Law Camp helps prepare future generation of attorneys

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Law Camp 2014_1High school students at the Institute for Law, Justice and Society’s 2014 Law Camp have the chance to participate in mock trials and learn about the legal world from some of the best lawyers from the Tennessee Bar Association, the largest professional legal association in Tennessee.

Randy Spivey, academic director for Lipscomb’s Institute for Law, Justice and Society, has been overseeing the law camp for three years. When deciding which direction the camp should go in, Spivey thought bringing in the Tennessee Bar Association was only natural. A member of the TBA himself, Spivey presented the opportunity for them to be a part of the camp, which they accepted.

“I had seen some of the work they had done in their education committee, and I thought that would work really well for us,” Spivey said. “The first year, we had about three or four speakers. Next year, they sponsored a couple of scholarships for students and sent more volunteers. Now, I think there’s a little bit of a struggle for them because everyone wants to volunteer. The people that have done it want to keep coming back.”

Since 2012, the TBA has grown into a regular co-sponsor for the camp. Other co-sponsors include Bradley Arrant Boult Cummings and Napier-Looby Bar Association.

Students heard from some of the best lawyers in Tennessee, including United States attorneys, Spivey said.

Franklin City Attorney and TBA member Shauna Billingsley has experience teaching in inner city schools, and she noted the difference between students’ interests there and here at the camp.

“These kids really want to be here and they are extremely engaged,” Billingsley said. “They have such an interest in learning. I want them to come out of here learning how to think deeply; to know that they can’t just take something at face value.”

Law camp 2014_2Students came from neighboring states Arkansas, Alabama, Texas and all over Tennessee, and more than half of them are female.

“In the professional fields for a long time, it was mostly white, mostly male. That has significantly turned as far as gender in the law,” Spivey said. “The types of students interested have shifted as well.”

Of the 15 females and six males involved in the camp this year, many are of diverse backgrounds. Spivey said the topic of diversity is one that naturally comes up in conversation at the camp. It is also weaved into the curriculum of this year’s theme of law and justice.

Logan McGinnis, a rising senior from Rutledge, Tenn., has an interest in entertainment law. The camp, he said, has allowed him to make connections and build relationships with local lawyers.

“When I go up to the TBA lawyers to ask about schools that they recommend, they always mention Lipscomb or Belmont,” McGinnis said. “I’ve learned a lot about the law from a broader perspective from these lawyers.”

Members of the TBA represent a wide variety of the legal community, from plaintiff and defense attorneys to judges, government and legal services attorneys and corporate counsel.

“It’s a great opportunity for the TBA to help share the curriculum of civics and law that comes from the American Bar Association,” said Elizabeth Todaro, public education coordinator with the TBA. “Lipscomb has provided a great infrastructure and framework. We want these students to really understand the importance of knowing their rights, understanding their responsibilities in a democracy, to enhance their critical thinking skills and teach them to be willing to ask tough questions and to examine issues from more than just one perspective.”

Spivey said he wants students to leave the camp with a healthier perspective of the legal profession.

“On television, the law field is portrayed as salacious and devious,” Spivey said. “I want them to come away with a more wholesome view of the legal field. It’s hard work, but it’s good work. If they’re willing to do those two things, work really hard and see their work as an outlet for doing good, then there’s a place for them in the profession.”