From the Desk of the Executive Director
Future of the Law Institute: Introducing Diverse H.S. Students to the Legal Profession
By Andrew Prazuch
The King County Bar Association is committed to the goal of increasing diversity in the legal profession. We have granted more than $1 million since the 1970s to the University of Washington and Seattle University schools of law to underwrite minority law student scholarships. We host an annual fundraising luncheon honoring Martin Luther King, Jr. We work closely with the minority bar associations in our region to support their efforts through ongoing liaison and partnerships. We host an annual seminar for new attorneys of color to assist them in building their books of business. And we have an engaged Diversity Committee that meets monthly to consider new ideas and review our progress.
Yet we know that diversifying the profession involves more than just activities aimed at law students and current lawyers. Another important activity is to nurture a "pipeline" through which our region's diverse high school population can be exposed to the possibility of a legal career - either as a lawyer or judge, or perhaps as a paralegal or court clerk, or in countless other areas. But for young people from diverse or economically disadvantaged backgrounds, there may be no lawyer role models in their lives.
The Future of the Law Institute is KCBA's pipeline program.
The goal of FLI is to introduce minority and economically disadvantaged, King County high school students to legal-related professions to create a pipeline of individuals who will be the next generation of legal professionals who reflect our community's rich diversity. Created in 2001 as a partnership between the King County Bar Foundation, the UW and SU law schools, the courts and the minority bar associations, FLI has exposed more than 800 students to the legal profession. Each year 75 to 100 new students participate in FLI.
A volunteer committee, currently chaired by KCBA member Megan McCloskey and including dedicated volunteers Karen Murray, Zabrina Jenkins, Emily Gant, Aimee Decker, Chris Hirst and Eric Hougan, leads the program, which is tied to a traditional school-year calendar. Each fall, committee members make presentations at many targeted high schools in the county to explain the program. Applications come from students attending more than a dozen different high schools. Space limitations result in a competitive review process. In 2011, FLI received more than 150 applications for 75 openings.
The cornerstone of the FLI year is a two-day "institute" held the Friday and Saturday before Thanksgiving at the UW and SU law schools. KCBA provides transportation to bring the students from around the county to the program. We have sessions for the students that provide an introduction to legal concepts, a career panel where they hear directly from attorneys in different practice areas, a lunch with diverse judges, and even a tutorial on intellectual property law. The tutorial comes in handy for the highlight of the event - three mock trials that the students conduct with coaching from dozens of KCBA volunteer attorneys and under the watchful eyes of the three presiding judges (who by day are Washington Supreme Court justices).
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