The award-winning Judge Stephen O’Neil Trial Advocacy Mentoring Program (“Young Lawyers Program”) was established in 2000 by students at Loyola Law School to serve as a bridge between the law school and youth from the Los Angeles community and to expose young people to the benefits of obtaining an advanced degree. Young Lawyers was created as a collaboration between LLS’s La Raza Law Students Association and Black Law Students Association, and is advised by Professors Gary Williams, Gary Craig, Eric Miller and Brie Clark.
Approximately 50-60 students are recruited from high schools in low-income communities to participate in Young Lawyers. The students attend weekly classes during the spring semester and participate in a mock trial in front of a real judge at the end of the program. Participating high school students meet with law student mentors every Thursday evening from 4-6 pm at LLS, from mid-January through mid-April. Weekly classes may be taught by law students, LLS alumni, and/or other practicing attorneys who have trial expertise. Dinner is provided each week.
Young Lawyers provides mentoring that exposes youth to the benefits of continuing their education beyond high school. Law students are paired with high school students to provide one-on-one help with trial preparation and weekly homework, and to share their own experiences as undergraduate students and reasons for pursuing a legal career. Program participants also hear from attorneys working in different areas of the justice system. LLS alumni are regularly guest speakers and last year André Birotte, Jr., U.S. Attorney for the Central District of California, made a special appearance.
In addition to this mentoring and exposure to diverse legal careers, community youth learn the legal fundamentals necessary to serve as attorneys and witnesses in a mock trial. The curriculum includes:
- U.S. judiciary system overview
- Witness preparation and interviewing
- Direct and cross examination of witnesses
- Presentation of exhibits and making objections
- Opening and closing statements
- Trial preparation
Law students who serve as mentors also learn a lot about trial advocacy and evidence, as. Professors Williams, Craig, and Miller work closely with the law students to give them trial preparation and evidence tips. The faculty advisors also provide support for law students who volunteer to co-teach one of the weekly classes. Additionally, upper-division law students can earn pro bono hours to apply to graduation requirements.
Increasingly, young people find themselves at the margins of society because of their youth, race, ethnicity, language, and economic status. The Young Lawyers program serves as a vital resource for the community, motivating young people to pursue their educational goals and empowering them to become advocates for their communities, while creating lasting and valuable partnerships between LLS, community high schools, and the legal community.
If you are interested in participating in Young Lawyers or would like additional information, please contact the Program Coordinators at firstname.lastname@example.org.