Law School hosts innovative statewide preparatory program

by Dennis Brown

In “One L,” Scott Turow’s captivating account of his first year at Harvard Law School, the attorney-turned-author describes the experience as an “emotional merry-go-round” in which he felt “harried, fearful, weary” and sometimes “near panic.” For even the best-prepared college graduates, the first year of law school (One L) is a rigorous ordeal, and that’s all the more true for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.p. Recognizing the difficulties faced by such individuals, as well as the need to diversify the legal profession, Indiana Gov. Frank O’Bannon and the General Assembly, at the urging of state Supreme Court Chief Justice Randall T. Shepard, created the Conference for Legal Education Opportunity (CLEO) in 1997.p. Patterned on a national model and the first such statewide initiative in the country, CLEO is a six-week summer preparatory program for minorities, low-income students, or those with insufficient undergraduate training who are from Indiana and have been admitted to any of the state’s four law schools.p. This summer’s CLEO program, which is in session at Notre Dame Law School until July 20, includes 30 soon-to-be “One Ls” who are receiving from the school’s faculty an introduction to the special nature of legal study as well as to first-year subjects such as contracts, torts, property law and legal writing.p. In addition to the classroom training, the students also are receiving practical advice on how to succeed in law school, participating in social events, and hearing from guests such as Shepard, Notre Dame Law School Dean Patricia O’Hara, South Bend attorney Cleo Washington, and U.S. Appeals Court Judge Ann Williams, a Notre Dame Law School alumna, University trustee and a graduate of the national CLEO program.p. Students selected to participate in CLEO incur no costs, and graduates may be eligible for an annual living expense stipend for up to three successive academic years. The statewide program rotates among Notre Dame, the Valparaiso University School of Law, and the Indiana University Schools of Law in Bloomington and Indianapolis.

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