Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio
Court News Ohio

Off-Site Court Provides Law Students Practical Education

The Ohio Supreme Court Off-Site Program is dedicated to educating high school students about the state’s court of last resort. But it’s also enlightening to those studying the law.

Dozens of students from the University of Akron School of Law were among the nearly 900 people in attendance when the institution hosted the Supreme Court’s most recent sessions last week.

“It makes it very real,” said third-year Akron Law student Maria Carroll. “This is something that some of us in our class are going to be doing within the next year.”

As part of the programming, law students observed oral arguments, heard debriefs from the arguing attorneys after their cases, and some even spoke directly with the justices during a luncheon.

The two-day event was part of the law school’s centennial celebration.

“It’s really amazing to have this accessibility because learning from other lawyers is so much better than learning from a textbook,” said Sai Vellala, a second-year Akron Law student.

Founded on the principles of inclusivity for its admissions with “no artificial barriers due to race, color, ethnicity, religion, or gender,” Akron Law prides itself on a track record of diversity that includes its first woman graduate in 1925 and first Black graduate a year later.

“Think about that. They were ‘woke’ back 100 years ago,” said Chief Justice Maureen O’Connor during her luncheon speech between the Court’s two sessions.

With mixed backgrounds and ambitions in pursuit of the legal profession, some of the law students had varying “light bulb” moments in the different settings. Some extracted practical tidbits, such as how to conduct their arguments before an appellate bench. Others connected when they heard why the jurists became justices, emphasizing the ideals of fairness and enhancing the judicial system.

“Justice reform, such as wrongful convictions, was one of my deciding factors in deciding to go to law school,” said first-year Akron Law student Dayne Hammond. “It’s about doing what the system is supposed to do, and that’s justice.”

Akron Law is only the fifth collegiate institution to host the Court’s oral arguments, joining Cleveland-Marshall College of Law, Case Western Reserve University School of Law, Ohio Northern University Pettit College of Law, and the University of Toledo College of Law. Of the Court’s 77 Off-Site locations, 71 have been at a high school.