Street Law at the UW School of Law
Teaching young people the principles of fairness, justice, authority and responsibility that form the basis of the American legal system
The Street Law Clinic at the UW School of Law gives second and third-year law students the opportunity to find out how it feels to be on the other side of the podium. In this two-quarter clinic, offered in Winter-Spring, law students complete a month-long “crash course” in teaching with Professor Julia Gold and Adjunct Professor Jennifer McIntyre, and then team teach a practical law course two hours a week for 15 weeks, at a Seattle-area high school.
Street Law is designed to engage high school students in a critical examination of their legal responsibilities and rights. By taking law to high schools, law students have the opportunity to conduct discussions with the high school students about practical legal problems, contemporary legal issues, and the ramifications of breaking the law. An important goal of the program is to provide high school students with a sense of belonging in society through empowerment with knowledge of the law. By providing students with a non-adversarial view of the law, Street Law works to impart an understanding of the fundamental principles of authority, fairness, justice and responsibility that underlie our legal system. By demystifying the law, Street Law will hopefully allow young people to develop a positive attitude towards the law and reduce juvenile delinquency.
Law students learn how to explain complex subjects to laypersons; how to plan, organize and prepare lesson plans and deliver them in an engaging way; and how to respond to wide-ranging questions and gain ease with public speaking. They also learn the skills of collaboration and how to work with a partner. In their teaching the law student teachers use teaching methods that engage high school age students—interactive, hands-on strategies like mock hearings, opinion polls, and simulations that encourage students to think about the law and how it affects their daily lives. The culminating event for the high school students is when they conduct a mock trial at the law school, playing the roles of all witnesses and attorneys.
The program serves around 300 high school students each year, at six to eight Seattle high schools.
Street Law started at UW in January 1997, but it originally started in 1972, at Georgetown Law School in Washington, D.C. From a pilot program involving four students during the 1972-73 academic year, the program now known as "Street Law" has grown to include hundreds of students at over 40 major law schools across the country. In addition, Street Law, Inc., a non-profit group, developed in response to the need to expand this program nationwide. The success of the programs in this country has led Street Law, Inc. to take Street Law overseas. Currently, programs are being offered all over the world, including South Africa, Chile, Ecuador, German, Namibia, the Philippines, Ethiopia, Bolivia, and Eastern Europe.