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How the LLI Program Changed the Students and Professors, while Bringing Law to Life

“The law is constantly changing and progressing,” wrote Abby Bentson ’15 in a reflection piece about her experience as one the Law and Leadership Institute (LLI) instructors. “LLI strives to make sure the face of the law keeps up.”

To facilitate the LLI program, law students are hired to work as teachers for the 9th – 12th graders. Both teachers and students benefit from the experience. “All in all, I think that LLI was great for me because it allowed me to work on my synthesis of the law,” wrote Juan Holloman ‘15 in his reflection piece. He worked with 9th graders. “Legalese is not a language that lay persons speak on a regular basis, and having to think of strategies to deliver a legal idea in a way that a 9th grader would find interesting works wonders for your ability to effectively communicate.”

Holloman is a former teacher and worked in the education field prior to law school. After his teaching fellowship ended in spring 2012, he thought he’d never enter another classroom as an instructor. Thus, he was pleasantly surprised to learn about the LLI program and UC Law’s participation. “I realized that LLI was the perfect opportunity for me: a chance to work with not only other motivated and smart law students, but also students who had applied to take part in this summer program.”

Students benefit personally and educationally from the program. Noted Bentson, “LLI has a large impact in local communities. The high school graduation rate for LLI participants is unbelievably high. Students in underserved communities are encouraged to pursue their dreams to continue their education at the college level. The various programs expose high school students to positive role models within the community, but the relationships are often symbiotic. The attorneys often find themselves learning from these students, as well as having fun. These youthful perspectives serve as an insight into legal situations of which lawyers may not even be aware.”

 

All the students agreed that the LLI program is invaluable. It gets motivated students thinking about careers in law at an age when they have a world of possibilities before them. Wrote Bentson, “By establishing LLI programs in urban settings, Ohio is building a more diverse legal community. Training caring, excellent lawyers for practice is an attainable goal.”

 

How the Constitution Came to Life

Melissa Schuett ’14, LLI 10th grade teacher, shared one experience about how the Constitution came to life—literally—for her students.

REFLECTIONS ON TEACHING LAW AND LEADERSHIP INSTITUTE

It was every teacher’s nightmare.  There we were, in the middle of Fountain Square with a dozen 10th graders, surrounded by gruesome, vivid pictures displayed for an abortion protest.  At that point, a group of strangely dressed individuals with signs ran into Fountain Square to protest the protest.  The students looked at the pictures, the protesters, and then us.  Some students looked bothered by the pictures while others just ignored them. 

“How are they allowed to put those pictures up here? I mean, there could be children walking through here,” Kellan Robinson, a student from Walnut Hills High School, said to me.  Then, I realized how fortuitous the event really was because we had just discussed the First Amendment in class.  In fact, we had conducted a lesson on Time, Place, and Manner restrictions the previous day.  

I explained to Kellan and Lydia Hargrove, another Walnut Hills High School student, how the city is unable to prevent the protesters from conducting a protest based on the content of their speech, as we had discussed in class.  I went on to describe examples of appropriate Time, Place, and Manner restrictions such as not on the sidewalk, after 10 p.m., or with a megaphone.  After returning to the law school, we continued the discussion with the entire class.  The students peppered us with questions about protests including whether the protesters could be arrested, what kind of restrictions Cincinnati could impose, who would enforce the restrictions, and whether the group of strangely-dressed individuals that marched on Fountain Square to protest the protest could be removed and why.

Over the previous two weeks, we had discussed a variety of topics with the students: from consumer law to contract formation to the death penalty and the Eighth Amendment to student speech in schools.  They had learned to brief cases and write memos using the IRAC format; they had studied vocabulary lists and read the third book from the Hunger Games trilogy: Mockingjay.  They had prepared to debate both sides of the death penalty and how to be professionals in their upcoming internships in courthouses and legal offices such as P&G’s legal department;  Frost, Brown, Todd; xpedx; and Dinsmore and Shohl.

“LLI is amazing. It gives me more opportunities to better my future. It’s an experience like no other and it’s helpful because I feel like it gives me an advantage while pursuing my law career,” said Jaley Dyer of Hughes STEM High School, on the final day of her internship at Squire Sanders.

“What you saw was your Constitution at work,” I explained at the end of the class discussion.  Truly, this was a moment to behold. The students had learned about content-based and content-neutral restrictions on speech; witnessed a protest; and finally, applied the lesson to the protest they had witnessed.  We could tell that these students had indeed learned about the Constitution and what freedom of speech really means.  In the end, instead of the protest being a teacher’s worst nightmare, it was a tangible moment that illustrated classroom lessons.