WHITE PLAINS, N.Y. -- Thanks to a partnership with Pace's Elisabeth Haub School of Law, disadvantaged students in the area will have access to the New York Legal Education Opportunity Program -- or NY-LEO. LEO is an extensive course that helps minority, low-income or educationally disadvantaged participants acquire practical skills to prepare them to succeed in law school.
LEO is being held this summer at the state courts' Judicial Institute in partnership with the Elizabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University in White Plains.
Project director Beverly McQuery Smith calls the program a "boot camp" for future law students. Smith is a retired professor from the Touro College Jacob D. Fuchsberg Law Center. This year's class includes 16 women and four men ranging in age from 22 to 42 largely from the New York metropolitan area. LEO is free to selected participants.
LEO fellows take courses in torts, contracts and legal analysis and writing, as well as visit courts in session and meet judges and practicing attorneys. Notable faculty include Judge Jenny Rivera, who holds a seat on the state Court of Appeals, and fellows will be guided by mentors once they continue on into law school.
“I was most impressed with how hard all of the students worked even though it was during the summer and they were not receiving any academic credit,” said Leslie Garfield, a Pace professor. “Every student brought his or her ‘A game’ to class each day so that each class was challenging and thrilling.”
LEO was offered beginning in the summer of 2007 for three years but was discontinued due to budget cuts. This year and next year the program is being funded by the New York State Legislature, costing about $200,000 a year. Program alums have gone on to become remarkable civil servants. Bronx Assemblywoman Latoya Joyner, a member of the Class of 2009, has said the experience was enormously helpful to her in preparing to enter law school.