July 11, 2022
From the Classroom to the Courtroom — A Pipeline to the Legal Field
The room was buzzing with excitement as a pair of in-house attorneys and a Southwestern law student entered a local LAUSD classroom. The team quickly made introductions, and before they knew it, the students were whisked away into a world of contracts, negotiations, and jury trials. Little did they know through these fun and engaging activities, they were learning about the practice of law. That's the point of Southwestern Law School’s and the Association of Corporate Counsel of Southern California's (ACC) program — to engage and inspire the next generation of students.
The Diversity Pipeline Program at Dorsey High School was created by Commissioner Laura Cohen over ten years ago to expose high school students to different areas of the law and, at the same time, create networking opportunities for Southwestern law students. The program places ACC members assisted by a Southwestern Law student into a classroom at Dorsey High School for four to six visits, ending in a culmination event at Southwestern Law School. For many Dorsey students, the visit to Southwestern is the program's highlight. The event includes a campus tour and engaging in law-related activities. The students leave Southwestern with a better understanding of what it is like to be a law student.
Another goal of the program is to demystify the legal system and provide positive adult role models to students who may have negative experiences with the legal system or never met an attorney before this experience. One ACC volunteer shared that "Many members of ACC Southern California are first in their families to enter higher education or faced adversity in reaching our goals. For those reasons, we are committed to inspiring the next generation of leaders to enter the world of law. Teaching law in partnership with Dorsey High School is one of our most important – and enjoyable – methods for creating that pipeline from high school to law school. By providing substantive classes in subjects ranging from contracts to entertainment law, we hope that the students of Dorsey start viewing law as a worthwhile and achievable career. Because where we went, they can travel the same."
Jesse Lucas, the law student for this year’s program, shared that the program offered a great opportunity to work with students and help expose them to the possibility of a future legal career. He also enjoyed working with in-house counsel from ACC, working with the attorneys, and learning about their respective fields.
When asked about the program, 94% of the Dorsey students reported the program helped them learn about different areas of the law, 82% now feel more positive towards the legal system, and 93% shared the program has opened their minds to the legal field as a future career path. When asked to describe their experience, Dorsey students shared that the program was "fun," "inspiring," "informative," and "motivating."
Dorsey teacher Montoya Long has witnessed firsthand how the program has impacted the students. Ms. Long shared, "Over the past ten years, the ACC/Southwestern partnership has provided meaningful, relevant, real-world educational outreach, positively impacting the students of our law pathway. Through this partnership, Dorsey High School students gain knowledge and understanding; they feel a sense of empowerment to actively engage in law-related topics. Our scholars look forward to the innovative lessons presented and taught by attorneys representing diverse backgrounds, fields, and levels of law. Our students are given opportunities to interact with attorneys and participate in this partnership. As a result of this collaboration, more of our students have explored careers in the legal field."
Southwestern is proud to partner with ACC and to continue its commitment to creating a pipeline to the legal field for LAUSD students.