Western New England’s Mini-Law School Program increases civic engagement and awareness and provides opportunities for law schools and educators to help non-lawyers better understand the legal system. This article will discuss the Mini-Law School Program, a creative and extremely successful five-week community outreach program focused on demystifying the law. Our society is in dire need of greater civic education. Public policy surveys consistently reveal disturbing statistics about the public’s lack of civic awareness (e.g., 15 percent of the public knew that John Roberts is Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, but 66 percent could name an American Idol judge; 70 percent could name all Three Stooges, but barely 20 percent could name all three branches of the federal government). The need for increased civic engagement and the importance of education in this era of civic unawareness provides unique opportunities for law faculty to serve as a resource to help educate citizenry and bridge the town and gown divide. This article will describe the surprising success of Western New England’s Mini-Law School Program, an interactive lecture and discussion series focused on providing opportunities for participants to learn about different areas of the law and legal system. The authors provide details of the collaborative endeavor so that others may launch similar Mini-Law School programs in their own communities.
Pat Newcombe and Beth D. Cohen, Mini-Law School: Civic Education Making a Difference in the Community, 16 SEATTLE J. SOC. JUST. 381 (2018).