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Published: Friday, 7/31/2009

Forum exposes students to legal careers


Ohio Supreme Court Justice Judith Ann Lanzinger's legal opinions affect the lives of millions of Ohioans.

Despite the pressure of dealing with death-penalty cases and high-stakes civil actions, she told a group of incoming high school students that she loves her job.

"It's like eating ice cream every day," she said yesterday at the Law and Leadership Institute at the University of Toledo.

Justice Lanzinger, a Toledo native, told the 29 participants that they would need to use their senses to be good lawyers. She gave them the five not-so-secret-anymore keys to success - listen, read, think, write, and speak.

If they can do those well, they might be able to become lawyers someday, she said.

"Your words are your tools and you're helping people by the way you think," Justice Lanzinger said.

The institute started last year to help incoming freshman gain knowledge and an interest in the legal process and to develop leadership skills and confidence.

The five-week program started in Cleveland and Columbus and this year was expanded to Toledo, as well as Akron, Cincinnati, and Dayton.

It was sponsored in part by the Ohio Supreme Court, as well as bar associations and Ohio law schools.

Justice Lanzinger talked about her experience moving up the chain from lawyer to municipal court judge to common pleas judge and then a judge on the court of appeals. She has been on the state Supreme Court since 2004.

Then it was the students' turn to ask questions, and they had plenty.

The students wanted to know why she switched gears from an elementary school teacher to lawyer. She said she had an interest in those five keys to law success and that teachers really have the most difficult job.

Students also quizzed her about the best part of her job, favorite trial experience, a typical work day, and more.

While she admitted it might sound boring to them, she enjoys her work.

Waverly Hill-Mathis, 14, can see herself following the judge's experience, she said, especially with this program to get a head start on understanding the law.

"I like making a difference and lawyers really do make a difference," said Miss Hill-Mathis, who will attend St. Ursula Academy next year. "And I like to argue and get my point across, too."

Lauren Smith, 14, who will attend Bowsher High School, said she's interested in law and politics, hoping to work as a lawyer and then use that training for a mayoral or senatorial seat.

"I want to help people, and being a lawyer will help," she said. "And I can develop that trust as I move into politics."

Both girls found Justice Lanzinger's story inspiring, which is the goal of the guest speakers, said Marilyn Preston, a UT law professor and director of the Law and Leadership Institute.

The program aims to increase diversity in the legal profession and capture the attention of the youth to let them know this is an option for them, she said.

It includes studies complete with tests on the information, but also more fun activities such as skits and field trips to courts and legal offices.

It will conclude with a mock trial next week.

Contact Meghan Gilbert at:


or 419-724-6134.

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