In September, DePaul College of Law’s Pro Bono & Community Service Initiative partnered with Legal Prep Charter Academy as part of a large-scale initiative to improve the diversity of Chicago's future legal community.
Legal Prep is Chicago's first and only legal-themed public high school. Located in West Garfield Park, the academy prepares students for college and career challenges by teaching logical, analytical and critical thinking skills. The school opened its doors to 240 inner-city students on August 20, 2012.
As part of its curriculum, Legal Prep also creates opportunities for students to learn from business and legal professionals.
To meet these challenges, DePaul is participating in a series of structured lessons and activities designed to provide students with a basic understanding of legal reasoning skills. College of Law volunteers, from law students, faculty, alumni and staff, have quickly assembled, meeting with students approximately once a month to focus on the various components of a trial, including witness preparation, opening and closing statements, and direct and cross examinations.
Volunteer teachers developed lessons around a mock civil case. In the case, a teenage plaintiff is suing a police officer for excessive use of force in his arrest, in violation of his civil and constitutional rights. The details of the mock case provide an engaging context for the Legal Prep students to learn trial skills.
DePaul’s volunteer team has organized five 90-minute sessions with Legal Prep students, with most sessions taking place at the College of Law.
The volunteers will continue working with the Legal Prep students this spring, with six sessions on the calendar for January through May 2013. The year-long volunteer commitment will culminate in a mock trial with Legal Prep students working in teams and competing against each other.
DePaul Alumna Linda Bryceland is one of many program volunteers who founds the experience invigorating. “Interacting with the students as they gain interest in the case and begin to analyze and question the evidence has been a rewarding experience for me. I hope the students enjoy our meetings as much as I do.”
Second year law student Crystal Jackson offered a personal take. “The experience was very gratifying because the young ladies hail from the same community in which I grew up," Ms. Jackson says. "Their ability to advocate for a position, ask probing questions, and defend their position displayed the effectiveness of this program. I cannot wait to do it again.”
DePaul’s Legal Prep volunteer team includes Dean Gregory Mark and Professor Mark Moller, PBCSI Director Cheryl Price and Assistant Director of Recruiting Elizabeth Boe. Alumni Linda Bryceland, Michelle Miller, Jessica Schneider and Andrea McKenna also generously contributed to the program.
Law students William Guardia (1L), Jacquita Richardson (1L), Taylor Goulbourn (2L), Crystal Jackson (2L), Cami Taylor (3L), Rebecca Birger (3L) and Sarah Gorham (3L) brought their expertise and skill to the Legal Prep Charter Academy.