Thirty-five minority students briefed about law school.
What do rappers Jay-Z and Beanie Sigel have in common with presidential candidates and a prison chaplain? If you asked some of the students who attended the Law Related Career Day at Widener Law’s Delaware campus on Thursday January 24th, they could probably explain to you how a legal education can have such a broad impact.
As part of National Minority Law Student Recruitment Month, thirty-five students from four local high schools learned about how a legal education could benefit them. The program kicked off with a “Welcome to Widener Law” from 3rd-year law student Troy Riddle (Photo 1). Troy promised, “We’re going to have a great day! It’s going to be fun and interactive,” and that assurance proved prescient. To engage his audience, Troy asked a number of questions to see how much the students knew about law schools and the process necessary to get in. He encouraged them to start preparing themselves now by reading, writing, and getting involved, and he ended by saying, “Go to college, do well, and become a productive member of society. We hope that you’ll chose to go to law school.”From Presidents to Prison Chaplains
Professor Kathleen Turezyn followed Troy’s introduction with a lively mock law school class in which she asked the students to examine a case she uses with her first year students, Vaughan v. Menlove from the Court of Common Pleas in England. Professor Turezyn slowly coaxed information out of the students as they explored the concepts of negligence and the standard of ordinary prudence. She concluded by asking, “Who is that ordinary reasonable person against whom you are all judged?” After challenging the students by asking if Troy or Dean Ammons could be considered such a person, she finally got the answer she was looking for when several students concluded that there is in fact no such person, only an artificial construct to serve as a standard to be measured against.
Assistant Dean Eileen Grena of the Legal Education Institute offered the students a helpful look at the steps they needed to take if they wanted to pursue a legal education. She stressed the importance of college, noting that the college experience helped students “Explore new interests, become independent, develop leadership skills, and increase income potential.” Dean Grena also touched on the Legal Education Institute’s Paralegal program, demonstrating that law school was not the only way to pursue a legal career.
The students heard from Assistant Dean Serena Williams next. She led a spirited and engaging discourse, pointing out that twenty-five American presidents have been lawyers, and that many of the current presidential candidates possess a J.D. She also emphasized that earning a J.D. can help a person achieve success in other fields as well, pointing out that she knew a prison chaplain and a museum director, among others, who had law degrees but had chosen to pursue another career path. She asked the students, “What does a law degree do for a prison chaplain?” Eventually, the students came to understand that the law degree allowed the chaplain to understand the legal issues facing inmates she was counseling.Jay-Z, Beanie Sigel, and the Law Clinic Experience
As the event neared its conclusion, the students ate a lunch of pizza and subs while Professor Nathaniel Nichols (Photo 2) gave a presentation on the value of the hands-on legal learning provided by Widener’s law clinics. He used an example from his son’s personal experience in a legal clinic, taking the students through an exercise in which they examined the facts surrounding a legal case that took place in Philadelphia in the summer of 2003 involving rappers Beanie Sigel and Jay-Z. After explaining that his son had participated as an intern in the case through a law clinic, Professor Nichols finished his presentation by noting that his clinical course allows students to be hands-on and act as a lawyer under the supervision of actual lawyers.
The event concluded with the students, who represented Concord High School, Penncrest High School, Ursuline Academy, and the Charter School of Wilmington, enjoying lunch and conversing with the presenters as well as other Widener faculty and staff. Colleen McKeone, Assistant Director of the Admissions Office put the event together with help from Admissions Office staff including Assistant Dean for Admissions Barbara Ayars and Admissions Counselor Allison Rickards. Hopefully some of the bright high school students who attended the event enjoyed what they saw and heard enough to return to Widener as students in the future.