As a humanities undergraduate student, ICLRS Student Fellow Sarah Clifford created her own area of emphasis called “world religions”. Her focus was to learn about the motivations behind the actions of members of various religions and understand their larger world view. This interest motivated Sarah to apply for the summer externship with the International Center of Law and Religion Studies because “combining my study of the law with my interest in religion seemed like a logical step for me and the fellowship was one of the best ways to do this.”
Sarah spent a good part of her summer 2016 as an extern at the Auckland, New Zealand, office of legal counsel for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. She is currently working on a project researching and writing short memos about land tenure for countries in the Pacific. This project will provide a core resource on property law in the region for any new area legal counsel joining the office. She has also done research for a case currently underway in American Samoa. Sarah has used some of the skills gained during her first year of law school as she has taken on these projects. “It has been really interesting to compare what I learned about United States property law with the land tenure systems in these Pacific island countries,” she said. “And I am using a lot of the tools from my Legislation and Regulation class when researching the American Samoa case.”
The externship has been a great learning experience for Sarah. She cited two specific lessons learned. While an attorney’s first and foremost duty is to represent and protect her client, she came to understand the importance of compassion for the opposing party. “Although the attorneys in the Office of General Counsel work fiercely to ensure that the Church’s interests are protected, I was touched by the way they followed the admonition of Christ to ‘love thy neighbor’ as they showed love and respect to the person on the opposite end of the dispute.”
The second lesson was one of exactness. On one of her first days in the office, her mentor pointed to a carved turtle on his desk and recounted the fable of the tortoise and the hare. The turtle served as a visual reminder to him to take his time, go slow, and do it right the first time. Sarah now has a carved turtle of her own to remind her of this important lesson and her experience in New Zealand. She’ll return soon to Provo to commence her second year of law school with her carved turtle and with valuable field experience.
This article was originally posted on the BYU Law ICLRS website