NYU Law Students Open Young Minds Through the High School Law Institute

Nisha Acharya, a High School Law Institute instructor, writes about the mission of this NYU Law student group.

NYU Law is about making informed choices. The school affords its students the tools and information they need to pursue their own legal career-oriented ends. On October 1, the High School Law Institute (HSLI) opened its doors for the current academic year with its 2016 orientation, extending that same opportunity to pursue a future career to enterprising high school students across the city and beyond.

HSLI is a law student-run organization at NYU that teaches high school students about the law and instills confidence in them as budding legal thinkers. Our program provides an authentic and valuable peek behind the law school curtain for participating high schoolers as they grapple with interesting legal dilemmas and learn what it takes do so in the classroom and as a career. Every Saturday morning, high schoolers from across the city’s five boroughs and surrounding metro region arrive eager and ready to learn on the NYU campus for classes in criminal law, constitutional law, mock trial, and moot court. This year, the HSLI class of 2017 comprises 104 students in five sections, taught by 27 HSLI faculty members.

Left to right: Emily Muench, Sarah Michel, and Nisha Acharya.

Our greatest treasures are undoubtedly our students, and the staff works diligently to honor the students’ commitment and drive. The program shows “I can be the lawyer that I hope to be one day, just by setting my mind to working hard, and being confident,” says returning student Emily Muench of New Jersey. It “has given me a sense of confidence and accomplishment [and] offers me the opportunity to have a head start on who I want to be some day.”

Another returning student, Sarah Michel of Brooklyn, shares a similar view. “I really enjoyed…HSLI last year. I felt like I learned a lot from the teachers last year. I learned a lot about the law and how it works, and even started to enjoy learning criminal law, which is something I never really liked. The teachers were all very welcoming to all our questions whether [they were] about college or life in general.”

For many of these motivated and thoughtful young people, our program gives them the means and the momentum to start upon their career path of interest. At our orientation ceremony, Congressman Hakeem Jeffries ’97, a former instructor and former co-chair of the HSLI program himself, offered advice and encouragement to the students in attendance. His words found fertile ground, and our students thanked him for speaking to them in a way that served to “motivate us to excel with this program,” in Emily’s phrasing.

Our work at HSLI is possible only with the generous support of HSLI students, their families, and the entire NYU Law community. We look forward to a wonderful and productive 2016-17 program year!