A student witness is sworn in during a mock trial at the Legal Eagle Summer Law Camp, hosted by North Carolina Central University Law School’s Street Law Program. Middle and high school students spend a week at the law camp, working with law student ‘counselors’ to prepare for and perform a mock trial.
October 13, 2009
Just one hour before the mock trials are set to begin, the tenth and eleventh grade students are working furiously—polishing opening statements, reviewing witness questions, jotting down notes. Maria and Will, law school students from the University of Miami, float from group to group, answering questions and offering tips. One student—an eleventh grader from Miami Senior High School—makes an important (and almost overlooked) point about the second witness statement, and the student who will play the lead counsel adjusts her opening statement accordingly. Once the last hour is up, the students will proceed to the local courthouse, where they will argue their case in front of real judges. After their mock trial, they’ll have lunch with the judge and discuss potential careers in the legal profession. The experience will spark their interest, and some may look back and consider it a defining moment in their decision to go to law school.
These students are part of the University of Miami’s Street Law program, one of more than 60 such programs at law schools around the country. This public legal education initiative prepares law students to teach others about practical law, democracy, and civics. Participating law students are sent into nearby high schools, juvenile detention centers, jails, or community centers to teach about the laws that everyday people need to know in their lives.
Street Law, Inc., a non-profit organization, provides support to these law schools and a wide variety of other groups and individuals who educate the public about the law. Street Law’s mission—to provide practical and participatory education about the law, democracy, and human rights—is best fulfilled by community members teaching each other, and learning from each other, about the laws and democratic processes of our country. Street Law writes curricula and textbooks about the law geared toward young people, and provides training to lawyers, law students, teachers, and others who want to educate about the law.
Carnot Evans, vice president and senior counsel at Marriott International, Inc., talks with two Seneca Valley high school students during a workshop at Marriott’s corporate headquarters in Bethesda, MD.
Since the lack of diversity in the legal profession is one of the most pressing issues facing the bar, Street Law has partnered with several other organizations to help build a pipeline to the legal profession that focuses on getting more high school students interested in becoming lawyers. Those law students running the mock trial in Miami are part of one of the programs—a partnership with the Law School Admission Council (lsac.org) to adapt law schools’ existing public legal education programs to influence students’ career pathways.
Street Law also runs two programs that focus on lawyers working with high school students—one in partnership with the Association of Corporate Counsel (acc.com), and one in partnership with NALP, the Association of Legal Career Professionals (nalp.org). The former matches nearby high schools with corporate legal departments while the latter matches nearby high schools with law firms. Both programs work to encourage high school students to become lawyers by providing them with role models, information about legal career pathways, and resources to pursue the profession.
Young people need a variety of resources and influences to help them down the path to law school. Particularly for students of color, these resources and influences might not be immediately available. In order to strive for a profession that truly reflects the diversity of our country, those who have succeeded in realizing their professional goals will need to continue to reach back to influence and mentor those who follow. For more information about Street Law’s diversity pipeline programs, please visit www.streetlaw.org/diversity.
CLEO Edge Magazine
(Reproduced with permission)
Corporate Legal Diversity Pipeline Program
Legal Diversity Pipeline Program for Law Firms
Law School Programs
Law School Diversity Pipeline Program
Topic: Civic & Law-Related Education