OCLRE programs fuel legal careers

OCLRE logoOhio State Bar Association member Caitlyn Nestleroth’s interest in the law began early. Since few law-related courses were available to her in high school and there were no lawyers in her family, Caitlyn turned to the Ohio Center for Law-Related Education’s (OCLRE) High School Mock Trial program. “I was interested in being an attorney before joining my high school mock trial team,” she said, “but participating in that program cemented my desire to go to law school.”

Now an assistant attorney general in the Criminal Justice Section of the Ohio Attorney General’s Office, Nestleroth defends the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction and its employees against lawsuits brought by inmates. In her current role, she continues to build on skills she developed during the three seasons she participated in the Mock Trial program at Westerville North High School.

Nestleroth, who earned her undergraduate degree from Ohio Wesleyan University before graduating from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law, strongly recommends Ohio’s Mock Trial program. “Regardless of their interests,” she says, “any student can benefit from the public speaking and confidence-building aspects of the High School Mock Trial program.”

“The High School Mock Trial program taught me a number of invaluable skills that cannot be learned from a textbook,” Nestleroth said. “It taught me how to be an advocate for a position while still seeing the issue from both sides, which makes it easier to anticipate, and then counter, your opponent’s position.” She added, “It also taught me professionalism and how to conduct myself with poise in a formal setting. It gave me confidence in public speaking.” 

Understanding the workings of the law and government is an essential element for almost any career field. Jeffrey Houser, a Columbus attorney, notes, “Understanding how those systems work is beneficial to anyone.” He also credits OCLRE’s programs with increasing his interest in the law.

Houser says that his participation in OCLRE’s We the People program in high school solidified his desire to pursue a career as a lawyer. In addition to his involvement with the We the People program, Houser took a high school honors debate class that made use of OCLRE Mock Trial materials.

Houser went on to attend Miami University in Oxford, Ohio, where he earned a B.A. in political science and later received his law degree from The Ohio State University Moritz College of Law. After he was admitted to the practice of law, he became an associate with Crabbe, Brown & James, where he has practiced law for 11 years.

Houser says, “As a lawyer, my work always involves a thorough review of the underlying facts, analysis and understanding of the law at issue, and application of the facts to the law in order to advocate for my client's interest.” He notes that these are core skills that he developed through in-class mock trial and We the People. Like Nestleroth, he believes that these skills “can't be learned strictly from a book, but must be practiced over and over again in order to be effective.”

OCLRE relies on its teachers, mentors, coaches, and judges to run their programs and support the students involved. These volunteers, in return, receive a unique experience that can inspire their own passions while helping students discover theirs.

As a practicing attorney, Houser regularly volunteers his time for OCLRE programs. Not only does he judge Mock Trial and We the People competitions, but he has also served as a legal advisor to the Reynoldsburg High School and Ft. Hayes High School Mock Trial teams. Nestleroth has also volunteered her time to judge Mock Trial competitions. As participants in the competitions, these practicing lawyers give students the opportunity to present their cases before legal professionals. This helps to create an authentic experience that is essential to the success of these OCLRE programs.

Perhaps the most well-known of the OCLRE programs is the High School Mock Trial program, Ohio’s largest high school academic competition. Students from across the state participate in an original, unscripted trial scenario based on a constitutional issue. With guidance from teachers and volunteer legal advisors, students use witness statements to build a case, which they must prepare to argue from both sides.

In addition to Mock Trial, OCLRE offers several other programs for students, including We the People, Youth for Justice and Project Citizen. These programs focus on such areas as constitutional government, civic responsibility and how to monitor and influence public policy. OCLRE’s programs provide practical law-related information to students and teachers, help develop students’ problem-solving and critical thinking skills and encourage positive engagement between students and the community.



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