Planting Seeds to Grow Diversity in Law

The critical lack of diversity in law practice has profound impacts. The demographics of the legal profession do not mirror the demographics of the U.S. population.  Diverse perspectives, experiences, and interests are severely lacking.   While legal education struggles to find its role in addressing these challenges, Ryan Doss, an Academic Services Officer with Wayne State Law School’s undergraduate law programs, is part of a team moving forward with solutions.  

A new venture for the Law School was the four-day Law and the Real World C2 Pipeline camp which was held July 17-20.  The camp focused on engaging students in legal simulations and hands on activities to learn the law.  Students attended camp in the law building and networked with legal professionals.  C2 Pipeline is a Wayne State University program funded by the Michigan Department of Education.  The goal of C2 Pipeline is college and career readiness.  While C2 Pipeline camps have been happening on Wayne’s campus for many summers, this is the first year the Law School participated.  It was through Doss’ vision and leadership that the camp came to life.

Atty Howard Hertz meets with young camp participants.

“I am elated to have my vision come to fruition. C2 Pipeline serves underrepresented students who attend inner city high-risk high schools.  These students often lack the resources their peers have at other schools.  Our Law and the Real World Camp offered us the ability to make legal resources obtainable in an engaging way. By exposing students to different areas of the law we are breaking systemic barriers, expanding their perspectives, and making a legal profession an attainable career option,” Doss explained.

Fifteen students from area high schools, including Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School in Detroit, Fitzgerald and Lincoln High School in Warren and Center Line High School in Center Line attended sessions each day from 10:00 am until 2:30 pm.  The law camp was organized around two themes – Business Law and Fourth Amendment related criminal law issues.   During the business law session, students learned about business entities, negotiations, and participated in a simulated employment contract negotiation.  During the criminal law session, students learned about privacy expectations in schools and worked through mock scenarios.  The camp ended with students navigating an escape room by resolving legal cases, playing legal focused Jeopardy, and enjoying an ice cream social.

The students overwhelmingly found the camp engaging.  “I had a lot of fun and would tell others to participate in the camp,” said Janeya Begum, a 12th grader at Centerline High School.   “I loved how all the games related to learning aspects of the law.”

“I enjoyed getting to experience a negotiation and having to be on teams and collaborate throughout the week.  It was fun getting to know each other and learn new skills,” added Shifa Khanom, a senior at Fitzgerald High School.

“I like how interactive it was instead of people just telling us what things mean,” said RaKing Williams El, freshman at Martin Luther King Jr. Senior High School.

Joining the C2 Pipeline Summer Camps program is the latest in a series of innovative efforts at the Law School to help those not traditionally represented in law to see law as accessible.  Recently students at the law school held a Lawyers Look Like Me campaign, which focused on helping young people from all communities see themselves reflected in legal practice. 

Dan Ellman, Assistant Clinical Professor and Director of Externships at the Law School, was part of the faculty involved in the law camp.  “It is important to expose students to what it is like to be a lawyer to help develop their career interests.  The more that young people experience and have exposure to the more they have to reflect on when making decisions going forward.  I also enjoy interacting with young students who are creative and innovative in their thinking.”

Wayne Law’s minor in law program and new B.A. in Law program further open the door to the legal world for those who may not traditionally see law as an option.   These academic programs open prospects for students to be part of the legal system in a variety of capacities or to discover that pursuing a JD is their passion and very much within their reach.

“I’m excited to have participated in the C2 Pipeline Camp program, as it aligns with our efforts to provide students, especially those from underrepresented or historically disadvantaged backgrounds, the opportunity to explore law as a potential field of study,” shared Nikki Taylor-Vargo, Assistant Dean of Non-J.D. Programs. “We are already starting to plan for next year’s camp!”




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