During spring semester, students from William & Mary Law School teamed with Hunton & Williams LLP to teach diverse students from Richmond's Thomas Jefferson High School about law and the legal professional as part of a pilot program sponsored by the National Association for Law Placement and Street Law Inc. William & Mary and Hunton & Williams were among five law schools and five law firms nationwide participating in the program.
The program is one of three sponsored by Street Law for diverse high school students, said Megan Hanson, a program director at the organization, but is unique in its partnership between law firms and high schools. In addition to encouraging youngsters to think about legal careers, they "teach all participating students about the law in ways that are fun, interactive, and relevant to their lives. They also provide the high school students with professional role models and insights into the careers and working environment of a legal professional." She noted that their research suggests that 15 to 18 year olds can benefit from such career exploration efforts.
In March, William & Mary law students and lawyers from Hunton & Williams visited Thomas Jefferson High School to teach classes on contracts and negotiation and on First Amendment law. The classes were based on scenarios developed by William & Mary students and Hunton lawyers earlier in the year. The high school participants then attended interactive workshops on both topics and a career fair hosted by Hunton & Williams at their Riverfront Plaza offices on April 17.
Robert J. Grey, Jr., a Hunton & Williams partner and the 2004-05 president of the American Bar Association, was on hand to welcome the high school students to the firm's offices. Manuel A. Capsalis and John D. Epps, presidents, respectively, of the Virginia State Bar and Virginia Bar Association, spoke to the students during the luncheon provided by the firm.
Sean Ducharme, a 1998 graduate of the Law School and a partner at Hunton & Williams, participated in the contract negotiation workshop and career fair and said he decided to become involved in the program for two reasons: "First, it was a great way to connect on a personal level with local high school students who may never have thought about a career in law. Second, it was an opportunity to partner with William & Mary law students on a worthwhile project." He added that he was "incredibly impressed with the high school students' enthusiasm across the board" and thought that they "gained ... a better understanding of the different types of careers within the legal profession, some knowledge of the law (in my case, contract law), and confidence in their ability to take an active role in shaping their future career paths."
John Sales was among the high school participants. He currently is a rising high school junior and is the son of Norman B. Sales, a 1983 graduate of the Law School and attorney for the city of Richmond. Sales said he greatly enjoyed participating in the program, especially one of the April workshops in which the high school students, law students and attorneys took sides in a simulated contract negotiation between agents for an athlete with a bad boy image and a shoe company. Sales said he enjoyed being part of the company team that was able to negotiate a shoe contract "for the least amount of money and only a year to terminate the contract if [the player] was suspended for more than two games."
Sales said that the program helped confirm his career path: "After participating in the program and leaving the offices of Hunton &Williams, I was sure that I wanted to become a lawyer."
Ted Elmore and Bobby Proutt, a partner and associate at Hunton & Williams, respectively, served as co-chairs for the program. Elmore said that the firm will continue to be involved in the program in the coming year and said that it dovetails perfectly with the firm's commitment to pro bono endeavors and service to the profession: "The first two lines of our partnership agreement are: 'The practice of law is a service to society. While an aid to business, it is concerned also with the public welfare.'" Hunton & Williams, he said hopes that the "program may inspire future lawyers" and "enrich" the diversity of the profession.
Holly Brady '09, who will join Hunton & Williams after taking the bar, was among the law students who collaborated with Elmore and Walter Thompson, an associate at Hunton & Williams, to teach the March class on contract and negotiation at the high school. While it was hard to gauge prior to the class how the students would respond, she said, she recalled that during the class meeting they "jumped right in from the start and were very interested and engaged."
"From day one as 1Ls here at William & Mary we begin to learn the importance of becoming a 'citizen lawyer,'" she said. "We are taught that lawyers should serve their communities. It is great to get out and see that philosophy in motion, both being a part of it, and seeing attorneys who have very busy workloads dedicate themselves to a program like this."