Tallahassee, Florida–60 college students received a taste of law school, thanks to Florida State University’s Summer for Undergraduates Program, a unique initiative that gives minorities and other underrepresented groups in the legal profession, exposure to what it’s like to be in law school.
The month-long program, that concludes this week, is supported by FSU law alumnus, Wayne Hogan, and his wife, Patricia, whose endowment helps funds the program. “Wayne is passionate about giving others access to law school who might not otherwise have it,” said FSU Law School Dean Don Weidner. “He believes strongly in the public education system and through his support, is encouraging others to access it and make a difference by considering a career in law.”
“I’m not sure I’d be where I am today had I not had this program. It’s been a gift,” said Shenika Harris, a 1998 program graduate, who is now Assistant General Counsel at Florida Department of Transportation. Harris attended as a sophomore at FAMU and says it cemented her decision to pursue a career in law.
For one month, the students – this year, from 29 different universities nationwide – live on campus and are exposed to the rigors of law school through writing classes, mock trials and a behind-the- scenes look at the legal profession and its practitioners. They receive tuition, room and board and a $500 stipend for books.
The Summer for Undergraduates Program helps students decide whether a career in law is right for them. “The beauty of the program is that students get to ‘attend law school’ before they get a baccalaureate degree, so they can return to college, refocus their studies and improve their skills before applying to law school,” said Pamela Burch Fort, a lobbyist and program volunteer who gives students a behind-the-scenes tour of the Florida Legislature and its workings.
“The biggest thing it gave me was the confidence that I can do it,” said Volrick Wallace Higgs, a 26 year-old program attendee who now wants to make a difference as a lawyer. “I know now I would be comfortable in law school. Prior to the program, I didn’t know if I could cut it. 10 years from now, I will look back and see this program as a catalyst for something really great in my life.”
The largest program of its kind, it began 20 years ago and is a model for other law schools. 500 students applied this year for 60 spots. Applications for 2013 may be found online here. Students from groups historically underrepresented in the legal profession are especially encouraged to apply. The program has twice been honored by the American Bar Association for diversity efforts and impact. Applications will be accepted October 2013-March 23, 2013.