New program at UT uses law to teach high school students leadership lessons

July 29, 2009 | News, UToday
By Jon Strunk

A program newly expanded to Toledo is using the law to sharpen Toledo Public School ninth-graders’ reading, writing and critical thinking skills as the Ohio Supreme Court and state and local bar associations partner with The University of Toledo College of Law.

Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith Lanzinger will speak to the 29 students attending the five-week Law & Leadership Institute Thursday, July 30, at 9:30 a.m. in Law Center Room 1011 on Main Campus.

“Historically, the legal profession’s diversity has been lacking. We want to use this program to reach out to minority and economically disadvantaged students to show them what the law is like and what skills are required for success,” said UT Law Professor Marilyn Preston, who is directing the program. “We want to use the Law & Leadership Institute to create a pipeline that will illuminate the legal path for a more diverse population.”

The Law & Leadership Institute began last summer as a pilot program for youth to compete at high academic levels through the use of legal and educational programming. The program is designed to foster vision, develop leadership skills and confidence, and cultivate a passion to pursue higher education and a legal career.

Students entering the ninth grade will learn about the theory and practice of law, meet with guest speakers from all areas of the legal profession, examine the litigation process, and end the summer with a mock trial competition.

“The Law & Leadership Institute recognizes that there are talented young people in Ohio who, given academic opportunities and support, would make excellent members of the legal profession,” said Ohio Supreme Court Chief Justice Thomas J. Moyer. “The institute provides that opening and prepares interested high school students from the city schools to face the rigors of higher education and offers them an opportunity to ‘dream the dream’ of becoming an attorney.”

Students will be invited back to the program each summer through graduation, and new groups of students from each grade level will enter the program behind them. Preston said UT also plans to engage the students periodically during the academic year.

The Law & Leadership Institute is modeled after a similar program in New York City that has seen marked increases in participating students attending and graduating from college. Launched in Cleveland and Columbus last summer, the program has expanded to include Cincinnati, Dayton, Akron and Toledo.

“Whether these students choose legal careers, the ability to write well and the critical thinking skills the law helps to develop will serve students well as they become leaders in a broad array of professional careers,” Preston said.

The institute is sponsored by the Ohio Supreme Court, the Ohio State Bar Foundation, the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education, local bar associations and all Ohio law schools.

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