The UConn School of Law joined with Otis Worldwide for the second year of Lifting the Law, a program designed to expose members of the Boys & Girls Clubs of Hartford to a variety of legal careers, beyond the kind they may have seen on television.
Four lawyers from Otis, two UConn Law professors, and eight law students met weekly with Boys & Girls Club members during the spring semester to present a curriculum of interactive lessons about legal principles and careers, mentoring sessions, and field trips.
“Lifting the Law is a tremendously valuable program that benefits both the community and the legal profession,” Dean Eboni S. Nelson said. “Exposing middle and high school students to the possibility of a legal career is critical to enhancing the diversity of the profession. The program also inspires students to set and attain educational and professional goals that will benefit them throughout their lives. I’m grateful to Otis Worldwide and the BGCH for supporting this initiative.”
David Jones, Laurie Sullivan, Nelson DeCunha ‘09, and Eric Glover from Otis worked with Clinical Professor Emerita Jennifer Mailly and Adjunct Professor An-Ping Hsieh to lead teams of law students to prepare weekly lessons for club members. Hsieh serves as vice chairman of the club’s Board of Trustees and is a former Otis executive. The law students involved were Zoe Russell ’23, Caitlin Jones ’25, Bridget O’Neil ’25, Jasmin Lutz ’23 LLM, Weston Stephens ’24, Courtney Perales ’25, Ehren Cahill ’24, and Holly Critchley ’23.
The lessons focused on topics such as land use law, negotiation, oral advocacy, criminal justice, and trademark and copyright law. To learn about land use, club members designed a development plan for a newly acquired island. In the session on copyright law, they created comic strips with material soon entering the public domain.
The program included field trips to the Otis Test Tower, touring the facility where the company tests its elevator products, and to the UConn Law campus. At UConn Law, club members visited classrooms and mock courtrooms and met with Nelson, who also serves on the club’s Board of Trustees, as well as members of several law student affinity groups.
“One of the main goals of the program is to demystify the legal system and the legal profession so that club members can envision themselves pursuing careers in the law,” Mailly said. “While the lessons and role-playing certainly support that goal, I think it is the weekly opportunities for club members to share a meal and talk informally with law students, law faculty and lawyers that may have the most impact. These opportunities to connect personally certainly had the most impact on me.”
Caitlin Jones was a teacher in Salt Lake City for eight years before enrolling at UConn Law, so the idea of getting back into the classroom was appealing. Before she learned anything about the program, she knew she wanted to get involved because of the Boys & Girls Clubs’ strong reputation.
“Working with the Boys & Girls Clubs creates a connection for kids to the law school and the law, including other legal resources in the community,” Jones said. “We talked about opportunities and different paths to take in a law career. Even if they don’t go to law school, they might take similar paths to a different career.”