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Determining which materials are best suited for your program depends on the audience and setting in which the law students will be teaching.
Law schools choose content for different reasons (e.g., the particular needs of the local school, the goals of the Street Law clinic, important issues of public policy, etc.). A key consideration for school-based programs is selecting topics that can be integrated seamlessly into the existing course being taught. The selection of content should also be based on the students' needs and the contents potential for empowerment, preventing legal problems, and developing students' critical thinking skills.
To assess the needs of the students, a meeting with teachers or a focus group with students is advisable. For senior high school students approaching the age of majority, it may be advisable to teach them about their rights and responsibilities as adults rather than those of minors.
If teaching in a correctional setting where a meeting with students might be difficult, consider talking with lawyers who practice law in that area to determine the needs of the population. For example, it may be better to teach inmates about post-conviction relief than housing law unless the inmates are close to release.
What areas of law serve to empower students? Some topics include housing law, consumer law, environmental rights, conflict resolution and family law. It is important to teach students that laws evolve and that they can play a role in shaping the law (e.g., lobbying, voting, and participating in government decision-making) in order to foster active participation in democracy. You may consider incorporating some type of community service (a.k.a. service learning) into your Street Law class.
The development of local materials is critical to the success of your Street Law program. The students your law students teach will likely be most interested in how the law impacts them in their daily lives. For example, typical questions might include, "There's an abandoned house down my street. What can I do about it?" or "My friend was harassed by the police. Is there anywhere I can go to report this?"
The development of local materials represents an excellent professional development opportunity for law students. A state supplement that explains the local law and lists community resources is an ideal companion to the Street Law text. You may wish to contact your state law-related education coordinator to see what materials she/he has to help you out.
Street Law: A Course in Practical Law is a practical law textbook used by most credit-bearing law-school programs. The most popular practical law textbook in the nation, Street Law uses interactive strategies to give students the knowledge they need about law and the legal system that affect their daily lives.
Street Law’s Classroom Guide to Mock Trials and Moot Courts presents teachers with an overview of mock trials and moot courts and advice on preparing for classroom mock trials and moot courts. In addition, this guide has nine lesson plans with student handouts about mock trials, seven lesson plans with student handouts about moot courts, and the actual materials for nine mock trial and six moot court simulations.
Lawyers and Law Students Teaching in the Community is a compilation of 15 Street Law lessons. It was created out of the desire to bring public legal education to community-based setting and to populations that would have little access to practical legal information without the efforts of lawyers and law students. Settings like homeless and runaway youth shelters, transitional living centers, pregnant and parenting teen centers, and after-school programs will particularly benefit from these lessons.
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