ELPO Law Kicks Off 2019/20 Legal Diversity Pipeline Project

by Mandy Hicks

English, Lucas, Priest and Owsley, LLP (ELPO Law) has created a program to help mentor students who would like to enter the field of law, with a particular focus on underrepresented populations. The goal of the program is to help diversify the field of law by ensuring that students of many different backgrounds consider law as a career option. ELPO Law attorney Rebecca Simpson is serving as the organizer of the program which began in the fall of the 2017/18 school year.

The program works to bring a variety of legal professions into high school classrooms, make representatives from the legal field available at college and career fairs to discuss what educational paths students should pursue if they would like to pursue law as a career, identify students who may be interested in a mentoring relationship within the legal field to provide that guidance if desired, and provide internship opportunities to students who are interested in working in the legal profession.

Last week, freshmen at WCHS were greeted by ELPO Law attorney Catherine S. Clemons as a kick off to the program for the 2019/20 school year. As well, WEHS freshmen kicked off their program last week with ELPO Law attorney and managing partner Bob Young. BGHS freshmen will join the sophomores and juniors who have previously been enrolled in the program with a visit from ELPO Law Attorney Rebecca Simpson on October 3rd.

As a follow up to the kick off, participants will be visited by representatives from law enforcement in late October/ early November before the highly anticipated program field trip in the spring which will include a trip to the courthouse to witness a courtroom session in progress, a tour of the jail and police department, a panel discussion with a variety of legal professionals, and a roundtable discussion opportunity for older students participating in the program.

A celebration and wrap up will conclude the program for the year. Outgoing freshmen and sophomores will have the opportunity to participate in the program once again the following year for a more in-depth experience, and those moving onto the junior and senior level will have the chance to apply for possible internships.

While all freshmen with an interest in the field of law are invited to participate in the program, there is a particular emphasis on those with diverse backgrounds.

“If we’re going to diversify the field of law, we’re going to need to do so in all aspects, from law enforcement to law firms,” says Bob Young, managing partner of ELPO. “People who are from different racial and ethnic backgrounds or who are considered diverse in other ways enrich the profession, challenge our thinking and help us better represent all people. We truly believe that many people would consider the field of law or law enforcement if they know there will be opportunities available to them, and that’s the message we’re bringing.”

“One of our top priorities as a school district is ensuring equitable opportunities for all of our students,” stated WCPS Superintendent Rob Clayton. “Our partnership with ELPO through the Legal Diversity Pipeline not only demonstrates our commitment toward equity but it provides our students with direct access to current professionals in the field of law. We are optimistic that this partnership will provide underrepresented students with the confidence and skills necessary to effectively pursue a career in the legal industry.”

“Our students and school districts benefit when community members and local businesses work with schools to provide opportunities,” says Gary Fields, Superintendent of the Bowling Green Independent School District. “This partnership is a ‘win-win’ connecting students interested in a career in law or law enforcement to current local professionals.”