In June, the University of Alabama School of Law hosted its Summer Scholars program—a unique opportunity that introduces the study of law to currently enrolled college students. Made possible through the generous support of Derrick (‘03) and Tamesha Mills, Shane Sears (‘99), Mike Brock (‘84), Penny Davis (‘78), John Saxon (‘77), Richard (‘93) and Heather Brock (‘93), and the University of Alabama System’s McMahon-Pleiad Prize, the Summer Scholars program returned for its second year. The program was designed and is administered by Prof. Anil Mujumdar. This summer, Alabama Law welcomed students from across the country to Tuscaloosa. The students engaged in several activities formulated to help prepare them to apply successfully to law school and better understand the many career options connected with a law degree. The class visited the Northern and Middle Districts of Alabama, attended a hearing in federal court, conducted a mock trial, and heard lectures from 122 guest speakers, including numerous professors, alumni, lawyers, and judges.
While much of the Summer Scholars program was hosted at the Law School, students had several opportunities to visit historical sites and engage in experiential learning. Students spent a week in Mississippi where they were invited to the “Voices of Justice and Courage” 60th commemoration week honoring the lives and contributions of civil rights leaders Medgar & Myrlie Evers. They experienced a special film screening of the Promised Land: A Story of Mound Bayou and had a conversation with Director Roderick Red following the film. The students traveled to Vicksburg where they met current Mayor George Flaggs, Jr., heard a lecture from former Mayor Robert Walker, and visited Mrs. Myrlie Evers’s childhood home. While in Mississippi, the students toured several cultural heritage sites including the B.B King Museum in Indianola, the Mound Bayou Museum of African American Culture and History in Mound Bayou, the Catfish Row Museum in Vicksburg, and the Mississippi Civil Rights Museum in Jackson. The students had the opportunity for quiet reflection at Bryant’s Grocery & Meat Market—the historical location where Emmett Till was wrongly accused of misconduct and whose subsequent murder prompted a renewed level of engagement in the Civil Rights Movement.
The students also had a private audience with Mrs. Myrlie Evers, in which the Evers family was presented with some original artwork honoring Medgar Evers designed by visual artist Sabrina Howard, and heard Mrs. Evers’s enriching address at the Voices of Courage and Justice Gala in Jackson.
In Alabama, the students toured the Tuscaloosa Federal Building and Courthouse and benefitted from an inspirational conversation with Judge L. Scott Coogler (‘84). While visiting the courthouse, they engaged in a panel discussion regarding federal clerkships with several attorneys —including Alabama Law alumni Analeigh Barnes (‘22) and John Wilson Booth (‘22). On a trip to Montgomery, the Summer Scholars heard from Judge Samarria Dunson (‘03) and attorneys Justin Jones (‘13) and Othni Lathram (‘00) at the Alabama State Bar. Judge Chad W. Bryan (‘03), Judge Kelly Fitzgerald Pate, and Judge Jerusha T. Adams gave students an introduction to the Middle District of Alabama before the students had the unique opportunity to observe a hearing in Judge R. Austin Huffaker, Jr.’s (’99) courtroom.
Near the end of the program, the class participated in an all-day mock trial event. A highlight of last year’s Summer Scholars, the class was able to showcase what they learned over the course of the program and put their knowledge to the test in a courtroom setting.
Held in the Bedsole Moot Court Room at Alabama Law, students were split into three teams comprising the jury, defendant’s counsel, and plaintiff’s counsel. Students were allocated time to prepare witnesses and do the research necessary to get ready for a trial before presenting their case in front of Circuit Court Judge Samuel W. Junkin (‘00).
Civil Rights and Access to Justice
Throughout the program, students had discussions with community leaders to explore the many ways in which the law affects civil rights and access to justice both in the office and in the courtroom. Attorney Gary Howard (‘93) and his colleagues with the Bradley LGBTQ+ resource group shared the experiences of diverse lawyers in BigLaw over a firm-sponsored lunch with the students. Mrs. JaTaune Bosby Gilchrist — Executive Director at ACLU of Alabama—discussed with the students the challenges with civil liberties and civil rights today. Professor Emerita of Law Martha Morgan taught a short class on women’s rights. Judge John England, Jr. (‘74), Judge John England III (‘96), Attorney April England Albright (‘97), and Rep. Chris England (‘02) met with students to share how their life experiences shaped their careers and stressed the importance of engaging in public service.
For students interested in prison reform, attorneys Ashley Light (‘17), Sofia McDonald, Chris Christie, and Chief Justice Sue Bell Cobb (‘81) delivered a panel on prison conditions. Attorney Lauren Faraino—founder of The Woods Foundation— discussed her experience advocating for inmates on death row.
Guest Lectures and Workshops
Additionally, the students heard from guest speakers and alumni over the course of the program including Attorneys Courtney Garrett (‘22), Chris Wilson (‘22), Maya Hoyt (‘20), Jilisa Milton (‘19), Shruti Jaishankar (‘17), Andrew Nix (‘03), and Shane Sears (‘99) who offered advice and shared their experiences as lawyers. To begin the program, Judge Vanzetta McPherson—a retired federal magistrate judge who served in the Middle District of Alabama—motivated the students with a keynote address. University of Alabama System Trustee, Judge Ken Simon (‘79) lectured on the importance of leadership. Judge Reginald Jeter (‘04) and Judge Nikki Tinker (‘98) engaged in a panel discussion about the many pathways to serving on the bench. Attorney Michelle Clemon gave an introduction to Sports Law.
Dean Claude Arrington (‘99) and Dean Megan Walsh (‘12) hosted cover letter, personal statement, interview and résumé workshops for the class. To help prepare the students for law school, rising 2L students Pierrerasha Goodwin, Elizabeth Meeker, Calix Hill, and Evan Newsome presented strategies to study for the LSAT. LeAndra Ross and Teria Thornton from AccessLex explained the financial decisions associated with law school attendance, and Attorney Kelsi Long (‘21) discussed the advantages of the joint J.D./M.B.A. program.
On the final day of programming, the students benefitted from a lecture from former Attorney General and former Senator Luther Strange. The students had the opportunity to ask the former Senator questions about public service in state and federal government.
To conclude the program, attorneys Derrick Mills (‘03), Mary Turner (‘89) and Finis St. John— Chancellor of the UA System, gave closing remarks. Each student in the program was awarded a certificate of completion and an honor cord to commemorate their time as Summer Scholars.
At the conclusion of the month-long program, all participants expressed their desire to attend law school after college. By participating in the Summer Scholars program, these students have the tools to be successful in applying to law school and beyond.
To learn more about the Summer Scholars program, please email email@example.com. To contribute to the 2024 Summer Scholars program, please contact Caroline Strawbridge, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Article written by: Callie Jackson