in unpaid public service jobs in Washington, D.C., this summer. Elder Holland gave a moving tribute to both Shawn Bentley, his cousin, and Rex Lee, whom he knew well.
The conference continued with two break-out sessions at the Georgetown Law Center on various topics such as working on Capitol Hill, international government relations, immigration law, judicial clerkships, and church-state relations. Attendees came together after these sessions to hear Elder Holland and celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the Society. Douglas Bush, International Chair of the Law Society, opened the concluding meeting with a brief history of the society, its founding and growth over the years. Doug explained that Elder Ralph Hardy (Emeritus General Authority) was responsible for the idea of forming a law society. Elder Hardy knew years ago as the law school was being established at BYU that the success of that law school would affect his reputation as a lawyer because he was a Latter-day Saint. Many of the Law Society chairs were present and Doug highlighted their respective contributions to the society. Elder Holland gave the final address of the night and commented on his remembrance of the history of the law society. He then spoke about faith, family, and freedom. The evening concluded with a 25th Anniversary party with food, live music and a cake-cutting ceremony with Elder Ralph Hardy and Elder Holland.
Saturday began with a panel of D.C. Circuit Court judges titled "Life Lessons Learned." Elder Lance Wickman moderated a lively panel on "Religious Liberty in the 21st Century." He said that religious freedom is the number one issue facing the church. The conference was attended by around 800 lawyers, law students, and guests. This includes 250 law students from over 60 law schools around the country. This was the largest ever annual conference outside of Utah.
The 2014 Annual JRCLS Conference was held in Kansas City, Missouri on February 13-15. Events took place at the University of Missouri, Kansas City campus and Dean Ellen Suni opened the conference on Thursday evening and welcomed everyone to the University of Missouri-Kansas City Law School. Senator Robert Bennett spoke to the conference theme of Obedience to the Law is Liberty.
Each morning began with a breakfast session focused on a church history topic. Gordon Madsen, Senior Coeditor, Joseph Smith Papers, Legal and Business Records Series, spoke on the topic “The Austin King Hearing in a New Light, Richmond, Missouri, 1838.” Friday morning’s general session opened with Jack Welch and Jeff Walkers, professors at the J. Reuben Clark Law School, speaking about “Oliver Cowdery—The First Mormon Lawyer.” They found original pleadings in Oliver Cowdery’s hand in the basement of an old courthouse in Ohio. They discussed his beautiful handwriting and meticulous copy work that made him a wonderful scribe and attorney. The morning continued with breakout sessions on a variety of subjects from the Affordable Care Act to complex tort law stories and maintaining spirituality while dealing with contention. The keynote speaker at Friday’s lunch was Catherine Hanaway, former Speaker of the Missouri House of Representatives and newly declared candidate for the Missouri governor race. She spoke about how essential attorneys are at checking overreaching and unconstitutional government actions. Friday afternoon continued with a general session featuring Missouri and Kansas Supreme Court judges and was followed by more breakout panel sessions. Friday concluded with a Valentine’s Day Banquet and the Alexander Doniphan Award presentation to Elder Lance B. Wickman. Elder Wickman spoke on the subject of “Love, Law and Liberty.” Law students then toured the Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art.
Saturday opened with a breakfast session by Jack Welch on “Missouri’s Attempted Extradition of Joseph Smith” and was followed by a general panel on religious liberty. The panelists gave several ideas about how to be involved in religious freedom. They suggested that we befriend a member of a minority faith, share social media messages about religious freedom, make friends with politically connected professionals and donate money to various organizations that are involved in this discussion. Chris Koster, the Missouri Attorney General then spoke and then participants separated to attend section meetings based on practice areas. The conference concluded with several presentations by Area Legal Counsels from the Office of General Counsel of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.
Links to the sessions can be found at http://law.umkc.edu/jrcls2014/webcast.asp.
The 2015 Annual JRCLS Conference will be held in Phoenix, Arizona on February 12-14, 2015 at Arizona State University Law School.
- Leadership Rosters
- 2001-10-19 LDS Perspectives on Law
- January 10, 2014: 2014 Annual Fireside
- July 8, 2013: JRCLS Education Week Program 2013
- February 12, 2013: LDS Church News Highlights Elder Holland's Address at the JRCLS Conference
- February 12, 2013: Elder Larry Echo Hawk Speaks at JRCLS Annual Fireside
- January 22, 2013: Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the JRCLS
- January 22, 2013: JRCLS Annual Fireside
- September 27, 2012: CLE at Sea
- September 27, 2012: Celebrate the 25th Anniversary of the JRCLS
- September 10, 2012: JRCLS Leadership Conference Registration Now Open
- July 2, 2012: BYU Education Week
- March 15, 2012: LDS International Society Conference
- General Conference Reception