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July 1, 2016

Eighteen diverse high school students, representing all of Lexington’s public high schools and Sayre, came to the University of Kentucky College of Law on June 12-18 for the third annual Summer Law Institute (SLI) – a seven-day residential Law Camp for rising juniors and seniors interested in law and the legal profession.

Kenleigh Joseph, a student at Tates Creek High School, participated in the camp this year.

“This is one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” said Joseph. “I also think it’s brought me clarity on what I want to go into after high school.”

Law Camp, co-hosted by the UK College of Law and the Fayette County Bar Association (FCBA), consists of four days of classes, one day of job shadowing, and a day of oral argument presentations. The classes, taught by UK Law Professors Allison Connelly, Mary Davis and Melissa Henke, covered the fundamentals of trial procedure, the judicial system, and criminal and civil law. In addition to seeing the academic side of preparing to be a lawyer, students had the opportunity to see lawyers at work, in their offices and in the courtroom. They toured the Fayette Circuit Courthouse, got a glimpse of several live court sessions, and shadowed attorneys to see what a day in the life of a lawyer is really like. In the evenings, students worked on daily assignments in Champions Court II, their assigned dormitory housing, to prepare for the individual oral arguments they presented on Saturday morning in the College of Law courtroom. A law professor and two local judges critiqued the arguments.

“Each year’s group has a different personality and this group was lively, engaged, smart and maybe a bit rambunctious. They fit together very well and bonded early,” said Judge Sheila Isaac, Executive Director for the FCBA. “As the other two groups in previous years told us, they wanted to stay longer and have a second year camp next summer.”

Aside from the busy educational agenda created by Allison Connelly, academic dean for Law Camp, there was also time to get a glimpse of student life at UK. The group that formed an instant bond played ultimate Frisbee, card games, ping-pong tournaments and even had dessert at local favorites Sav’s Grill and Insomnia Cookies.

The idea to host a law camp is credited to Judge Isaac. When she first began as director of the FCBA, she met with the director of the Louisville Bar Association who informed her about their annual law camp funded by the Louisville Bar Foundation – the only program they have allowed to be funded every year.  She loved the idea, decided to write for a grant, and with the help of UK College of Law faculty and staff, the rest fell perfectly into place.

“Law Camp challenges these students academically and hones their speaking and debate skills,” said Judge Isaac. “Within a week, a shy, nervous, soft-spoken student will turn into a zealous advocate for their imaginary clients.”

“The mock trial was fun,” said Keymari Johnson, rising junior at Henry Clay High school. “We all were assigned cases and had to defend our argument in front of Prof. Connelly. It was like we were in a real situation.”

Judge Isaac looks forward to next year’s Law Camp, a week that makes young people better citizens by educating them on the fundamentals of the law and trial, broadening their understanding and awareness of the bar, and promoting a positive image of the law profession.

Thank you to the following who helped make this year’s Law Camp possible:

Law Camp Executive Director
Judge Sheila Isaac

Law Student Mentors
Rachel Hepburn
Skylar Jewell

Law Camp Faculty
Professor Allison Connelly
Professor Mary Davis
Professor Melissa Henke

Law Camp Judges and Lawyers
Judge Joe Bouvier
Matt Boyd
Taylor Brown
Judge Kim Bunnell
Julie Butcher
Traci Caneer
Connor Egan
Lucy Ferguson
John Hayne
Robert Houlihan, Jr.
Kelly Kilgore
LaToi Mayo
Austin Mehr
Larry Roberts
Gregg Thornton