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Diverse Group of CBHS Students Explores Legal Profession

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Diverse Group of CBHS Students Explores Legal Profession
Posted on 12/08/2014

About 80 Casco Bay High School juniors attended a daylong conference at the University of Maine School of Law on Dec. 8 to learn about the law and legal careers. The conference was the culminating event of the Legal Diversity Pipeline Program, which strives to create more diversity in the legal profession.

The NALP/Street Law Legal Diversity Pipeline Program is a partnership between Street Law, a nonprofit Maryland-based organization that creates classroom and community programs that teach about the law, democracy and human rights, and NALP. NALP, or the National Association for Law Placement, is a legal professionals’ association based in Washington, D.C.

The Legal Diversity Pipeline Program partners law firms with diverse groups of high school students. The program’s goal is to teach students about the law and legal careers and encourage and support them in the pursuit of legal careers.

Lawyers from Portland-based Bernstein Shur and students from the law school brought the program to Maine three years ago. Each year, a team made up of the firm’s lawyers and some law students has visited CBHS social studies classes to share their expertise and teach juniors about the Constitution and the law.

This fall, according to Casco Bay High School social studies teacher Jacob McNally, the first session involved a First Amendment freedom of religion case. Did a rabbi's religious invocation at a middle school graduation violate the Establishment Clause of the First Amendment? McNally said students used past precedents and newly learned legal concepts to present arguments on both sides to a panel of their peers.

In the next session, students learned about the Fourth Amendment Right to Privacy and protection from illegal searches and seizures. The guest lawyers led students through a series of role-plays that investigated that scope and limitations of this protection.

The third session involved the topic of contracts. McNally said the guest lawyers made that seemingly dry interesting by having students engaged with concepts about contract law by role-playing a negotiation between a teenager and her parent about the terms of a Saturday night out. And then students applied their learning to negotiating a contract with a friend to exchange guitar lessons for lawn-mowing sessions.

The final session took place at the conference, where the CBHS students applied their new knowledge in a series of workshops.

McNally said, “Throughout the program, the lawyers have done an excellent job of connecting with the students and presenting complex concepts in a meaningful and relatable way.”

Click here for a Maine Public Broadcasting Network (MPBN) report on the Dec. 8 conference, which includes interviews with CBHS students.


CBHS students, from left, Nate Hesselink, Cassie Bull and Lona Peter
attend legal diversity conference. (MPBN photo by Patty Wight)