“Street Law” is an experiential learning, clinical type of course where law students spend most of their class time out in the field teaching constitutional and criminal law and procedure to inner-city high school students in a course taught at the high schools.The law students coach their high school students in mock trials held in federal courtrooms in downtown Sacramento. I arranged for local attorneys to participate in class and to help coach the high school students in their mock trials. I had actual judges play the role of judges in the mock trials. Law students learned substantive law concepts quite well when they were responsible for teaching them. Law students also developed their lawyering identities and professional confidence when they were placed in such a leadership role and academically responsible position. The law students also engaged in very important community service work, as well as raised the profile of the law school in and among traditionally underserved communities, and the local bench and bar.
The most significant benefit for the law students was the development of their lawyering skills and their mastery of substantive law. Many graduating law students lack the ability to explain complex legal issues to non-lawyers, such as jurors and/or clients. This kind of communication development is the foundation of Street Law because the course requires law students to make complicated legal information comprehensible to their high school students. In addition, law students must hone their presentation skills and tailor their lesson plans to match the differing needs of their high school students. This process is similar to the dynamics of lawyer-client and lawyer-juror relationships. Teaching is also an excellent method of acquiring the expertise in substantive law necessary to fully understand and competently explain its depth and nuances, and begin to develop their professional legal identities.
“Street Law” is an established course at many U.S. law schools in which law students first learn about substantive areas of law and then deepen that understanding by teaching those areas of law to non-lawyers (usually to high school students). The twin pedagogical goals of the course are to strengthen the law students’ substantive legal understanding of various legal subjects and to hone their practical lawyering and leadership skills in a realistic and professional setting. There is also the community service goal of improving local community understanding of basic legal principles and the commitment to the rule of law. As they master the substantive legal material and the practical legal skills involved doing traditional coursework, the law student instructors teach high school students through both classroom instruction and interactive teaching strategies such as simulations, role-playing, group projects, and mock trials/moot court.
Law students learn various substantive aspects of U.S. and international law at a sufficiently sophisticated level so as to lead classroom discussion, write and grade exams, instruct students, and coach students in their mock trial, negotiations, and other lawyer skills simulations, as well as coordinate and manage teaching partnerships with local judges and attorneys and high school personnel. By having the responsibility to teach these legal subjects to non-lawyers, law students come to deeply understand and even begin to master those legal subjects. As a result of substantive law study, repeated preparation, actual teaching, and the handling of their high school students’ questions, law students increase their substantive legal knowledge and lawyering skills, strengthen their analytical abilities, develop new intellectual perspectives, serve as important mentors and role models, and enrich the depth of their law school experience.
Street Law International:
Law students teach various legal subjects and practical legal skills to local high school students, and provide mentoring and role modeling for those students. Legal subjects include Constitutional Law, Civil Rights Law, Criminal Law, Torts, Contracts, and various other legal subjects, as well as the International Law counterparts in each of those subject areas. Law students teach two weekly sessions at a high school, are responsible for drafting and grading exams, and coach high school students in mock trials at the end of the semester. In addition, law students take a 1-hour weekly seminar at the law school and keep a journal. The seminar provides law students with instruction on substantive legal issues, and serves as a forum for sharing general impressions and ideas concerning successful teaching techniques and class administration. P/F (3 units). (Limited enrollment).
Seminar classes focus on substantive law and professional lawyering skills taught and administered by Professor Fred Galves. The professor meets with law students in a Pacific McGeorge classroom and conduct rigorous classes to make sure the law students have a thorough and complete understanding of the substantive legal material they will be teaching to their high school students at Sacramento High School. This high school teaching fieldwork will include partnering with local judges and attorneys and a Sacramento High School teacher. The high school classes will be limited as small classes allow for more individualized attention.
The course involves an aspect that takes it beyond the traditional “Street Law” courses at other law schools — Street Law is taught at 80 other law schools across the country, and at ten of the top twenty law schools — by adding international subjects and comparisons. The idea is to introduce high school students to international, as well as domestic, legal issues that affect their lives. The international components to the course material makes the Pacific McGeorge Street Law International course more substantively rich than existing Street Law courses at other law schools, reflecting the commitment at Pacific McGeorge to globalizing the curriculum and preparing students to practice law in a 21st Century international context.
The course will also teach legal technology skills to the students for use during their mock trials that will take place at the end of the semester. During the moot court/mock trial phase of the course, the students will use some computer technology in their trials. Thus, law students will be learning about and teaching substantive litigation technology skills in the context of coaching their high school students in mock trials.
Street Law International is a perfect fit with the evolution of Pacific McGeorge into a leader among law schools regarding international law, as well as with institutions committed to the betterment of diversity in law schools, the legal profession and society at large. Pacific McGeorge will increase its standing further in the local Oak Park community, the Sacramento Legal community and keep up with and even forge ahead in the national law school community. A critical component of the course is that local judges and attorneys both attend class sessions whenever possible and help the law students teach mock trial skills to the high school students. Most importantly, local judges and attorneys can also serve as mentors and role models to both the law students and high school students
This course has critical aspects of globalization, diversity and technology. Pacific McGeorge students have a unique opportunity to become better prepared lawyers with real world experience in law school, as well as leaders in the Sacramento community. Law students receive invaluable opportunities to learn the law, prepare for a legal career in a global economy and technological context, and discover what it means to serve others in a unique professional and meaningful way. High school students are exposed to the law at a high level of understanding and expectation in order to encourage them and prepare them for college and graduate school.