High school students explore careers in the law at Quinnipiac

Law student Steven Landis during the mock trial demo
Third-year law student Steven Landis played the role of defense attorney during a mock trial demonstration Oct. 25. The demonstration was for 20 high school students from New Haven's High School in the Community.
Oct. 29, 2013 - Twenty high school students from New Haven's High School in the Community spent a morning at Quinnipiac School of Law Oct. 25 to learn more about law school and meet with law students.

The visit was part of a partnership between Quinnipiac School of Law and the 270-student magnet school, which focuses on issues of law, social justice and equity. A group of Quinnipiac law students from the school's Mock Trial Society is co-teaching a mock trial class at the high school once a week this school year.

Students enrolled in the class and other interested students wrote essays to be among the 20 students selected for the field trip to Quinnipiac. The visit included a mock trial demonstration in the School of Law Center's Grand Courtroom, with law students playing the roles of attorneys, judge and witness. Members of the Mock Trial Society acted out a fictional case, stopping at various points to explain facts of the case and techniques they were using to influence the jury.

Steven Landis, a third-year law student and president of the Mock Trial Society, is helping to teach the class at HSC and took part in the mock trial demonstration. "They're learning a lot about the law and how to think in a different way than they usually do," Landis said. "It's a very good experience for them and for us."

While Landis is headed for a career as an attorney, he enjoys being in the classroom and says attorneys play an important role as educators to their clients. "People need to know about the law and how it functions."

Each Thursday morning, the law students work in small groups with the high school students to discuss fact patterns, how to prepare for cross examination, and how to write opening and closing statements. Students in the class will eventually compete against other schools in a mock trial competition.

After the mock trial demo and a brief discussion, law students led the HSC students on a tour of the School of Law Center followed by a pizza lunch. Quinnipiac students fielded questions about class format in law school, preparing for class and interacting with professors.

Chris Kafoglis, school culture leader for HSC, used the opportunity to reinforce lessons emphasized at the teacher-run academy, where the goal is to teach students to solve problems, not just acquire content.

Samantha Montes, a ninth grade student from New Haven, says the field trip offered a good opportunity for career exploration. "I like to try different things and go on different field trips. Coming to a mock trial sounded really interesting, especially because it's a real world issue."

Classmate Zach Gladstone of Branford says he has been watching legal dramas on TV since he was seven. He's intrigued by how much power a prosecutor can have in influencing the fate of a defendant. He's interested in becoming a lawyer or a game designer.

Fellow ninth grader Jenna McKechnie, of East Haven, is equally passionate about the fashion industry and fitness, and is curious to see how she might chart a career path at the intersection of the law and fashion. She says she wants to better understand legal vocabulary, which she often hears from her mom, a paralegal, as well as her favorite TV show, "Law & Order." 

McKechnie chose HSC over a traditional public high school because she connected with the teaching style of the academy. "I like how our school is run. We're learning for ourselves, not just what teachers tell us. I learn what I want to know."