Kim Norwood, professor of law, has developed a collaboration with Washington University Law students and Mound City Bar Association lawyers to encourage juniors and seniors at Soldan High School in St. Louis to pursue going to law school.

Professor Kim Norwood addresses Soldan High School Students.
Professor Kim Norwood addresses Soldan High
School Students. [Photo by Mary Butkus]
Click on photo to view full version.

During the fall semester, law students in Norwood’s “Race, Education & the Legal Profession” course participated in the new program, which Norwood called Law Exposure And Professionalism Strategies (LEAPS). Many of the law students will continue as volunteer mentors to the 18 high school students, including offering workshops on getting into college, the importance of and how to access resources to prepare for SAT and ACT exams, resume writing, and interview skills.

“It was a wonderful experience. I was so proud to be involved, and the kids were so proud of themselves,” said second-year law student Kalila Jackson. “The students were really energized about the law and legal profession. It was great to be able to share what I have learned in law school at a time when the high school students will be making important choices in their lives. I would love to continue to work with these kids.”

Law student Carly Graham, left, brainstorms with students.
Law student Carly Graham, left, brainstorms
with students. [Photo by Mary Butkus]
Click on photo to view full version.

The law students spent the first half of the fall semester studying, researching, and writing papers on the state of public education in America and its impact on people of color, ethnicities, cultures, and economically depressed populations. They then began working with Mound City lawyers to mentor the Soldan students. The lawyers started by talking to the Soldan students about corporate culture, professionalism, and life in a law firm. The law students discussed getting into law school and law school life, as well as their public education research projects. 

The law students next worked with the Mound City lawyers to teach case strategy and theory to the Soldan students, who were “hired into law firms.” Drawing upon what they had learned from their research projects, the law students helped the high school students tackle a case, which was modeled on a hypothetical developed by Georgetown University School of Law. The case centered on an illiterate high school senior suing his school and school district for the failure to educate him.  

“The law students helped the Soldan students analyze whether a tort of educational malpractice should be recognized, whether public education should be equal throughout a state, what responsibilities to get an education lie with the students themselves and their parents or guardians, and related matters,” Norwood said. 

High School Pipline Program (Soldan and Washington University School of Law collaboration.)
Click on photo to view full version.

After rigorous preparation by the law students and lawyers, LEAPS culminated with the high school students touring the St. Louis City Circuit Court, listening to powerful speeches by Judge Michael Calvin and Judge Jimmie Edwards, and arguing their hypothetical case before Judge David Mason, JD ’83. 

Soldan teacher Steve Lorenz noted: “The kids were really pumped up on the way back to school. It is something they will remember as a highlight of their high school years and springboard to future learning. I am really grateful to Professor Norwood, her students, and the Mound City lawyers for this experience.”

Norwood noted that the high school students seemed to really identify with their role models, further emphasizing that a legal career could be attainable to them, and the law students experienced the joys and responsibilities of mentoring and being mentored. 

“The Soldan students met lawyers and law students, many of whom looked like them and all of whom cared about them and mentored them,” she said. “The law students learned the rewards of using their legal skills to give back to the community and benefited, themselves, from working with and the expertise of the Mound City lawyers.”

Soldan student Brid-gette Mahone wrote in an e-mail to Norwood: “Thank you SOOOO MUCH for allowing us the chance to collaborate with Washington University School of Law. Because of this experience I have decided to attend law school.”

St. Louis attorney Kathryn L. Pierce observed: “It is such a unique opportunity to see the magic that happens when law students and high school students combine forces. The best case scenario is we get some inspired lawyers out of the project, and the worst case scenario is we have youth who are better educated about the legal system, have better critical thinking skills, better reading and writing skills, and more self esteem. Either way, the results are powerful.”