In-the-Trenches Law Education Fosters Insights and Promotes "A Judiciary That Looks Like the General Public"

Tuesday, September 1 2009

Written by Donna Emert

MOSCOW, Idaho – Experience is a great teacher, but sometimes it demands a little translation from seasoned professionals.

University of Idaho College of Law students will have the opportunity to learn from experience, and from experienced attorneys, beginning this fall, when the University of Idaho’s Women’s Law Caucus, a student organization, partners with Idaho Women Lawyers Inc., a professional non-profit organization, to deliver on-the-job training and online mentoring.

"As women emerge more visibly in the legal field, it is important for them to have strong role models who have the experience of both being a woman and being an attorney in practice," said second second-year law student Allison Blackman, WLC co-president. "Idaho's women attorneys who are dedicated to sharing their experiences will provide an invaluable resource to current students. WLC believes that the shared experience will empower both mentors and mentees alike, and help to cultivate strong relationships between present and future Idaho legal practitioners."

The program is open to students of both genders, pairing students with female attorneys throughout the state. The intent is to provide students opportunities to ask questions about real-life experiences and to learn about current legal practices in the field. The program also provides networking opportunities for students, for practicing professionals and for participating College of Law faculty and staff.

Mentoring will include live and virtual elements: in addition to providing students the opportunity to shadow professional women lawyers as they work, the WLC and IWL will provide an Internet forum for easy communication between mentors and mentees. Throughout the semester, the online forum will be used to introduce formal topics for participants to discuss. The University of Idaho WLC also hopes to bring members of IWL to campus to speak to students.

The mission of the WLC is to encourage the development, recognition and discussion of women's contributions to the legal field. The organization works for the benefit of all underrepresented groups in Idaho.

IWL’s mission is to promote equal rights and opportunities for women and minorities within the legal profession and the judicial system; to promote full participation by women and minorities in the organized bar and in the legislative and judicial branches of government; and to provide opportunities for women and minorities in the legal profession to support and educate one another.

"Encouraging participation in all facets of Idaho’s legal community begins when law school career paths are being considered," said Peg Dougherty, deputy attorney general, Human Services Division in Boise, and president of IWL. "Through this WLC mentoring program, members of IWL have the opportunity to shed light on the many possible careers available to women and minorities.

"For example, a woman law student may not even be considering a career as a judge, but an IWL member can utilize IWL’s information on how to get on the bench in Idaho, and plant a seed that may ultimately lead that woman to the judiciary," said Dougherty. "In that example, the benefit to the citizens of Idaho is a judiciary that begins to look like the general public."

Membership in WLC and IWL is open to both men and women, and all functions of the mentoring partnership will be open to the law school community.

Women attorneys and University of Idaho students interested in participating in the program can contact Blackman at or Heather O'Leary, WLC co-president, at  
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About the University of Idaho
Founded in 1889, the University of Idaho is the state’s flagship higher-education institution and its principal graduate education and research university, bringing insight and innovation to the state, the nation and the world. University researchers attract nearly $100 million in research grants and contracts each year; the University of Idaho is the only institution in the state to earn the prestigious Carnegie Foundation ranking for high research activity. The university’s student population includes first-generation college students and ethnically diverse scholars. Offering more than 130 degree options in 10 colleges, the university combines the strengths of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. For information, visit  

Media Contact: Donna Emert, University Communications, (208) 640-1609,  

About the University of Idaho
The University of Idaho helps students to succeed and become leaders. Its land-grant mission furthers innovative scholarly and creative research to grow Idaho's economy and serve a statewide community. From its main campus in Moscow, Idaho, to 70 research and academic locations statewide, U-Idaho emphasizes real-world application as part of its student experience. U-Idaho combines the strength of a large university with the intimacy of small learning communities. It is home to the Vandals. For information, visit