How a Local Law School and a Noted Law Firm Are Helping High School Students Envision a Path to a Legal Career

Will these local teens have an “Esq.” after their names one day?

Access, exposure and opportunity. The ladder of success can be a difficult climb without them. Nova Southeastern University’s Shepard Broad College of Law, Fort Lauderdale High School and the law firm of Conrad & Scherer understand this well, and have proven it by teaming up for an innovative philanthropic project: Pathways to Careers in Law. The initiative provides real-world experiences, mentorships and support to high school students in underserved categories who are interested in careers in law.

“The mission of the Conrad & Scherer Pathways to Careers in Law is to help minority students see the vast array of opportunities available in the legal field, and, as a result, support diversity in legal careers,” says Conrad & Scherer attorney Janine McGuire. “It’s a unique public-private partnership between the high school, a prestigious law firm and a major university. When Daniel Katz, one of the magnet coordinators at Fort Lauderdale High, told us that some of his minority students didn’t even realize they could attend college, much less pursue careers in law, we knew we had to do something to help. I knew we had to reshape their thinking and open up opportunities for them to learn more about the various options in law. We are thrilled to be part of this new collaboration between three organizations in our community dedicated to law and supporting students.”

The Pathways program began in February with a virtual event for Fort Lauderdale High Law Magnet Program students and their parents. The presentation was led by NSU deans and Conrad & Scherer attorneys. “During the Zoom meeting, we were really taken aback by how many parents and students were interested,” McGuire says. Then, at an April event, law magnet students had the opportunity to meet McGuire, deans and professors from NSU, as well as NSU law students and a judge.

Other elements of the Pathways program will include field trips for fellows, a select group of law magnet students who will be given the opportunity to visit NSU’s Shepard Broad College of Law, witness an actual Broward County courtroom proceeding and spend time at the offices of Conrad & Scherer. McGuire says that the campus visit itself should prove eye-opening, removing “some of the intimidation factor” and allowing the teens to see undergrads and law school students “who look like [them].” One high school student will be selected as a paid summer intern at the law firm.

“We are grateful to Nova Southeastern University and Conrad & Scherer for partnering with us in this important initiative to improve access and opportunity for minority students interested in careers in law,” says Broward County Public Schools superintendent Vickie L. Cartwright. This program will help forge the path for their success by providing resources, professional guidance and strong connections to support their futures in the legal profession.”

Jane E. Cross, NSU Law associate dean for diversity, inclusion and public impact, adds, “We look forward to this program being the start of a long-term collaboration that will result in more students choosing lifelong careers in the legal field.” Cross also notes that this fall, NSU will begin offering a bachelor of science degree in legal studies to provide NSU law majors with exposure to the field and prepare them for entry-level jobs assisting lawyers in a wide variety of areas.

“The partnership between NSU, Conrad & Scherer and Fort Lauderdale High represents a unique and strong opportunity to support our community’s diverse student population by giving minority students a chance to learn about careers in law,” says José Roberto (Beto) Juárez Jr., dean of NSU Shepard Broad College of Law.

Katz, who earned his law degree at NSU, says that giving students exposure to law professors and students as well as practicing attorneys is a dream come true. “It’s one thing to talk about law school and what it’s like to be a lawyer,” he says, “but nothing compares to the chance to see first-hand what law school looks like, meet professors in person and talk to practicing attorneys on their own turf.”

Drew Limsky
dlimsky@sfbwmag.com
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