The law studies class in Brownsville Middle School just got a lot more engaging: students are getting a law academy lab, complete with jury rooms and witness stands.
For the past 3 years, law studies class at Brownsville middle school involved mock trials and field trips to local courtrooms, in an effort to bring students into closer contact with the workings of law.
The Law Academy Lab, which held its opening ceremony the last week of May, is a milestone for the school’s three-year-old partnership with law firm Hamilton, Miller and Birthisel. Attorney Marlon Hill, partner at the firm behind this project, wants to change how students relate to the law.
“We want them to take ownership of their circumstances, not to be a victim of their circumstance,” he said. “And this is why we want them to walk into this mock courtroom and to feel that they can be a part of the law, they can even be a part of shaping the law.”
Shanaya Wilchcombe, in the 7th grade at Brownsville middle school, is in the law studies program. She says her experiences with the law academy has lead her to consider a career in law.
“I used to think that the law used to be something to fear… When a police officer comes, look straight, don’t do anything,” she said. “But now I understand that the law is there to help you, and now I want to be a part of the law; I want to be a lawyer, or judge, anything that can help the kids like me or other people who are in unfortunate situations and need help.”
The Law Lab is also a community engagement project. Local law schools and law firms will be able to rent the space from the school as they prepare for trials or host law-related events. Students will not only be able to use the space for their own mock trials, but also observe law professionals at work.
The first students to participate in the law academy program will be graduating this year.
You can see some of the students in action in the video below: