For director Megan Walsh, launching the Gun Violence Prevention Clinic at the University of Minnesota Law School filled a void in legal education.
“There are just not enough law students or lawyers working on Second Amendment issues,” said Walsh., a visiting law professor. “It was my dream to start this clinic and to encourage more law student engagement on gun violence prevention.”
The clinic, a three-year pilot project that began in January, focuses on promoting gun violence prevention through strategic litigation, using student pro bono legal work to support and bring cases.
Having children prompted Walsh to work professionally in gun violence prevention.
“I felt like I needed to give them a better world than the one we were living in,” Walsh said.
Walsh previously was an attorney for Everytown Law, defending firearm regulations and representing survivors and cities in litigation to advance gun violence prevention through the courts. She did pro bono gun violence prevention work while in private practice.
Name: Megan Walsh
Title: Visiting clinical professor of law, director of Gun Violence Prevention Clinic, University of Minnesota Law School
Education: B.A., government, Lawrence University; J.D., Duke University School of Law
Q: Best way to start a conversation with you?
A: I love it when people talk about the things that they’re most passionate about. It’s interesting to learn more about whatever it is that they’re excited about.
Q: Why law school?
A: When I went to law school, I thought I wanted to work in international human rights. When I started practicing, I loved the practice of law. I loved working with clients, using my legal skills to help people. Ultimately, I’m working in human rights; it’s just not international human rights. There are human rights issues that are important to address in our community.
Q: What are you reading?
A: Stephen King’s “11-22-63.” It’s a time travel book. Stephen King is an excellent writer, but also readable and enjoyable.
Q: Pet peeve?
A: When lawyers are disrespectful to law students. Law students are learning and trying their best.
Q: Best part of your work?
A: Working with the students. It’s amazing watching them grow and show up in court in a way that they never could have expected when they started.
Q: Most challenging?
A: There are hard days doing gun violence prevention work. The news can be challenging. It feels very heavy to bring students into this. I wish I had more opportunities to help them understand how to do the work in a field that can be so emotionally challenging. But the beauty of the work is giving students this opportunity to contribute.
Q: Favorite activity away from work?
A: Anything that gets me out in nature — hiking or going to the ocean. Crafting and baking with my daughters.
Q: Where would you take someone visiting your hometown?
A: I grew up outside Chicago, so Chicago is home. Chicago has the best food in the world. Whenever I bring friends to Chicago, we do a good food tour. In Minnesota, I love the lakes. They’re a unique part of living in Minneapolis, so we’d find ways to enjoy the lakes.
Q: Legal figure you most admire?
A: U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar. She’s an amazing oral advocate and has reached the pinnacle of the profession in a primarily male-dominated area.
Q: Misconception that others have about your work?
A: People think I’m trying to take away people’s rights. What I care about is saving lives. I’m not trying to take people’s rights away; I’m trying to use the law to make sure that government can keep people safe and to reduce gun deaths and injuries. People on one side hear “shall not be infringed” and think that there can be no regulation. People who aren’t familiar with Supreme Court Second Amendment cases don’t understand that there are limits on how much the government can regulate firearms.
Q: Favorite book, movie or TV show about lawyers?
A: “Just Mercy” by Bryan Stephenson is powerful and made me realize there was a lot more to litigating death penalty cases than I realized.