Students encourage local youth through Street Law program

Dec. 16, 2013

Iris Yokoi

Street Law lesson

Ryan Tikker ('16) gathers information from Middle College High students during a criminal investigation exercise at UCI Law.

In 2011, students at UCI Law learned about a national organization dedicated to educating members of the public, especially younger students, about law, democracy and human rights worldwide. It was a natural program for UCI Law’s public interest-minded students to embrace.

Each year since, dozens of UCI Law students have volunteered their time to host the Street Law program at UCI Law. During the 2013 school year, 40 participating law students helped teach 500 local young people about the law.

The UCI Law students work with volunteer in-house counsel from the Association of Corporate Counsel, Southern California Chapter and Middle College High School in Santa Ana to reach youths there.

The law students and mentor attorneys typically sign up in August for the program, then meet several times to plan the lessons, customizing them and providing a personal touch to the standard lesson plans provided by Street Law, Inc. After the lesson plan is finalized, the volunteers head to Middle College High School for two days of instruction.

The topics taught during 2013 were contracts, alternative dispute resolution, copyright, and social host liability. Each session included a few minutes of education on the legal profession and potential legal careers, as well as how the volunteer teachers ended up in law school themselves.

After the two days of instruction, the high school students come to UCI Law for a culmination lesson. The 2013 final session involved a mock criminal law investigation that ended with high school students determining the best strategy to defend or prosecute the accused. The 80 visiting students also got a tour of UCI Law and met Dean Erwin Chemerinsky, who spoke about why they might consider going to law school. Anna Davis, Director of Public Interest Programs at UCI Law, informed the students about UCI Law’s Pre-Law Outreach Program. The day was capped by a panel of law students who discussed challenges they faced in pursuing higher education and how they overcame those challenges.

Kathleen Apps, principal of Middle College High, used adjectives such as “intense” and “electric” to describe the energy of the lessons presented to her students. 

“This is an incredible opportunity for our students to connect learning to real life, hearing the educational journeys of the law students, seeing the real life application of law and realizing they can major in anything and still attend law school,” Apps said. “The engagement level in both the classroom and at UCI Law was absolutely electric and we are very grateful to UCI Law for this partnership in education.”

While the high school students get valuable information about college, law school and careers, the law students learn more about the role of corporate counsel in the legal profession and form mentoring relationships.

Lauren Kaplan ('13) led the launch of Street Law at UCI Law. She found the opportunity to be both mentor and mentee especially valuable. “I learned a lot from the corporate counsel and made connections that could likely benefit my future career. I also loved working with the students and imparting my knowledge about the law and higher education opportunities.”

Fellow graduate Jaclyn Stahl ('13) agreed: “I really enjoyed thinking of ways to make the law interesting to the high school students,” said Stahl. And she noted that the program offers 1Ls an immediate way to start doing pro bono work after they arrive at UCI Law.

Kaplan believes the program did inspire the Middle College High students. “Even those that were not interested in law were incredibly bright, hard working, and active participants in the lessons we shared,” Kaplan said. “I think we may have helped some of these students understand that there is more to ‘the law’ than what they see on television and thus, may have opened their eyes to new career paths.”