Forty-three college graduates from across the country arrived in San Diego on June 12, ready to spend their summer at Thomas Jefferson School of Law preparing for the rigors of law school. These future law students are embarking on this journey as part of the CLEO (the Council on Legal Education Opportunity) Summer Institute, which gives traditionally under-represented groups a chance to “jump start” their legal careers.
TJSL, along with one other law school, has been selected to host a CLEO Institute this summer. TJSL also hosted CLEO Institutes in 2008 and 2006. This year, the Institute will run from June 12 through July 21.
The CLEO scholars were all welcomed by TJSL Dean Rudy Hasl and CLEO's Executive Director Cassandra Sneed-Ogden at a Sunday evening dinner on the San Diego State University Campus, where they will be housed during their stay.
The CLEO scholars hit the ground running. Their first class on Monday morning was called Expert Learning, taught by Professor Michael Hunter Schwartz, who is an expert on the topic of learning styles of law students and authored the textbook “Expert Learning for Law Students." Professor Schwartz is also an associate dean at Washburn University School of Law in Topeka, Kansas.
They also heard a lunchtime classrom presentation from Dennis Archer, the first African-American American Bar Association president, a former Michigan Supreme Court Justice and Mayor of Detroit. He inspired the CLEO Scholars when he shared his experiences as a trailblazer and figuratively put his hand on the shoulder of each of them to let them know that they are all capable of great things.
According to Archer, the most valuable thing that a law school graduate has is not their grades, but their reputation. “Your reputation speaks volumes about you,” he said.
“CLEO represents an extension of our continued commitment to diversity and to providing access to education,” said TJSL’s Associate Director of Admissions Michelle Allison. “Its history is strong and we are honored to have been selected to host the institute for a third time. We enjoy getting to know the students and always look forward to officially welcoming them to our law school.”
The participants will be put through an academic “boot camp” and will take four courses over the span of six weeks to give them a competitive edge when they enter law school. The courses include: Contracts, taught by Professor Thomas Golden; Torts, taught by Professor Joy Delman; Civil Procedure, taught by Professor Jeff Joseph; and Legal Writing, taught by Professor Udoka Nwanna.
“I am very excited about participating in the CLEO program and look forward to learning as well as teaching,” Professor Delman said. “I believe that diversity at all levels of education is important, and I am proud to work at a school where it is valued and manifested in the makeup of our faculty, staff and student body. In order to be successful in today’s workplace, which is more diverse than ever in our history, students must be sensitive to divergent views, values and backgrounds. Experiencing diversity in law school lays the foundation for interaction with the variety of clients, employers and coworkers our students will encounter in the real world.”
Besides preparing for law school, the CLEO scholars also will be afforded with networking opportunities. Throughout the summer experience, they will meet many attorneys and a CLEO alumnus, U.S. District Judge John Houston, and visit his courtroom in the Federal Courthouse.
Many CLEO scholars, who eventually go on to finish law school and pass the bar exam, are the first individuals in their family to ever graduate from college. Upon completion of the Institute, the participants may be eligible for scholarships and grants, and will have access to seminars and career fairs throughout their law school career.