Written by Eliza Chapple and Tania Parker
The J. Reuben Clark Law Society successfully held its first European Area Regional Conference in a virtual format that allowed many to participate. The conference took place on November 3rd and 4th and focused on the theme ‘’Love Ye Therefore the Stranger” (Deut. 10:19).
On the first day of the conference, David Channer, Associate General Counsel for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and JRCLS International Board Member, shared a personal experience about complete strangers coming to help his wife and children after a major car accident. He felt immensely grateful and invited all European lawyers to use their legal education to help their families, communities, and “the stranger”. Following David’s remarks, keynote speaker Elder Alliaud, General Authority Seventy of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and former criminal defense attorney, encouraged all lawyers to get to know the law according to the God of law. He also shared scriptures explaining the principles of divine law and stated that divine law impacts everything we do.
The second day of the conference started with a special session for European law school students. Shannon Howard, JRCLS Student Board Chair, informed the students how they can organize a JRCLS student chapter at their own law school in Europe. Following the student session, European lawyers had the opportunity to join one of three breakout rooms on either how to start and support a JRCLS Chapter, Women in Law, or networking. Dr. Deanna Thompson, who is the Director of the Lutheran Center for Faith, also participated in the conference and provided an interesting lecture on Deuteronomy. A panel of experts on refugee challenges and opportunities in Europe followed Dr. Deanna Thompson’s lecture. During the panel, immigration Judge David Pickup stressed that it is crucial for immigrants to have good legal representation. Additionally, Oleksiy Hakalenko, Welfare and Self-Reliance manager for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, talked about the importance of creating a sense of belonging in strangers by showing them the neighborhood and listening to their needs.
A Latin American panel inspired European lawyers with ways they had successfully helped refugees in their area. The speakers were Juan Beimar Paye Mendoza from JRCLS Bolivia Chapter, Renan Apolônio de Sá Lima, JRCLS Brazil Chapter, and Miguel Romero of JRCLS Lima Peru Chapter. Juan Beimar shared, among many projects, a partnership with government agencies to provide food and other basic needs to the refugees or migrants in Bolivia. Renan Apolônio De Sá Silva shared his experience with the other Chapters in Brazil to help displaced individuals with manuals, legal clinics, and partnering with other Religious Entities in order to multiply the law society’s efforts to reach out to those in need. Lastly, Miguel Romero shared this incredible project that he helped put together and get approved. The project, “Immigrant Starts Now” is a public policy that permits refugees and immigrants to get permission to open their own businesses and become self-reliant. These incredible leaders show that the law society can help not only with legal advice, and helping with most urgent needs, but also to create public policies and develop partnerships with other religious organizations and the government to provide more meaningful and long-term solutions for the refugee problems.
Concluding the conference with an opportunity to network led to many new connections and friendships among religious lawyers all over Europe. The first regional European Conference greatly increased the recognition of the Law Society and its potential impact in Europe. Participants welcomed the announcement that another European conference will take place in 2024.