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Case School of Law to host summer program for Shaw High School students

Case Western Reserve University School of Law will host up to 25 students from East Cleveland’s Shaw High School for two weeks this summer in an effort to interest more young African-Americans in pursuing legal careers.

Beginning June 13, the law school will be home to a summer legal academy, designed to expose students to various career paths in the legal profession. They will hear talks from lawyers, judges, prosecutors, legal aid attorneys and others who make their living practicing law. The students are in Shaw’s Leadership Academy: School for Law, Public Safety and Human Relations, one of the schools created under East Cleveland’s “Small Schools” initiative.

“This will be an intensive program aimed at giving the students a better sense of the legal profession and where they might find a place in it,” explained Katherine Hessler, professor in the Case School of Law Milton A. Kramer Law Clinic Center and a member of the committee planning the program.

Gerald Korngold, dean of the law school and McCurdy Professor of Law said, “We are happy to host this innovative program involving both members of the legal profession and students from our neighboring community of East Cleveland. Community involvement is integral to the mission of our law school.”

Other law school faculty teaching in the program will include Jonathan Gordon, an instructor; Associate Professor William Carter; Associate Professor Timothy Casey; Judith Lipton, professor and co-director of the Kramer Clinic; and Professor Kevin McMunigal.

Over the course of the two weeks, students will learn about legal concepts such as torts, copyrights, family law, and criminal law. Their instruction will come through lectures, readings,

mock trials and other participatory exercises. For example, in learning about students’ rights, the students will view parts of the movies “Bowling for Columbine” and “Lean on Me” and for torts they will discuss an infamous 19th-century case involving cannibalism. In learning about copyrights, the students will study issues surrounding electronic downloading of music. “We want to use tools that are relevant to their lives,” said Hessler. Students will also be required to keep journals.

Along with their classroom work, the students will spend one day shadowing an attorney or judge to get a sense of what the profession is like on a day-to-day basis.

Lori Urogdy Eiler, a long-time social studies teacher at Shaw and the school’s liaison for the Leadership Academy, said that to be eligible for the program students will have to have successfully completed 10th or 11th grade and at least one year of Shaw’s Street Law program. They will also have to write an essay explaining why they want to work in the legal profession and participate in the program. Other criteria will include the students’ school records, grades in Street Law, participation in leadership/law-related school activities, and capacity for success in the program.

“Our kids are really excited about this outstanding opportunity,” says Eiler. “Our main problem will be selection because there will be many more kids wanting to participate than there will be room for.”

Jacquelyn Hampton, principal of the Leadership Academy said, “I’m very happy that our students will have the opportunity to be part of this exciting program. Being able to learn about the law at Case with outstanding professors and legal professionals from the community, while you are still in high school, is the chance of a lifetime.”

According to Barbara Greenberg, executive director of the Cuyahoga County Bar Association, the idea for the academy grew out of discussions between Lester Potash, former president of the association, and Rufus Sims, former president of the Norman S. Minor Bar Association (an organization of African-American lawyers in Cuyahoga County). Potash and Sims talked about law schools’ struggles to attract and retain African-American students, and the dearth of practicing African-American attorneys and judges relative to the number of criminal defendants.

“They (Potash and Sims) asked themselves how we could get more diversity into our law student population, leading to more diversity among practitioners,” Greenberg said. “They began looking around the country for models of programs we could use here.”

Potash and Sims contacted Molly Weiser, the executive director of the Racial Fairness Project and a Case School of Law graduate, and with her help put together a planning committee of legal professionals which included Hessler and Jonathan Gordon. The program is funded primarily with a $25,000 grant from the Ohio State Bar Foundation.

Eiler said her students are eager to see the program. “A lot of our kids have a real passion for the law. My 9th graders are already asking if they can be in the program next year.”

 

About Case Western Reserve University

Case is among the nation's leading research institutions. Founded in 1826 and shaped by the unique merger of the Case Institute of Technology and Western Reserve University, Case is distinguished by its strengths in education, research, service, and experiential learning. Located in Cleveland, Case offers nationally recognized programs in the Arts and Sciences, Dental Medicine, Engineering, Law, Management, Medicine, Nursing, and Social Work. http://www.case.edu.