CBA Record May-June 2021
Y O U N G L A W Y E R S J O U R N A L
YLS Law & Debate Club More Popular Than Ever During Year of Remote Learning By Ann Glynn, CBA Public Affairs Director
D uring the Covid-19 pandemic, schools everywhere have been grappling with the challenges of providing education and resources to students in remote learning environments. The leaders of the CBA Young Lawyers Section Law and Debate Club, a program for Chicago-area high school students to learn about careers in the law, faced a similar challenge at the start of the year. The program, led by volunteer attorneys and legal professionals and held in person at the CBA offices in the South Loop, needed to pivot. The program’s mission and impact on the next generation of attorneys made the decision to shift to an online format an easy one. The Club’s leaders embraced the remote approach and moved immediately to Zoom to accommodate this new environ- ment. The volunteers leading the program are Sarah Chowdhury, Legal Counsel at the Illinois Office of Comptroller; Brett J.
Geschke, SmithAmundsen LLC; Bradley R. Kaye, Law Offices of Jonathan Merel PC; Kevin P. Kelley, Assistant General Counsel for the Board of Education for the City of Chicago; and Caroline Lourgos, Kirkland & Ellis LLP. Historically, 15-30 students from schools across Chicago attend the first meeting, with the group dropping off to about 10 dedicated students for the year. This year, though, with students no longer having to leave their home or school to travel to the city, even more kids could join in. The first meeting attracted nearly 40 students – and now eight months later, most of the students have stayed with the program. “As attorneys, we had been adjusting to life via Zoom for a while and were excited to see if we could mimic the flexibility and accessibility of the remote experience for our students,” said Kevin P. Kelley. “The stu- dents easily adapted to the change. Moving the meetings online allowed us to expand
our reach to more students.” The Club’s programming is coordinated by volunteer attorneys who meet via Zoom with students every other Wednesday eve- ning from September through April. They provide mentorship and advice while facili- tating role plays concerning legal and ethical questions. Guest speakers from all facets of the legal profession join the program to help students improve important life skills including public speaking, negotiation, debate, and advocacy. “As a student involved in speech and debate in high school, I never had a woman of color to mentor me or provide feedback,” said Sarah Chowdhury. “The opportunity to impact and influence students and be that person I didn’t have, is truly inspiring.” If you are interested in volunteering or learning more, general inquiries may be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org.
The YLS Law and Debate Club has been hosting its meetings remotely. Pictured from top left are Brett J. Geschke, SmithAmundsen LLC; Bradley R. Kaye, The Law Offices of Jonathan Merel PC; Sarah Chowdhury, Legal Counsel at the Illinois Office of Comptroller; Kevin P. Kelley, Assistant General Counsel for the Board of Education for the City of Chicago; and Caroline Lourgos, Kirkland & Ellis LLP. If you are interested in getting involved with the Club next bar year, send an email to email@example.com.
38 May/June 2021
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