More than 70 local high school students with an interest in the legal profession recently got a chance to see what it looks like. The brand new “Face of Justice Program” premiered at the Hall of Justice in Lansing in October, bringing the students together with local judges, attorneys, and other justice system professionals for discussion, mentoring, and tours. The students, who came from J.W. Sexton, Everett, and Eastern high schools, were hand selected because of their interest in the profession or their participation in civics-related advanced placement courses.
The Face of Justice Program is based on the National Association of Women Judges’ (NAWJ) Color of Justice Program, which encourages young women and minorities to consider legal and judicial careers. The Color of Justice Program was introduced to Michigan by 29th Circuit Court Judge and NAWJ District Director Michelle Rick. It quickly developed into the Face of Justice Program. Judge Rick partnered with State Bar of Michigan Director of Diversity Greg Conyers and representatives from the State Bar of Michigan’s Law Related Education & Public Outreach Committee and its Equal Justice Initiative.
Justice Bridget McCormack was the event’s introductory speaker. The students sat at attention as she told them how important they are to the legal system. A panel presentation followed, led by Judge Rick and other legal professionals who spoke about how they got interested in the law and how that interest grew into a career. The program then divided students into two groups for mentoring and tours of the Michigan Supreme Court’s Learning Center and a courtroom.
The main focus of the day was “jet mentoring,” a “speed dating”-style approach to mentoring with legal professionals. The program allowed for nearly one-on-one mentoring with the students, which encouraged them to ask questions and seek helpful advice for high school and beyond. In total, 18 legal professionals participated, including judges, court administrators, new attorneys, legal aid attorneys, non-traditional attorneys who do not practice law, and members of law enforcement.
Gregory Conyers said of Judge Rick’s role in getting the program off the ground, “From her experience with the national program she championed the work we did here in Michigan and we can’t wait to see the other opportunities that stem from it. As a profession, reaching youth is essential to help build and cultivate future leadership that is diverse and well rounded.”
Pictures from the event can be found here.
(Michelle Erskine and Lynn Ingram contributed to this story.)
Published February 3, 2017