Summer law camp introduces 60 youngsters to legal profession
While many high school students are lounging by the pool or sitting in front of the TV playing video games, 15-year-old Myleena Torres has been studying a future as a lawyer.
Torres was one of 60 high school and undergraduate students attending Summer Law Camp at the Sandra Day O'Connor College of Law on June 16-17. The students toured the law school, learned how to brief a case, presented arguments during a mock trial, learned about the law school application process and chatted with law students.
The incoming sophomore at Avondale's La Joya Community High School enjoyed learning the details about how to become a lawyer and gaining the exposure to college life.
"I thought it would be a good opportunity to explore new things," Torres said.
Students came from all over Arizona including Phoenix, Tucson, and the Navajo Nation. A few others came from New Mexico, Minnesota, and South Dakota for the free introduction to the legal profession sponsored by the State Bar of Arizona and the law school's Indian Legal Program.
The camp was part of the State Bar's diversity pipeline and outreach programs. The idea was to encourage people who have been historically underrepresented to start preparing for a career as a lawyer while at a young age.
"It really has the students thinking," said Kate Rosier, director of the Indian Legal Program at the law school.
Xenia Velasco, a senior at Trevor Browne High in Phoenix, said a law degree would help her make needed changes to the world.
"I see a lot of discrepancies, a lot of flaws in the system, and I think if I could get to a position where I'm making the laws, I would be able to fix those discrepancies and make it fairer for people," Velasco said.
After the first day of the camp, she told her mother, "Yes, it looks hard, but it's motivating me. I want to be a law student."
Fernanda Muñoz, a junior at San Tan Foothills High in Queen Creek, said she especially enjoyed a mock trial with Rebecca Tsosie, the ILP's Executive Director and a professor at the College of Law. "I understood everything she was saying, and it was a really interesting class," Muñoz said.
During a lunchtime conversation with State Bar CEO/Executive Director John Phelps, the students asked questions like, "Why is the Bar exam so hard?" and, "Can a lawyer represent himself?"
State Bar Diversity Director I. Godwin Otu encouraged the students to pepper the presenters with questions.
"They have really taken advantage of the opportunity which makes me very happy," he said.
Otu said the State Bar and the law school are considering holding the program again next year since the student interest was so high.
"It's a very rewarding, collaborative effort," he said.
The Indian Legal Program and the State Bar are involved in many other programs to increase diversity in the legal profession.
Rosier is involved with programs focusing on mentoring, recruitment and retention.
Otu also coordinates the Bar Leadership Institute, a nine-month State Bar of Arizona program designed to foster the professional development and leadership skills of lawyers from diverse backgrounds.
For Chudy Nwachukwu, the law camp helped him gain insight on specializing in a practice area. He will soon graduate from St. Cloud State University with a master's degree in electrical engineering. While at the camp, he received some contact information for local patent lawyers to discuss the ins and the outs of the specialty.
Nwachukwu, who heard about the camp through a friend, is glad he had a chance to participate in the intensive workshops.
"It has helped with my decision making," Nwachukwu, 23, said.
The Minnesota student is considering applying to law school at ASU, Harvard and universities in California.
For more information on the Summer Law Camp and other State Bar diversity programs, contact Rosie Figueroa at 602-340-7393.
E-mail State Bar Communications Coordinator Rachael Myer at Rachael.firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Rachael Myer
State Bar of Arizona Communications Coordinator
Edited by Janie Magruder
Sandra Day O’Connor College of Law