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Early education efforts expose youth to various careers in law

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Harrison Ndife and his peers gathered at the end of a long week to kick back, talk shop and do a little networking.

A rising sophomore at Terre Haute South High School, Ndife had just completed the Summer Legal Institute along with 39 other eighth-graders and high-schoolers. They learned what it will take for them to become lawyers and where their place in the profession might be.
 

egaled-15col.jpg Ice Miller LLP attorney Jonathan Payne talks about careers with students, including Nostalgia Pitts, right, who visited the firm recently as part of the weeklong Indianapolis Summer Legal Institute program sponsored by Chicago-based Just the Beginning – A Pipeline Organization. (IL Photo/ Eric Learned)

“At first I thought I wanted to be a lawyer, but I wasn’t sure,” Ndife said at the institute’s closing ceremony June 20 at Eli Lilly in Indianapolis. Ndife is sure now, after a week’s worth of instruction that immersed him in numerous aspects of the profession.

“Even if I didn’t like one part of the law, there are others I would like,” Ndife learned. He thinks he might like to be a public defender.

Chicago-based Just the Beginning – A Pipeline Organization presented the program as part of its mission to increase racial and economic diversity in the legal profession. Students visited law firms and federal court; heard from numerous lawyers, judges and law students; and honed their writing and speaking skills during sessions at Indiana University Robert H. McKinney School of Law.

The program is part of a growing effort to provide a glimpse into the profession to students who are just beginning to explore career options. In June, the Indianapolis Bar Association Paralegal Committee sponsored its third annual “Careers in Law” fair at the Gambold Preparatory Magnet High School on Indianapolis’ west side. That program looked at careers in the justice system that don’t require law school, as well as some that do.

Organizers of both events acknowledge most students will pursue careers other than law, but they say the skills students gain from such programs are valuable.

“It’s important to be a good writer, to think logically,” said attorney Douglas Hill, director of Hill Fulwider P.C., who presented a session on mediation to the Gambold students. “At this stage, maybe writing well is the most important thing – other than that, getting a broad education and trying to work hard and do well.”

Rising Park Tudor High School freshman Kathryn Ito’s takeaway from the Summer Legal Institute was that a career in law is possible. She said she wants to be a lawyer but realizes how tough it will be.

“The main thing I learned was just how far you can go if you keep pushing yourself,” Ito said. “You can do lots of amazing things.”

Habsa Nayamma, who will be a freshman at Indianapolis’ North Central High School in the fall, presented an appellate oral argument in a mock case involving a student search. Playfully named State v. Ben Lyon, the facts of the case involved discovery of drugs during a strip search following a tip that a student had a knife in a backpack. No knife was found, and there were questions about the propriety of the strip search.

“I think I’m going to be a lawyer,” Nayamma said after her immersive week with the institute. “I like the cases, and I like how the judges explained to us how they proceed.”

Helping out during the institute were numerous law students and undergrads pursuing pre-law studies who had been through the program themselves. Just the Beginning operates Summer Legal Institutes in several cities around country, mostly in the Midwest.

The organization says that in 2013, its summer programs served 314 youths. That year, 65 former program participants who are now in law school received summer internships with judges, five received post-graduate federal clerkships, and 15 received other internships.

Just the Beginning marketing and development director Mark Dinglasan said the organization traces its founding to 1992, when judges saw a need for a program that would promote diversity in the profession.

“We’re building an ecosystem of collaboration between corporate law firms and community organizations,” he said. “Every step of the way, we look for judges and attorneys who want to give back and uplift these young people.”

Julian Harrell, a Taft Stettinius & Hollister LLP associate who mentored students during the program, said he was impressed by their critical-thinking and problem-solving skills. He said the program’s commitment to helping students is apparent. “It’s a pipeline organization dedicated to changing the landscape of the legal community,” Harrell said.

“They can take these skills with them anywhere,” he said of what students learned during the institute.

Taft partner Thomas A. Barnard said law firms and corporations with a commitment to promoting diversity sponsor the institute because they see its promise. “Just the Beginning will help these kids at every step of their professional development,” Barnard said.

At the institute’s closing ceremony, Krystle McNeely, a rising 2L at Northern Illinois University School of Law, shared the lessons she learned years back going through the institute. She stressed that grades matter, and so do activities outside the classroom. That’s true for college as well as law school.

“Do something to let colleges see that you’re a serious student, you’re a balanced person,” McNeely advised students. “Show them that you are going to add to their school.”

Bose McKinney & Evans LLP paralegal Julia Kleinschmidt chairs the IndyBar committee that hosted the Careers in Law event June 11. She said the program aims to instruct students beyond what’s needed to become a lawyer and also “teach kids what is needed to run our justice system.”

This year, in addition to hearing from attorneys, the event looked at 12 careers that don’t require law degrees, such as court reporters, clerks, bailiffs and trial technology experts, Kleinschmidt said.

Professionals who presented talked about how much education was needed for their careers and the kinds of skills needed to succeed. “The value is in presenting the kids with an experience they can relate to,” she said.

But the programs also realize that students are a long way from law school, so part of the mission is to focus on what students can do now. Kleinschmidt said part of the advice is that if students don’t know whether they want a career related to law, that’s OK. There are still some things that apply.

“Don’t close your doors. All these different things are available, and if you work hard in school and don’t get in trouble, then you haven’t barred any careers when you figure it out,” she said.•

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  1. A traditional parade of attorneys? Really Evansville? Y'all need to get out more. When is the traditional parade of notaries? Nurses? Sanitation workers? Pole dancers? I gotta wonder, do throngs of admiring citizens gather to laud these marching servants of the constitution? "Show us your billing records!!!" Hoping some video gets posted. Ours is not a narcissistic profession by any chance, is it? Nah .....

  2. My previous comment not an aside at court. I agree with smith. Good call. Just thought posting here a bit on the if it bleeds it leads side. Most attorneys need to think of last lines of story above.

  3. Hello everyone I'm Gina and I'm here for the exact same thing you are. I have the wonderful joy of waking up every morning to my heart being pulled out and sheer terror of what DCS is going to Throw at me and my family today.Let me start from the !bebeginning.My daughter lost all rights to her 3beautiful children due to Severe mental issues she no longer lives in our state and has cut all ties.DCS led her to belive that once she done signed over her right the babies would be with their family. We have faught screamed begged and anything else we could possibly due I hired a lawyer five grand down the drain.You know all I want is my babies home.I've done everything they have even asked me to do.Now their saying I can't see my grandchildren cause I'M on a prescription for paipain.I have a very rare blood disease it causes cellulitis a form of blood poisoning to stay dormant in my tissues and nervous system it also causes a ,blood clotting disorder.even with the two blood thinners I'm on I still Continue to develop them them also.DCS knows about my illness and still they refuse to let me see my grandchildren. I Love and miss them so much Please can anyone help Us my grandchildren and I they should be worrying about what toy there going to play with but instead there worrying about if there ever coming home again.THANK YOU DCS FOR ALL YOU'VE DONE. ( And if anyone at all has any ideals or knows who can help. Please contact (765)960~5096.only serious callers

  4. He must be a Rethuglican, for if from the other side of the aisle such acts would be merely personal and thus not something that attaches to his professional life. AND ... gotta love this ... oh, and on top of talking dirty on the phone, he also, as an aside, guess we should mention, might be important, not sure, but .... "In addition to these allegations, Keaton was accused of failing to file an appeal after he collected advance payment from a client seeking to challenge a ruling that the client repay benefits because of unreported income." rimshot

  5. I am not a fan of some of the 8.4 discipline we have seen for private conduct-- but this was so egregious and abusive and had so many points of bad conduct relates to the law and the lawyer's status as a lawyer that it is clearly a proper and just disbarment. A truly despicable account of bad acts showing unfit character to practice law. I applaud the outcome.

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