Georgetown Invites Law Students to Participate in Crisis Simulation

This March, the Georgetown University Law Center hosted the National Security Crisis Law Invitational, an annual event that invites law students to sit in the hot seat as a way to prepare them for a career in national security law. The Invitational is a crisis simulation program developed by Laura Donohue, the director of Georgetown’s Center on National Security and the Law.

80 law students from nearly a dozen law schools across the country participated in this year’s National Security Crisis Law Invitational. Although this event is not a competitive in nature, students who participated spent several months preparing for it by reading up on national security law. According to Molly Greenberg, a Senior Writer at DC Inno, the students’ performances are “accessed by highly regarded national security experts.” This year, such experts included James Baker, chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Armed Forces, and Rosemary Hart, special counsel in the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel.

Donohue created the National Security Crisis Law Invitational eight years ago as a way to prepare law students for high-pressure crises. “There is a lot about how we teach in law school that doesn’t work for students who are jumping into national security law,” she explained in an interview with The National Law Journal of the need for students to be exposed to real world, high stakes scenarios. “We teach the law as it is written, not how it is applied,” she says. “Law is one of many competing considerations during a national security crisis. How do you talk with policymakers? How do you bring the law into the conversation?”

Students from Cornell law School, George Washington University Law School, Stanford Law School, University Virginia School of Law and other prestigious institutions were tasked with answering these questions at this year’s invitational.

During the two-day event at the Georgetown University Law Center, students were asked to apply law, politics, and public opinion as they navigated and mitigated simulated threats. Participants were divided into teams and acted as departments within the National Security Council. According to Greenberg, while in these roles, they were also paired with mentors with a background working within the agency each student was assigned to.

According to The National Law Journal, a large component of the simulation is how students interact and communicate with each other. Donohue has previously studied communications between participating students in order to analyze how leaders and decisions emerged during the simulation. Interestingly, “The strongest leaders weren’t necessarily from the agencies closest to the crisis, she found,” writes Karen Sloan of the Journal, “further, they were the ones who communicated most effectively.”

Here are some resources for more information about the National Security Crisis Law Invitational:

Crisis Simulation Puts Law Students in the Hot Seat by Karen Sloan

A Crisis Simulation Put Law Students in the Roles of the Nation’s Top Decision-Makers by Molly Greenberg