Local teenagers are welcomed on campus.
In February, the Law School welcomed to campus nearly 100 students, teachers, and administrators from six Brooklyn high schools—Cristo Rey Brooklyn, Midwood, New Utrecht, St. Joseph’s, Secondary School for Law, and Urban Action Academy—for the inaugural Youth Law Day. The program, created by the New York State Bar Association’s Special Committee on Youth Outreach, aims to “expose young minority students to the great potential of a law-related career.” This year, the event at the Law School was coordinated by David Craft ’16.
Professor I. Bennett Capers, an expert in criminal law and procedure and evidence law, presented a hypothetical case during which one student took the stand and other students acted as jurors.
“Although they were high school students, it was clear that I was speaking to future patent lawyers, family law lawyers, prosecutors, defense lawyers, and corporate lawyers,” Capers said. “Nothing is more personally rewarding than encouraging such talent.”
The day included panel discussions and Q+A sessions with law students, alumni, and faculty members. Dean Nick Allard greeted students during lunch and discussed the power of a law degree to bring about positive change in society.
A month later , eight high school students from the Urban Assembly School of Law and Justice (SLJ) became “Law Students for the Day,” as part of a longtime program supported by the Law School’s Public Service Office. This year’s event was co-chaired by Stephanie Michael ’16 and Asmika Dangol ’18.
Selected from a large pool of applicants, the high schoolers spent the morning shadowing law students as they attended classes and went to work at local courthouses. The experience concluded with a tour of the school and lunch.
“The students have a law-related course load in high school, and we send them cases to review in advance, so they’re really prepared to participate,” said Michael.
“We’ve been working with SLJ since its inception in 2004,” said Danielle Sorken, the director of the Law School’s Public Service Office. “The high school students are very insightful and it’s inspiring to hear their perspective on the law.”
“The student who shadowed me was so enthusiastic, well on her way to college, and I’m sure something great after that,” said Dangol, a student in the Law School’s part-time program who works as a paralegal with Legal Aid Society.
“She started the day thinking she wanted to be a prosecutor like she had seen in Law & Order. But after spending the day in criminal court, she left seriously considering a defense career.”
The Public Service Office has worked closely with SLJ on a variety of enrichment programs, including Race Judicata, the annual 5K race in Prospect Park. More than 20 students from the Law School serve as mentors each year to SLJ students, and they continue to support them long after graduation.
“This program has been an invaluable opportunity for our students, many of whom will be the first in their families to go to college,” said Laura Hecht, director of student enrichment at SLJ.
Lauren Jones Watkins ’08, a litigation partner at Lewis Brisbois Bisgaard & Smith, LLP, started working with SLJ as a first-year law student and now serves as a junior board member for the high school.
“I was drawn to the idea of working with youth in the neighborhood who expressed an interest in pursuing a career that I, too, had chosen,” Jones Watkins said.