School may have been out at the Moritz College of Law over the summer, but many of the College’s faculty, staff, students and even alumni were busy volunteering for the Law & Leadership Institute for high school students.
The brainchild of several Ohio law school deans, including former Moritz Dean Nancy Rogers, the Institute (not to be confused with the College’s Program on Law and Leadership for its law students) is now in its second year and is modeled after a similar one in New York. The concept arose in 2006 during a retreat held with the nine deans of Ohio’s law schools, Chief Justice Thomas Moyer ’64 of the Supreme Court of Ohio, and the leadership of the Ohio State Bar Association.
“It really is a wonderful opportunity for many young students who may not have thought about law for a number of reasons,” Moyer said. “And what we’re doing with the program is exposing them to opportunities that may have never occurred to them.”
Supported by the state’s law schools, the Ohio State Bar Foundation, the Kettering Foundation, the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education, and the Supreme Court of Ohio, the Institute is an initiative to increase the number of minorities involved in the justice system.
“It’s important to build the diversity of the profession and leadership more broadly,” Rogers said. “And I think it is important to give kids who have the promise to be those leaders and those lawyers, but are in underserved schools and without the economic resources, a strong chance to have that kind of a future.”
Cleveland and Columbus schools piloted the program during the summer of 2008 with about 40 rising ninth grade students between the two cities. The program has now grown to include students in Akron, Toledo, Cincinnati, and Dayton.
“The goal of the Law & Leadership Institute is to introduce students to the law, introduce them to what lawyers do, and to give them the opportunity to see what a career in law might be,” said Kathy Northern, Moritz’s associate dean for admissions, at the program’s orientation. “But more importantly it is an opportunity to begin to develop your leadership skills.”
On Moritz’s campus, 18 rising freshmen and 10 returning sophomores from Columbus City Schools participated in the five-week program weekdays from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m.
The potential lawyers were exposed to law in variety of ways: field trips, class activities, and guest speakers. There were even homework assignments and weekly tests. The freshmen-year curriculum primarily includes criminal law while the sophomore students learned about consumer law and torts, as well as the PSAT and writing practice. During the school year, the students will attend Saturday classes to continue to hone both their legal and leadership skills.
The students had opportunities to visit with a number of people in the law community including Judge Algenon L. Marbley of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Ohio, as well as Chief Justice Moyer.
Moritz alumna Suzanne K. Richards ’74 also was involved in the Institute, taking on the role of coordinating the internship week for the rising 10th grade students during the summer. “Even if these students don’t go into law, they will be enriched and will in turn enrich the institutions they eventually become a part of,” Richards said.
Not only does the Law & Leadership Institute provide opportunities for the high school students, it also provided an opportunity for Moritz students to serve as teachers for the program.
3L and volunteer Roshni Baldeo Phalgoo, a first-generation college student, said she could identify with many of the students.
“Watching these kids is like watching me and my friends when we were back in high school,” she said. “It really is a long way to the top so I hope the program helps them to learn better and think better. Every skill you enhance can only make you better.”
Tags: Kathy Northern, Nancy Rogers, Thomas Moyer