Program exposes diverse group of Baltimore students to diverse practices of law

The 20 high school students participating in the “Just the Beginning” program spent Wednesday afternoon at the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. District Courthouse in Baltimore developing oral arguments for a hypothetical search-and-seizure case. (Lauren Kirkwood/The Daily Record)

The 20 high school students participating in the “Just the Beginning” program spent Wednesday afternoon at the Edward A. Garmatz U.S. District Courthouse in Baltimore developing oral arguments for a hypothetical search-and-seizure case. (Lauren Kirkwood/The Daily Record)

By: Lauren Kirkwood Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer July 15, 2015

The day-to-day responsibilities of a private practice attorney, an in-house counsel and a judge differ widely, but a group of Baltimore-area teenagers who aspire to join the legal field are getting a glimpse of what each of these professions entails this week.

Chicago-based Just the Beginning – A Pipeline Organization launched its first week-long program in Baltimore on Monday, giving 20 high school students a firsthand sense of the legal industry through meetings with lawyers and judges and by developing skills used by lawyers.

The pipeline program aims to increase diversity in the field by giving students from underrepresented groups and lower-income communities the chance to both explore whether the law is for them and gather practical tips and skills for getting into college and law school.

“A lawyer is definitely on my laundry list of potential careers, and we’ve met with so many people and learned so much about the legal system,” said Allemai Dagnatchew, a 15-year-old student at Maryvale Preparatory School.

All week, the students are honing their oral argument skills in preparation for a presentation Friday in front of a mock appellate court on a search-and-seizure case. On Wednesday, the students broke into small groups in U.S. District Court in Baltimore to discuss the relevant issues and case law needed for their arguments.

To help with these preparations, several law students in the Thurgood Marshall Opportunity Program, which offers summer clerkships in the Maryland attorney general’s office, worked with the high school students to develop their arguments.

“They’ve been taking moot court and mock trial courses, so we thought it’d be a really great opportunity for the law students to reach back to the high school students,” said Michelle Lipkowitz, a partner at Saul Ewing LLP, which worked with Exelon Corp. to bring the pipeline program to Baltimore.

Last summer, the Washington, D.C. branch of Just the Beginning’s summer legal institute program brought its high school students to Baltimore for a day to visit Exelon’s headquarters and meet with attorneys from the company and several other firms.

“We thought, ‘Our kids in Baltimore deserve this; let’s figure it out and launch a full week program next year,’” Lipkowitz said.

Along with representatives from Exelon and Saul Ewing, attorneys from McGuireWoods LLP and DLA Piper US LLP will work with the students this week. Lipkowitz said she hopes the future programs will be able to include more participants as more firms get involved.

The high school students also received an introduction to the legal profession at the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law, where they heard from Dean Donald Tobin and former Court of Appeals Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, and also received a tour of the law school.

“It was a really great way for them to start out envisioning themselves as law students or lawyers,” said Michelle Yun, assistant general counsel for Exelon, which hosted the Baltimore students this week. “If I had known about these opportunities as a high school student, even though I did become a lawyer, it would have been life changing.”

Taylor Smith, a 17-year-old rising senior at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute, said Wednesday that the program has already proven a valuable experience as she reviewed case law on to support her position that a hypothetical search of a student at a high school violated the student’s Fourth Amendment rights.

“I’ve always had a passion for not letting someone tell me no,” Smith said. “I’m definitely interested in a career in the law.”

 

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