Hofstra Law Students Teach Local Youth Lawyering Skills

Hofstra Law Students Teach Local Youth Lawyering Skills

This summer, a team of three students from the Maurice A. Deane School of Law at Hofstra University served as law faculty for the Summer Scholars Academy offered through Hofstra University's Science and Technology Entry Project. The Hofstra Law student faculty — Chris Czerwonka 3L, Aleisha Jennings 4L and Angelo Macaluso 3L — trained several groups of high school-age students in trial advocacy using the methodology of “learning-by-doing,” similar to the techniques used in National Institute for Trial Advocacy training programs.

“Teaching was a thoroughly challenging and exciting process,” says Czerwonka. “The sharing of one’s knowledge is, for me, the most noble use of it.”

Macaluso agrees that the experience of teaching younger students was both challenging and rewarding. “At first, with no prior teaching experience, it was difficult to get up in front of a class of students,” he says. “However, as the classes went on it was clear that the students were understanding the material. It was fulfilling to see that the they were enjoying their time in class learning about trial advocacy.”

During the course, students were required to present opening and closing statements and conduct direct examinations and cross-examinations in front of their teachers and classmates. As part of a final project, students performed a demo trial for their parents and other guests based on a criminal file prepared by Hofstra Law Professor Barbara Barron, People v. Dorian Lubov.

“While many of the students were eager to perform, others students were hesitant,” says Macaluso. “It was challenging to motivate the students who did not want to present their assignments to get in front of the class. However, many of these students were motivated to do so by the work and encouragement of their peers.”

According to Czerwonka, another challenge in teaching students of this age group was to make the material engaging. “On the whole, however, the experiences of the course on the instructor’s end are, I think, professionally useful in that while as instructors we do our best to take our students from ‘zero to 60’ knowledge-wise,” he says. “And that charge is the essence of good lawyering.“

The Hofstra Law students who taught the course did not just impart their knowledge to younger students, they also utilized the opportunity to strengthen their own legal practice and communication skills. “For the students to understand the course material, it was important to clearly convey legal concepts and idea without bogging the students down with too much legal jargon,” says Macaluso. “The ability to communicate in this manner will be helpful when speaking with clients.”

Czerwonka agrees: “A client often comes in knowing next to nothing about the law, or worse yet, with inaccurate preconceptions of it, and it is our professional obligation to demystify the law for our clients and help them ‘navigate the waters’ of the legal process, so to speak.”

He adds, “All in all, I’d say that this was a wonderful first chance to educate about the field which I love so much.”

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