Valley Voices

Want to be a lawyer? Fresno City College can light the way

I need a good lawyer!

Ever said that before? It seems lawyers are held in low regard by the general public until you actually need one. A competent lawyer, working on your side, can be your best friend. Many legal proceedings and filings can be done by the average citizen, but you need a lawyer for the big things.

What about all those lawyers out there? Actually, I prefer the term “attorney” rather than “lawyer” purely for reasons of clarity. According to his own dictionary, Mr. Webster states that anyone can call himself a “lawyer,” but an “attorney” is someone who has been admitted to the legal bar in any jurisdiction, after education and exam requirements have been met.

According to surveys and public statements from California attorneys, the initial, overriding reason for entering this profession was to “do some social good” or “seek real justice” in many areas. Both are worthy goals. Most people believe, as I do, that if the system is to be changed, it should be done legally and within the boundaries of the organization.

What if you want to be an attorney at law and you don’t know how to go about it? Planning for law school can be a daunting task, but luckily Fresno City College can offer assistance. What if money might be a problem? City College has a deal for you. In cooperation with the California State Bar, the state Legislature and several participating law schools, there is a new program out there called the 2+2+3 Law School Pathway.

The 2+2+3 Law School Pathway project is designed to recruit a more diverse student population into the legal profession that is representative of the state of California. Racial or ethnic minorities constitute about 60 percent of the population, but only about 20 percent of the state’s attorneys are of a minority background. Established by the Legislature, under the sponsorship of the State Bar of California’s Council on Access and Fairness, this initiative will provide a pathway to a law school education for students whose college education begins at City.

The program provides a clear route from City to law school. This distinctive model is designed to provide a determined partnership with existing articulation agreements and transfer guides among community colleges, four-year universities and undergraduate colleges. This is not a “giveaway” or “set aside,” as the participants must be qualified at each level of the program.

The first group of students started out at City in the spring of 2015. These students completed a class entitled American Studies 11, Law and Democracy. This class is meant to be the capstone course out of the seven required courses. The next step is moving on to Fresno State, which two students have done. Two students are still at City; one is on hiatus from school, and one is enrolled at UC Davis.

These are not big numbers, but we are a small program just starting out.

The second group of 10 students started in the spring of 2016, with all of them still at City. We have big aspirations for them.

We have been reaching out to the community, local schools and other organizations in an effort to expand our program participation. Our advisory committee is comprised of several federal and state jurists, local attorneys and other individuals to ensure we do it right and ensure the best quality program.

The program has recently recruited 10 new students, for a total of 26 who are being actively mentored. We are always looking for good people who are interested.

For those desiring more information on this fantastic opportunity, you may contact Matt Watson at 559-442-8210, ext. 2391, or email at matthew.watson@fresnocitycollege.edu.

Jim Makofske is an instructor at Fresno City College in accounting and information technology. He is in his 28th year of service and has developed, written and instructed several new classes in both disciplines. He is completing requirements for his doctorate in business administration and is a retired U.S. Navy Reserve captain and commanding officer. He can be reached at jim.makofske@fresnocitycollege.edu.

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