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Aspiring lawyer “ahead of the curve” in college thanks to early exposure to law-themed curriculum in high school

Posted on: November 1, 2019

Freddy Boyd has dreamed of becoming a lawyer since he was seven years old. Thinking of it now, Boyd says even his siblings can attest to his early love of debating.

Boyd planned to follow the same path many aspiring lawyers choose: college, law school, and then the bar exam. His dream of studying law would have to wait until college, he thought. He had no idea that forces were at work to help students like him start their legal education sooner.

In 2012, the same year Boyd began looking for high schools, a unique public school opened based on the vision of two lawyers who noticed a stark lack of diversity in their profession. Seeking to rectify this problem, Sam Finkelstein and Rather Stanton opened Legal Prep Charter Academy, a tuition-free charter public high school that offers access to a rigorous, law-themed curriculum in Chicago’s West Garfield Park neighborhood.

Boyd enrolled and became a part of the first graduating class at Legal Prep. Now, he’s on-track to graduate next semester from Southern Illinois University at Carbondale with a degree in political science and a minor in criminal justice. He plans to attend law school and eventually become a lawyer.

Below is a conversation the INCS team had with Boyd to learn more about how having access to a law-themed curriculum in high school helped him on his journey to becoming a lawyer.

INCS: How did you and your family decide to attend Legal Prep Charter Academy?

Boyd: I had been in the process of selecting high schools for some time before I had even heard of Legal Prep. I had gained admission into a few selective enrollment schools—some of them rather competitive. Distance was the ultimate factor for my decision. Most of the schools I had gotten into were several bus rides away from where I live. My family and I knew we had to choose something closer, but the neighborhood schools in my area, for the most part, were inadequate in more ways than one.

Then Legal Prep came along. It was relatively close to me. It was a brand new school. Most importantly, it offered a diversified curriculum that came across as both challenging yet intriguing. I made my choice, and I haven’t regretted it ever since.

How was your time at Legal Prep? Paint the picture of your life as a high school student.

Looking back on the years I spent at Legal Prep, it’s difficult to put into words how much they mean to me today. The countless experiences I would have each and every day, all the new friends I met and still communicate with, and just the time I spent maturing into a young man, I owe in large part to Legal Prep.

While I was there, I pretty much tried to get involved in every program the school offered. From our mock trial teams to debate club, chess club, student government, varsity basketball, football, you name it, I spent some time in. All the while, I made it a priority to maintain my standing academically. The curriculum was very challenging at times, but for me, I love the idea of being challenged because it pushed me to maximize my learning potential and to develop discipline.

All Legal Prep students take courses in law through literature, criminal law, constitutional law, and criminal procedures. This is pretty unique. Many aspiring lawyers do not take courses like these until college or law school.  How was your experience going through those courses?

The fact that I was able to gain some exposure to legal-themed courses in high school has proven to be incredibly beneficial for me in college. Being a criminal justice minor, I’ve taken many courses where the majority of the material being taught I had already encountered and still had knowledge of. In that regard, I feel like I was ahead of the curve. To this day, my criminal justice classes are the ones I get my highest grades in.

I remember taking those criminal law classes back in high school. There was one group assignment that I was particularly fond of. Each group had to come up with the unique situation where an amendment from the Bill of Rights was violated as well as one where it was not. These assignments really helped improve my understanding of not just The Bill of Rights but the Constitution and amendments as a whole and how they work in everyday life.

All Legal Prep students are also required to complete 40 hours of community service during their tenure at Legal Prep. How did you spend your volunteer hours? Did you volunteer at a law clinic or firm?

I spent the majority of my community service hours participating in events that were close to my neighborhood. I would volunteer for our back-to-school parades, neighborhood clean-ups, and daycare centers. I would even stay after school some days to help clean and manage certain classrooms.

I did receive a lot of great law-related opportunities from the school, but it wasn’t through the volunteer program. I received a paid internship at Nash Disability Law Firm in downtown Chicago after being chosen from a list of qualified candidates. Through this opportunity, I was able to meet and work with some brilliant lawyers, as well as gain some valuable clerical experience. Having the opportunity to work in a law firm at such a young age was truly invaluable for me and it’s something that I’m thankful for having been awarded to this day.

Did you have a favorite law-themed course during your time at Legal Prep? If so, what did you like most about it?

My favorite law themed course by far was my mock trial course taught by Mr. Bolinger. This class tied in to our mock trial team, and it was here where I was first introduced to proper courtroom decorum and proceedings. We spent the bulk of our time in this class deciphering the case we were given for our competition. Everyone in the class was designated a specific position on the team, I acted as the lead attorney and I delivered the opening statements as well as the cross examination of a witness. The process of composing opening statements was the most fun for me. I drew inspiration from the opening statements delivered by Captain Ross in the Movie “A Few Good Men”. I had a ton of fun crafting my arguments, and even more delivering them in the competition.

Can you talk about your process of finding a college and any support Legal Prep offered you during the college application process?

While I was at Legal Prep, I was a part of a program called OneGoal, which is a college-oriented program that helps students determine their options regarding post-secondary education. Every day, my advisory class was spent going over college-related material. Everything from financial aid, finding the best state colleges, to the actual application process I learned from my advisors Mr. Hudson and Mr. Ramirez at Legal Prep. They really made the entire process easy for me, and I was able to find an institution that I love and I’m glad for attending.

How is college going? Have you found the lessons and support you received at Legal Prep helpful?

College is going well for me. I’ve been able to maintain over a 3.0 grade point average, and I’m on track to graduate next semester. Looking back on the time I spent at Legal Prep I’m glad to have gained familiarity with some of the law-themed courses because they helped prepare me for the ones I’ve taken in college. I feel like going to Legal Prep gave me an advantage over those who were not as exposed to the material as I was, and I believe that experience has helped me maintain good grades in my criminal justice classes.

Looking back, are you glad you attended Legal Prep?

Attending Legal Prep was one of the smartest decisions I made. I’ve met some lifelong friends, had countless experiences, and created a solid network of some brilliant and productive individuals. I’ll never forget my time at Legal Prep and hopefully in the future, I’m blessed enough to be able to give back to the school.

Is there anything we haven’t discussed that you’d like to add?

I just wanted to give thanks and honor to God for continuously blessing me in my life as well as to thank my family and friends, and my high school counselor Mr. Washington who’ve given me a great support system and helped me out every step of the way.

To learn more and support Legal Prep Charter Academy, visit supportlegalprep.org.