Law Scholars Program Suspended for 2018–2019

The Oberlin Law Scholars Program — a year-long program intended to prepare students interested in law with relevant academic and work experience — will not be offered for the 2018–2019 school year, due to the expenditure of the alumni gift that previously funded it.

“The Law Scholars Program was funded by a generous alumni gift, which has now been expended,” Oberlin Vice President and Dean of Students Meredith Raimondo wrote in an email to the Review.

The program was offered to sophomores and juniors and admittance was selective based on an application. At the program’s center was a one-module Legal Advocacy course, which was taught by a magistrate and included a mock trial and training in legal writing.

For some students who were hoping to become law scholars, the loss of the program feels frustrating and sudden, especially since there was no well-communicated notice.

“The most frustrating part is that this was not communicated to us at all,” said College sophmore Jackie Brant, who hoped to become a Law Scholar. “Not only was the only law-specific program that included mock trial cut, but there were no announcements or discussions about it — not even to the Law interest group.”

College senior Erica Levin, a Politics and Law and Society major who participated in the Law Scholars Program and took the class fall semester of her junior year, said that the program gave her useful legal experience.

“We spent a lot of time [in the class] on very technical legal writing and research, which was nice, … and I was able to put on my resume that I had a little legal writing and research experience,” Levin said.

Levin added that since the class was focused on trial work and some of the minutiae that comes with it, the course and program were helpful for students who were considering a career in law but wanted to get more simulated experience.

“If you’re not sure if you’re interested in law or not, something like that might be able to help you, since we did the Mock Trial … and Oberlin doesn’t have a Mock Trial team,” she said. “I think if someone wants to get some trial experience, you’re getting that opportunity that you wouldn’t have elsewhere.”

The program also offered alumni networking assistance and options for internships and shadowing experiences to participants. The Career Development Center states that the overarching goals of the Law Scholars Program were to “attract students interested in law to Oberlin … to strengthen preparation and support for students interested in law … and to develop a peer community of students interested in the study of law.”

Levin said that the community and peer support network that grew out of the program were the most valuable part of her participation in Law Scholars.

“Its strength is bridging a community in Oberlin of people who are also interested in law,” she said. “I made a lot of friends in the class who I still talk to now, who are still in my classes, and we talk about internships, … so I think the ability to network within your peers is a really strong part [of the program].”

Raimondo agreed that fostering communities around common academic and career interests is an important component of the Oberlin experience.

“Law and Politics is clearly an important career community at Oberlin, given the interests of current students and the accomplished alumni who are willing to support their success,” Raimondo wrote.

Although the Law and Society and Politics majors are not identical to the Law Scholars Program, Raimondo added that she believes they can offer many of the same experiences and advantages.

“While the Law and Politics career community may not look exactly like the Law Scholars Program, I am confident it will actually increase opportunities for students to gain the knowledge and experiences they need to be successful in pursuing their dreams after graduating,” she wrote.

Other resources are still available for students seeking experience, counseling, or guidance in law-related careers. The Career Development Center encourages students to talk with Gayle Boyer, the center’s pre-law advisor, to join the Law Interest Group to stay informed about law-related opportunities, and to explore pre-law resources online on Handshake.

“The Career Development Center is in the process of creating new career communities, which will offer students more accessible and structured mentoring and opportunities in a range of career areas,” Raimondo wrote.