Pipeline program-- School continues annual Prelaw Summer Institute

By Debra Talcott Legal News Since 2010, Cooley Law School has designated the month of June as a time to host the College Prelaw Summer Institute at its Auburn Hills campus. Cooley conducts this successful pipeline program in partnership with Oakland University, the ABA Council on Legal Education (CLEO), and Kaplan Test Prep Services. Founded in 1968 as a nonprofit project of the American Bar Association, the CLEO program helps minority, low-income, and otherwise disadvantaged college sophomores and juniors gain a glimpse of the rigors law school will entail. The Summer Institute provides 100 hours of intensive academic work that includes instruction in logic, critical reasoning, torts, legal writing, and trial advocacy, as well as a free LSAT preparation course from Kaplan. Students selected to participate attend the Summer Institute free of charge. They also receive stipends of $750 to compensate for lost income during that time. Nearly 60 college students from around the country have been served in the three years Cooley has offered the Summer Institute. Generous financial support from area firms and associations are what make the program possible. This year's sponsors include the Association of Corporate Counsel of Michigan; Collins Einhorn Farrell & Ulanoff; Detroit Metropolitan Bar Association; Honigman; Jaffe Raitt Heuer &Weiss; Miller Canfield; Oakland County Bar Association; Plunkett Cooney; the State Bar of Michigan Health Law, Law Practice Management, and Young Lawyers Sections; and Warner Norcross & Judd. For Jesus Chavarin-Rivas, a junior at the University of California at Berkeley, and Ferris State University graduate Willie Wallace, the CLEO program was the opportunity of a lifetime. ''My fellow students in the program welcomed me to Michigan with open arms, and I can honestly say I have made lifelong friends,'' says Chavarin-Rivas. ''Being able to take classes such as Torts, Legal Writing, Critical Reasoning, and Mock Trial was extremely beneficial because I now have the basic foundation of how law school classes are run. This exposure, I believe, is going to help me greatly in the future.'' Chavarin-Rivas says he was selected to participate in the Summer Institute because of his motivation and his life experiences. ''I grew up in a low socio-economic community with not a lot of resources,'' he says. ''My parents do not speak English, and I've always had to play the underdog role. Nevertheless, being in this position motivated me to succeed both in and out of the classroom.'' It is through his own hard work as well as support from family members and university leaders who believe in him that Chavarin-Rivas attends U.C. Berkeley on a full scholarship. Fellow CLEO participant Willie Wallace learned about the College Prelaw Summer Institute while attending a Cooley open house event in the spring. ''I applied, submitted my transcripts, and wrote an essay on equal justice in order to get in,'' says Wallace. ''I was excited to be a part of the program because every day offered a welcomed challenge. Everyone put a lot of effort into the program--from the orientation on the first day to the mock trial on the last--and that's what made it so enjoyable.'' Wallace, who was raised in Flint and currently works full time for General Motors, says he will be spending the rest of his summer preparing to take the LSAT exam. ''I really want to do well on the test, and I want to become a lawyer because it is a profession that will allow me to make a positive difference,'' says Wallace, who takes pride in setting an example for others who may experience impediments to completing their education. ''When I first entered college, I took a placement test and didn't do very well on it. The person that proctored the test told me that I probably wouldn't do well in college and would be wasting my time. So I always remembered those words and used them as inspiration to do my best while I pursue my education,'' says Wallace. The work ethic and tenacity of students like Wallace and Chavarin-Rivas are qualities that lead teaching assistant Shannon King admires in program participants. A participant in the Summer Institute in 2011, King started law school at Cooley last fall. She enjoyed working this summer with students whose personal stories and backgrounds are diverse but who have all been drawn to the legal profession to help others. ''For instance, Willie Wallace is considering law as a second career because he wants to make his contribution to his community. And when Jesus Chavarin-Rivas was a young child, an immigration attorney made a lasting impression on him by helping Jesus's father become a United States citizen.'' The summer program is where King says she herself realized the full impact of the legal profession on society. Opportunity for a better future is what the CLEO summer program and other pipeline programs offer to the next generation. John Nussbaumer, dean of the Auburn Hills campus, sees such programs as the best hope for opening the door to law school or other professional careers for students whose backgrounds do not provide the modeling or encouragement to do so. Published: Thu, Jul 26, 2012

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