Law Center's Street Law Clinic Celebrates 40 Years in Operation
April 24, 2012 – About 15 current law students and 40 of Georgetown Street Law’s 1,300 alumni showed support for participants of the clinic’s annual high school mock trial championship and attended a dinner in honor of the program’s 40th anniversary.
The clinic, directed by law professor Rick Roe, is designed to provide legal education to laypersons while aiding in the professional development of its law students. Georgetown law students become law teachers to D.C. high school students and community members.
The program sends future lawyers into area schools each year to teach the law and the critical thinking, judgment and leadership skills that accompany it.
Incubator for Dreams
“The Street Law clinic was a natural incubator for dreams of high purpose,” said Josh Kern (L’01), who built on his experience in Street Law to found the Thurgood Marshall Academy Public Charter High School more than a decade ago. “Nearly every day in my second year we sat with Rick and … Lee McGoldrick (L’99), both of whom truly believe that the law is but a means, and justice is its end.”
He added that Thurgood Marshall Academy was “born of the idealism that is captured by that motto, and more importantly, by Rick’s life’s work.”
Jane Aiken, who will become associate dean of clinical education on July 1, noted that a version of Street Law is now in all 50 states and many nations.
An International Success
Street Law Inc., which grew out of the Georgetown program, has developed projects ranging from teaching civics to high school students in Haiti to training educators in Europe and Asia in interactive teaching methods.
“When I traveled around the world … and [people would] hear I was a legal educator, the first thing they would ask me is, do you know Rick Roe?” Aiken said.
This year’s mock trial competition, involving 250 students in 24 teams from 11 local high schools, culminated in a win by students from School Without Walls.
Those students successfully argued a case before “Judge” Johnny Barnes (L’73, L’76). Barnes, the executive director of the District’s ACLU, was one of the original four students in the Street Law program.
Roe noted at the dinner that Street Law gives students a human rights education, a voice and a better life.
“Street Law has enormous potential,” he said, “because it teaches us to think and express profound ideas that will take us into a new place, into a new century.” Roe said.
The high school students say they are already seeing the benefits of being a part of Street Law.
“Without education, where would you be in life?” said a Ballou High School student, who described his desire to become a police officer as a result of Street Law.
“Every day, I walk to [school] and see people just hanging around doing nothing,” he says, “… now I can give back to my family, my community and the world.”