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Students learn through Leaders in Firms Emerging

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Jasmine Batts, wearing a black skirt and matching short-sleeved blazer, makes her way across downtown Indianapolis, walking from Kightlinger & Gray to Ice Miller for a lunchtime meeting. Along the way, she calls Jenny Ellis, director of administration for Kightlinger & Gray, to let her know she will meet her at a coffee shop before the meeting.

She arrives early to meet Ellis, like any smart businesswoman would. But what sets her apart from the hundreds of other busy professionals traversing downtown is that Jasmine is just 16 years old.

Jasmine is one of five students from Shortridge Magnet High School for Law & Public Policy who got a summer internship through a new program called L.I.F.E. (Leaders in Firms Emerging) Beyond Shortridge. Ellis created the program with the support of the Association of Legal Administrators, Indiana Chapter, and with funding from the national ALA.
 

life-15col Jasmine Batts, right, a summer intern at Kightlinger & Gray, presents materials for review to Director of Administration Jenny Ellis. (IL Photo/ Perry Reichanadter)

All sophomores at Shortridge are eligible to participate in the L.I.F.E. curriculum, which covers subjects like mock interviewing, résumé writing, and workplace conflict resolution. Students who wanted to be summer interns had to attend two after-school sessions this spring. And Ellis said she wanted students to know that law firms offer plenty of non-lawyer jobs that might suit their interests. About 20 firms have lent their support for the project by hiring interns, speaking to the group, or underwriting the group’s weekly lunches. Ellis said that even if these students decide working in a law office is not what they want to do, the lessons they learn through the internships will be helpful in any career.

A working lunch

At Ice Miller, the students – accompanied by a chaperone from their place of employment – have gathered around a conference room table. The first item on today’s weekly meeting agenda: Business lunch etiquette.

Abigail Martin, senior paralegal for Betz & Blevins, reminds the students that the following week, they will be attending the ALA chapter meeting at the swanky Skyline Club in downtown Indianapolis, where membership is by invitation only. Martin asks the students if any of them have attended a business luncheon before. Nibbling on pizza, the students answer her question with blank looks.

Martin gives the students some pointers – be courteous to your server; don’t slurp your soup; don’t cut up all your food before you eat it.

Dominique Knox, the lone male intern, interjects with the question: “What do you do if you don’t like the food that they serve?”

Martin explains that the food at business luncheons may sometimes be tasteless and unappetizing; the adults in the room nod in agreement. She advises the teens to make an effort to eat the food when possible, and Ellis reveals a secret standby excuse to use in case of emergencies: I’m sorry; I can’t eat (some ingredient in this dish).

The guest speaker at the ALA luncheon will be talking about cost-benefit analysis, and Ellis – without talking down to the students – explains the concept so that the teens will be better able to understand the lecture. Martin tells them that even if they don’t realize it, they engage in cost-benefit analysis every time they go to the store and compare the prices on bags of chips and think about how to get the most for their money.

The students are asked to talk about what they’re doing at work and how their weeks have been. Chinaa Harris has been working the phones at Wooden & McLaughlin, through an arrangement with IST Management Services. Ellis said that when she called the firm recently, she hadn’t immediately recognized Chinaa’s voice, due to her mature, professional demeanor. Chinaa says working the multi-line phone is a challenge and that she doesn’t like to hear her own voice when paging people over the intercom. That may be why she refuses requests from people at the table to use her “phone voice.”

Justina Fields remarks that she’s been doing a lot of stapling at LewisWagner. Soft-spoken Makiyla Gaddie passes on the question. And Dominique returns to the topic of table etiquette.

“Is there a certain time limit that you should have to talk at a table? Because I’ve been to lunches where basically only one person talks the whole time,” he says, eliciting a round of hardy laughter from the room.

Mark Goins, facilities coordinator for Barnes & Thornburg, tells Dominique, “Some people are uncomfortable with silence, so if there are not other people talking, they feel like they have to fill that gap and over-talk.”

“What do you do when someone cuts you off?” Dominique asks.

“That’s when you learn how to suffer gracefully,” Goins says. Vicki Bruce, chief operations officer for Bose McKinney & Evans, where Dominique works, tells the student to make sure he circles back to finish his thought after being interrupted.

The students continue asking questions about dining etiquette – about lessons many adults know, but can’t say where they learned them. Jasmine makes an astute observation: “As I look around, I see that everybody over there has glasses, and we’re drinking out of the cans.”

“If you do notice something like that,” Bruce says, “help yourself to a glass of ice and pour your drink into it so it makes you feel more comfortable. Because the older you get, the more you’ll be drinking out of glasses instead of the can.”

Jasmine smiles sheepishly and says, “Yeah, because I feel like a little kid right now.”

Next steps

Shortridge will be adopting a year-round curriculum beginning this fall, Ellis said, and she’s unsure how that will affect L.I.F.E.’s ability to offer internships. She said she hopes that the opportunities can be tailored to the students’ availability. In the meantime, the program will hold a writing contest, with the top three finishers giving an oral presentation at an ALA meeting.

Ellis is working on a plan that other cities can adapt for use in their schools. As the child of two teachers – one of whom retired from Shortridge before it was a magnet school – Ellis places a lot of value on education’s role in shaping well-rounded, engaged members of society.

“These kids are delightful, energetic, smart, inquisitive,” she said. “In addition to learning tasks, they’re learning a lot about themselves.”•
 

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  1. Yes diversity is so very important. With justice Rucker off ... the court is too white. Still too male. No Hispanic justice. No LGBT justice. And there are other checkboxes missing as well. This will not do. I say hold the seat until a physically handicapped Black Lesbian of Hispanic heritage and eastern religious creed with bipolar issues can be located. Perhaps an international search, with a preference for third world candidates, is indicated. A non English speaker would surely increase our diversity quotient!!!

  2. First, I want to thank Justice Rucker for his many years of public service, not just at the appellate court level for over 25 years, but also when he served the people of Lake County as a Deputy Prosecutor, City Attorney for Gary, IN, and in private practice in a smaller, highly diverse community with a history of serious economic challenges, ethnic tensions, and recently publicized but apparently long-standing environmental health risks to some of its poorest residents. Congratulations for having the dedication & courage to practice law in areas many in our state might have considered too dangerous or too poor at different points in time. It was also courageous to step into a prominent and highly visible position of public service & respect in the early 1990's, remaining in a position that left you open to state-wide public scrutiny (without any glitches) for over 25 years. Yes, Hoosiers of all backgrounds can take pride in your many years of public service. But people of color who watched your ascent to the highest levels of state government no doubt felt even more as you transcended some real & perhaps some perceived social, economic, academic and professional barriers. You were living proof that, with hard work, dedication & a spirit of public service, a person who shared their same skin tone or came from the same county they grew up in could achieve great success. At the same time, perhaps unknowingly, you helped fellow members of the judiciary, court staff, litigants and the public better understand that differences that are only skin-deep neither define nor limit a person's character, abilities or prospects in life. You also helped others appreciate that people of different races & backgrounds can live and work together peacefully & productively for the greater good of all. Those are truths that didn't have to be written down in court opinions. Anyone paying attention could see that truth lived out every day you devoted to public service. I believe you have been a "trailblazer" in Indiana's legal community and its judiciary. I also embrace your belief that society's needs can be better served when people in positions of governmental power reflect the many complexions of the population that they serve. Whether through greater understanding across the existing racial spectrum or through the removal of some real and some perceived color-based, hope-crushing barriers to life opportunities & success, movement toward a more reflective representation of the population being governed will lead to greater and uninterrupted respect for laws designed to protect all peoples' rights to life, liberty & the pursuit of happiness. Thanks again for a job well-done & for the inevitable positive impact your service has had - and will continue to have - on countless Hoosiers of all backgrounds & colors.

  3. Diversity is important, but with some limitations. For instance, diversity of experience is a great thing that can be very helpful in certain jobs or roles. Diversity of skin color is never important, ever, under any circumstance. To think that skin color changes one single thing about a person is patently racist and offensive. Likewise, diversity of values is useless. Some values are better than others. In the case of a supreme court justice, I actually think diversity is unimportant. The justices are not to impose their own beliefs on rulings, but need to apply the law to the facts in an objective manner.

  4. Have been seeing this wonderful physician for a few years and was one of his patients who told him about what we were being told at CVS. Multiple ones. This was a witch hunt and they shold be ashamed of how patients were treated. Most of all, CVS should be ashamed for what they put this physician through. So thankful he fought back. His office is no "pill mill'. He does drug testing multiple times a year and sees patients a minimum of four times a year.

  5. Brian W, I fear I have not been sufficiently entertaining to bring you back. Here is a real laugh track that just might do it. When one is grabbed by the scruff of his worldview and made to choose between his Confession and his profession ... it is a not a hard choice, given the Confession affects eternity. But then comes the hardship in this world. Imagine how often I hear taunts like yours ... "what, you could not even pass character and fitness after they let you sit and pass their bar exam ... dude, there must really be something wrong with you!" Even one of the Bishop's foremost courtiers said that, when explaining why the RCC refused to stand with me. You want entertaining? How about watching your personal economy crash while you have a wife and five kids to clothe and feed. And you can't because you cannot work, because those demanding you cast off your Confession to be allowed into "their" profession have all the control. And you know that they are wrong, dead wrong, and that even the professional code itself allows your Faithful stand, to wit: "A lawyer may refuse to comply with an obligation imposed by law upon a good faith belief that no valid obligation exists. The provisions of Rule 1.2(d) concerning a good faith challenge to the validity, scope, meaning or application of the law apply to challenges of legal regulation of the practice of law." YET YOU ARE A NONPERSON before the BLE, and will not be heard on your rights or their duties to the law -- you are under tyranny, not law. And so they win in this world, you lose, and you lose even your belief in the rule of law, and demoralization joins poverty, and very troubling thoughts impeaching self worth rush in to fill the void where your career once lived. Thoughts you did not think possible. You find yourself a failure ... in your profession, in your support of your family, in the mirror. And there is little to keep hope alive, because tyranny rules so firmly and none, not the church, not the NGO's, none truly give a damn. Not even a new court, who pay such lip service to justice and ancient role models. You want entertainment? Well if you are on the side of the courtiers running the system that has crushed me, as I suspect you are, then Orwell must be a real riot: "There will be no curiosity, no enjoyment of the process of life. All competing pleasures will be destroyed. But always — do not forget this, Winston — always there will be the intoxication of power, constantly increasing and constantly growing subtler. Always, at every moment, there will be the thrill of victory, the sensation of trampling on an enemy who is helpless. If you want a picture of the future, imagine a boot stamping on a human face — forever." I never thought they would win, I always thought that at the end of the day the rule of law would prevail. Yes, the rule of man's law. Instead power prevailed, so many rules broken by the system to break me. It took years, but, finally, the end that Dr Bowman predicted is upon me, the end that she advised the BLE to take to break me. Ironically, that is the one thing in her far left of center report that the BLE (after stamping, in red ink, on Jan 22) is uninterested in, as that the BLE and ADA office that used the federal statute as a sword now refuses to even dialogue on her dire prediction as to my fate. "C'est la vie" Entertaining enough for you, status quo defender?

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