Law students at Widener University's law campus in Wilmington, Del. will spend this Saturday doing their part to boost diversity in the legal profession, by hosting a competition designed to spark an interest in the law among diverse undergraduate students.
The "Diversity Pipeline Mock Trial Competition" will begin at 9 a.m. Saturday, April 14 in room 126 of the main law building. Twenty minority undergraduate students from around the region have signed up to compete in the competition, where they will act as attorneys and play out a criminal trial involving fictitious allegations of sexual assault. Competitors come from a range of backgrounds, and many are of ethnicities which have been traditionally underrepresented in the legal profession. Other competitors include students who have immigrated to America from foreign countries and intend to go to law school following their current studies.
The competitors will make opening statements, question witnesses and submit evidence and make closing arguments - all before a panel of law professors and area attorneys, who will judge their performances. Widener Law students will volunteer as bailiffs and as witnesses, to be questioned on the witness stand by competitors.
The school's Student Bar Association has organized the competition, which is drawing competitors from the University of Delaware, Drexel University, the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University and Widener University. The program is the Widener students' localized effort in support of the American Bar Association's 2007 national goal of promoting diversity in the legal profession.
The competitors are not law students, but the competition allows them to "play" lawyer for a day, exposing them to the professional life of a trial attorney in the hopes it may inspire the undergraduates to consider careers in law. The top six competitors, who will be announced at an awards ceremony April 19, will win $1,300 scholarships from Kaplan for LSAT prep courses.
"In the end, the hope is that this will be a first step toward a more diverse bar," Widener Law student Joe McNamara, the lead coordinator of Saturday's competition, said. "If Widener should benefit by boosting its student diversity all the better, but the main focus is on diversity in the profession at large, long term."