Charlotte Doer is a lawyer at McDermot Will & Emery. The firm joined the Lawyers in Schools programme for the first time this year and is working with London Nautical School in Lambeth.
As a lawyer, you get used to sitting in rooms and talking and negotiating with adults, so I was not sure how my skills would translate to a group of 14-15 year old secondary school students. Also, I was not completely able to rid myself of thoughts of the “youth stereotype” and I wondered how responsive a group of school students would be to learning and discussing the law. As it turns out, I was instantly impressed.
Our first activity was to discuss the minimum age for certain activities and I was astounded when one of the boys launched into an explanation of why he thought the minimum age for voting in local elections should be 16 as he thought that it would give students of that age a chance to begin to get involved in politics and ready themselves for national elections, and it would also reflect the fact that a lot of local government programmes and schemes impact directly on students of his age. I was struck by the student’s thoughtful consideration of the subject, and immediately felt excited about what was to come. I was not disappointed. The 50 minutes or so was taken up with each of the students contributing whole heartedly to the discussion. Even those students that had appeared a little apprehensive to begin with spoke out when an issue important to them was raised.
Although the students were lively they were also respectful of each other and I did not have to reprimand any student for talking over another. I was particularly impressed by students applying what we had been discussing to real world situations. I had started the session with some trepidation but I ended it with a sense of excitement about what the remaining sessions would hold. I’m grateful for programmes like Lawyers in Schools which recognise how crucial it is for today’s students to understand and engage with fundamental civic and legal issues.