Representatives from virtually every facet of Baltimore’s legal community roamed throughout Westminster Hall’s main floor on the balmy afternoon of June 27, with one objective: to corral and guide the city’s lawyers and leaders of tomorrow.
Law Links, a program of the Citizenship-Law Related Education Program (CLREP) and sponsored by the Association of Legal Administrators, has operated for the last 13 years as a device for students in the Baltimore City Public School System to gain firsthand knowledge of the legal and professional world. The eight-week program places juniors and seniors from City Schools with various Baltimore-based law firms, law-related organizations and public service offices; $6.50/hour is the rate for these summer interns. This year’s field of 25 Baltimore City participants (19 girls, six boys) was culled from 60 applicants, with the final product representing 10 different City Schools.
“These are the best of the best,” notes CLREP Assistant Director Shelley Wojciechowski. She continued to speak of the applicants’ “rigorous application process,” which, not excluding a high grade point average and excellent attendance, also includes multiple interviews with CLREP employees and attorneys.
The interns are continually guided by CLREP throughout their summer service with weekly meetings at the University of Maryland – Baltimore Law Library. The Wednesday morning sessions offer opportunities for the teenagers to share their experiences and ask questions, as well as take notes on the judicial process from credible sources like Chief Judge Robert M. Bell, Court of Appeals of Maryland, and Chief Judge Ben C. Clyburn, District Court of Maryland.
“Law Links would not exist without the commitment, dedication and hard work of dozens of people,” acknowledges Ellery M. “Rick” Miller, Jr., Executive Director of CLREP. Miller adds that the program is aimed at providing “a spring board to a higher education.”
Decorated in a tailored blue blazer, the Law Links participants begin their ascension to a higher education with professionalism. Every day during their internship, the teenagers are required to wear their trademark blue blazer to the office. The boys, who get their jackets from JoS. A. Bank, are also provided with two pairs of khaki pants, two white shirts and two ties; the girls, along with the blazer, receive two white blouses, a khaki skirt and navy pants.
For many of the participants who have later gone on to attend such institutions as the University of Maryland – College Park, Dartmouth College, University of Baltimore, Villa Julie College and Morgan State University, the memory of that blue blazer burns bright.
“It was like my I.D. Badge,” gleams Robin Ricks, a 2001 alumni of Law Links who still has her blue blazer. An intern with Ober Kaler in their Baltimore Street office, Ricks admitted that the program’s trademark brought positive recognition during her summer service. Whether it was eating lunch around the Inner Harbor or venturing to another office building, others welcomed the blue blazer.
A 2007 Political Science graduate of St. Mary’s College of Maryland, Ricks is now the Deputy Finance Director for Councilman Keifer Mitchell’s mayoral campaign. Beaming with passion and joy over her job, Ricks admitted that Law Links was the stepping stone to her budding career.
“If it wasn’t for Law Links,” says Ricks, “I wouldn’t have participated in as many things as I have.”
Following her internship, the then-Mervo High School Student became a student page (high school students that are interns with the Maryland General Assembly) and during her senior year of college, Ricks served as the legislative intern for former-Comptroller William Donald Schaefer. Though the kids do not openly embrace the blue blazers at first, the veterans now look back and cannot imagine themselves without it.
“[The Law Links] experience was amazing,” Ricks states. “The professional setting let me know how to act on a job site now.”
The law reps and their young apprentices scrambled to get acquainted during the Annual Kickoff Luncheon on that late June day at Baltimore’s famed downtown church. Justin Chapple from Baltimore Talent Development High School stimulated conversation between his Wright, Constable & Skeen, LLP, representatives with questions ranging from, “How do they come up with the names of law firms?” to “Why did you become a lawyer?” The teenagers also offered personal goals to their peers and employers.
“I am on a mission to challenge myself during this internship,” noted Erin Wilson, a student at Baltimore Polytechnic Institute who will work with Tydings & Rosenberg, LLP.
Ashley Ngole, a WEB Dubois High School student who is interning with Miles & Stockbridge, P.C., echoed Wilson’s sentiment, exclaiming, “I will accomplish nothing but the best.”
As they stepped out of the arched doorways and felt the skyscrapers of Charm City bearing down upon them, the interns embarked to join the workforce for the first time.