Pre-Law Student Conferences: Washington, Alabama, and Virginia Young Lawyers Encourage Youth Leadership
By Michele Hyndman
Michele Hyndman is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and practices in the Washington, D.C., office of Ernst & Young.
The Washington, Alabama, and Virginia State Bar Associations have done it again! The young lawyers of these state bar associations continue their annual endeavors to develop young professionals of the next generation through pre-law conferences. Pre-law conferences inspire students to seek and attain high goals, both for themselves and for the benefit of their communities.
The Washington Young Lawyer’s Pre-Law Student Leadership Conference
The Washington State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division (WYLD) has organized another successful initiative targeted at helping minority students focus on their futures. The WYLD hosted over 100 of the best and brightest students from around the state at its sixth annual Pre-Law Student Leadership Conference held in early May at the Yakima Convention Center in Seattle, Washington. The purpose of the conference is to encourage at-risk and minority students to pursue college, law school, and a legal career. The conference also encourages the students to take active leadership roles in their communities. Overall, the conference emphasizes the importance of staying in school and being an active member of society.
During the conference, students participated in a variety of interactive workshops during which they discussed case studies relating to pressing legal issues affecting youth, including criminal, environmental, discrimination, and family law issues. Led by thirty volunteers, the workshops allowed the students to work together to develop action plans they can implement on their own. The volunteers consisted of attorneys and judges from around the state as well as community leaders who facilitated the day and served as mentors and role models to the students.
At this year’s conference, Yakima County Deputy Prosecuting Attorney Alvin Guzman provided the keynote address. Guzman gave a riveting account of his time as a gang member in the lower Yakima Valley and the choices and sacrifices he made to become a lawyer. At the end of the day, each student received a certificate of participation.
One of the goals of the WYLD is to develop and conduct programs of value to young lawyers and the public. The Pre-Law Student Leadership Conference is certainly one method the WYLD has implemented to attain such a goal.
Alabama State Bar Minority Pre-Law Conference
Similar to the WYLD, one of the goals of the Alabama State Bar’s Young Lawyers Section (AYLS) is to assist lawyers around Alabama in making a difference in their communities. The Minority Pre-Law Conference is one such endeavor. The Minority Pre-Law Conference was implemented over fifteen years ago by members of the AYLS Executive Committee and provides young lawyers in Alabama an opportunity to assist in making a difference in their communities by inviting high school juniors and seniors from schools around Central Alabama to participate in a case study with actual fact scenarios and a mock trial.
The conference is designed to introduce high school juniors and seniors to the American civil and criminal justice system. During the conference, students have an opportunity to view a simulated trial, performed by practicing lawyers. This experience gives students a better understanding of how the U.S. court system resolves legal conflicts and the roles judges, lawyers, juries, and witnesses play in the system. Through participation in the mock trial, students gain an insider’s perspective on courtroom procedure. In addition, many minority lawyers practicing in different fields of law participate in a panel to discuss their daily activities, so students gain insight into the many different opportunities available in the legal profession. This part of the conference provides students a unique opportunity to meet and talk with practicing minority lawyers. The conference also provides a luncheon with a special keynote speaker to which high schools in the surrounding local areas are invited.
Virginia State Bar Young Lawyers Conference
The Virginia State Bar hosts an annual Minority Pre-Law Conference to expose minority college students to the many aspects of a legal career. The Pre-Law Conference covers all aspects of students’ entering the legal profession—LSAT prep courses, mock law school classes, and a mock trial. Students engage in panel discussions with judges, practicing attorneys, and students, which provides valuable information to Virginia students considering a career in the law.
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The conferences introduced minority and at-risk students across the states of Washington, Alabama, and Virginia to the legal profession. Lawyers, judges, and community leaders encourage and inspire the young students who participate in these pre-law conferences to focus on their futures regardless of whether the students are interested in the law. Such encouragement is important for the development of the next generation of young professionals.