Law prep seminar explores career opportunities

By Steve Thorpe Legal News Is law school right for me? Eighteen young people got the chance to answer that question during a month-long preparation program. The College Pre-law Summer Institute (CPSI) is the result of a partnership between Cooley Law School, Oakland University, Kaplan Test Prep Services and the American Bar Association's Council of Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO). The stated intent of the program is ''to help diversify America's next generation of lawyers through expanding legal education opportunities to students of color, low income students and otherwise disadvantaged students.'' This is the third year that Cooley has hosted the program and it held its closing ceremony for the latest session on June 29. Participants came from as far away as the University of California-Berkeley, Creighton University, Grambling State University, High Point University, Howard University, Montclair State University, Morehouse College, the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, Purdue University and the University of Nevada-Las Vegas, and as close to home as Ferris State University, Michigan State University, Oakland University, University of Michigan-Dearborn, and the University of Michigan-Flint. More than 100 hours of academic instruction were provided by the law school faculty in Torts, Logic and Critical Reasoning, Legal Writing, and Trial Advocacy. The attendees also received LSAT test Preparation. Participants the past two years have raised their LSAT scores by an average of five points per student. The program ended June 29 with the students taking the Law School Admission Test (LSAT) and receiving a $750 stipend. Reginald Turner, past president of the National Bar Association and former president of the State Bar of Michigan, was the keynote speaker at the closing session. Turner is a member of the Clark Hill law firm and is the current chair of the ABA Commission on Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Legal Profession. ''The fact that you are here tells me that you are willing to go above and beyond, to extend yourselves, to stretch to try and succeed,'' Turner said. ''I admire that tremendously. All of you should feel like champions.'' The young attendees were enthusiastic about the program and said that they now have a feel for what's involved in getting into law school and succeeding once there. Recent Morehouse College grad Rosston Ramsey, 21, feels much more comfortable making the decision after completing the institute sessions. ''I loved the program,'' Ramsey said. ''It gave me a chance to see what the law school experience is like. More often than not, students enter law school not knowing what to expect and what the course load is like. It also helped me find a passion, which is trial advocacy, through the mock trial program. I really enjoyed that. It helped me decide if law school is right for me.'' Nicole Lockhart, 20, currently a junior at Oakland University, agreed. ''I thought the program was really helpful, especially the LSAT preparation, she said. ''Also, the 100 hours of law school instruction helped us see who's made for it and who's not. I think I'm made for it!'' Purdue graduate Walter Starghill III, 24, said he appreciated how realistic the classes were and how the professors pulled no punches. ''In the 100 hours of legal instruction, they 'put us through the ringer,' as they say. ''They didn't hold back in introducing us to the type of work we would do in law school,'' Starghill said. ''We took torts, critical reasoning, we took legal writing, which is essential for a lawyer, and also mock trial.'' Starghill also valued the networking opportunities the month-long program provided. ''We got to meet people already in the profession, to hear their story and how they got to where they are,'' he said. ''Some of them did poorly on the LSAT or didn't have the best grades, but they persevered and became judges, attorneys or general counsels.'' In addition to learning what to do in those difficult first months of law school, the students also valued tips on what not to do. ''We learned not to make some of the mistakes first year law students make, like not taking notes every time, or not learning how to outline, which are both critical skills for law students,'' Ramsey said. ''We've all heard the horror stories of the first year of law school, but this program really gave me confidence.'' Published: Thu, Jul 19, 2012