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Hispanics represent 18 percent of the U.S. population but comprise only 4 percent of the nation’s lawyers.
Hispanics represent 18 percent of the U.S. population but comprise only 4 percent of the nation’s lawyers.

Aspiring Latino Lawyers Wanted

A Penn Law program provides a head start to high school-aged students interested in a legal career, a field where Latinos are drastically underrepresented. 

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As the U.S. faces a need for more Latino lawyers, there’s a nationally renowned local university that can help prepare young Latinos for a career in the world of law.  

According to a report from NBC News earlier this year, Hispanics represent 18 percent of the U.S. population but comprise only 4 percent of the nation’s lawyers. For Latinas, specifically, the numbers are even more concerning, as they represent less than 2 percent of lawyers in the country.

“It is a huge problem, and it has been a problem for a long time,” Erica V. Mason, President of the Hispanic National Bar Association, said in the NBC report. “Every single aspect of society is impacted in meaningful ways by attorneys, including lawmakers, politicians, judges, prosecutors, public defenders, and in-house corporate attorneys who make policies that companies follow.”

Any young Latino who aspires to be a solution to this problem within the legal profession should be aware of the Penn Law Pre-College Summer Academy at the University of Pennsylvania, a program designed for high school juniors and seniors considering a law career.

U.S. News & World Report ranks the University of Pennsylvania as the seventh best law school in the country, and the top law school in the Keystone State.

The university’s Pre-College Summer Academy, which begins on July 1, immerses students from around the world in the theory and practice of U.S. law, reflecting the curriculum of the first year of law school. Over a three-week period, students will develop skills valuable skills in legal reasoning, critical thinking, and writing.

During this residential program, students will stay together on campus in one of the university’s “state-of-the-art dormitories.” Counselors will reside with the students to provide support and guidance, while also organizing social activities on the weekends. (There is also a commuter option for Philadelphia area participants.)

Each week will present students with a different area of focus. The first week will be introductory, providing lectures on the U.S. legal system and judicial process, as well as lessons on the Socratic method, briefing legal cases, and conducting legal research.

Week two comes with a variety of discussions in which students will explore the pressing legal issues of the modern world. For example, the 2017 program included discussions on the topics such as net neutrality, refugee status (both nationally and internationally), gun control, and marijuana legalization.

Closing the second week, students will have the opportunity to participate in a mock jury trial, which will be presided over by actual judges. Here, students will gain experience in presenting legal arguments and cross-examining witnesses.

During the final week, students will spend a significant amount of time preparing for the Penn Law Pre-College Moot Court Competition, where students will make appellate arguments and face “tough, unscripted questions from judges.”

Week three also includes the annual “Shark Tank Competition” which teaches students about the business side of the legal profession. For this contest, students will be placed in teams to formulate business concepts and ultimately present their ideas to a panel of established entrepreneurs in an effort to win over investors.

Throughout the program, students will enjoy a number of field trips to “important cultural and legal institutions,” including:

  • The Supreme Court of the United States
  • The U.S. Capitol Building
  • The Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas 
  • The Third Circuit Court of Appeals
  • The Museum of the American Revolution

 

Students will also visit the Philadelphia headquarters of international law firm Dechert LLP, where they will learn about professional practice and participate in a negotiations exercise led by a Dechert attorney.

Hagana Kim, Associate Director of Legal Education Programs at Penn Law, said the university accepts about 50 students for the program each year using a competitive selection process.

The cost of the program is $7,999 per student, which includes housing and meals. The commuter option, which does not include housing and meals, is $5,999 per student.

For those in financial need, Kim noted that the university offers scholarships to two local students per year to participate in the program. These students must be enrolled at a high school in the School District of Philadelphia.

For more information about the Penn Law Pre-College Summer Academy, visit law.upenn.edu

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