Open at Bonas: The Center for Law
By MATT CHANDLER
[email protected] | 716-541-1654
It began as a vision between two colleagues at St. Bonaventure University several years ago. On Oct. 21, that vision became reality when The Center for Law and Society celebrated its grand opening.
Located on the main campus in Olean, the center offers students with an interest in law a collaborative setting for workshops, activities and advisory meetings.
"The Center for Law and Society was the result of a collaborative effort between myself and a member of the political science department, Dr. Danette Brickman," said Steve Nuttall, a longtime pre-law adviser and co-director of the center. "We decided we should collaborate on pre-law advising, and we envisioned a center that would be a physical space where students who have a passion or an interest in the law could get together and share their ideas, regardless of major."
While St. Bonaventure students have an academic adviser in their chosen major, he said the center offers them an opportunity to meet with a pre-law adviser to bolster their academic experience. It's also the hub for the school's mock trial program, which Nuttall said attracts a diverse group of students. Among them is Katie Reusch, a political science major and captain of the mockThenm trial squad.
"For me, it's not only to help me out for public speaking, but it really preps students who may want to go into law," she said. "It allows them to get a real feel for all aspects of a courtroom and how a trial is run."
Reusch, now in her third year on the team, said it offers students intangibles beyond the legal experience.
"Because we have people from all different majors, you really get an idea of what the other students are about and you make each other better with your writing, your public speaking, everything," she said.
Mock trial teammate Aleece Burgio agrees. The 21-year-old history major is in her second year in the program and said it has helped round out her academic experience.
"My first year of mock trial, I wasn't very good," she said. "I was nervous all the time. I am so much more comfortable this year and it made a big difference for me."
Now in the process of applying to law schools. Burgio said she sees the The Center for Law and Society as a way to enhance the overall experience for students who follow her class.
"You go into this thinking that it is like an episode of 'Law and Order,' but you find out how hard it is and how much you have to know to try a case," she said of the program. "It's a very good opportunity to learn how to think on your feet and really learn the small things that make big differences."
Co-director Nuttall, meanwhile, said the center hopes to reach a range of students. It's open to virtually anyone with an interest in law, not just pre-law students and mock trial participants.
"It's not an exclusive club," he said. "We want to welcome as many students as possible to take part in the activities, field trips and programs the center will offer."
A broad reach is key to the success of such a program, according to Steve Mazurak, former dean of the University of Detroit Mercy Law School. He was keynote speaker at the dedication ceremony.
"Not all law students go on to law firms," Mazurak told the group. "Many go into law enforcement, business, government, media and other fields."
Added Nuttall: "We think that this center will offer students a home to get together and discuss issues of law and their common interests. And that can only make the overall academic experience a better one."
For more information, visit www.sbu.edu.