(Photo Caption: Judge Thompson, Judge Hardwick, and  Joel Caldwell with some of the event's attendees.)

The Capital City Bar Association and the Alabama State Bar Association's Young Lawyers Section have organized a successful initiative aimed at helping minority students focus on their futures.

One of the goals of the Alabama State Bar’s Young Lawyers Section (AYLS) is to assist lawyers around Alabama in making a difference in their communities. The Minority Pre-Law Conference is one such endeavor. The Minority Pre-Law Conference was implemented over fifteen years ago by members of the AYLS Executive Committee and provides young lawyers in Alabama an opportunity to assist in making a difference in their communities by inviting high school juniors and seniors from schools around Central Alabama to participate in a case study with actual fact scenarios and a mock trial.

The conference is designed to introduce high school juniors and seniors to the American civil and criminal justice system. During the conference, students have an opportunity to view a simulated trial. This experience gives students a better understanding of how the U.S. court system resolves legal conflicts and the roles judges, lawyers, juries, and witnesses play in the system. Through participation in the mock trial, students gain an insider’s perspective on courtroom procedure. In addition, many minority lawyers practicing in different fields of law participate in a panel to discuss their daily activities, so students gain insight into the many different opportunities available in the legal profession. This part of the conference provides students a unique opportunity to meet and talk with practicing minority lawyers. The conference also provides a luncheon with a special keynote speaker to which high schools in the surrounding local areas are invited.

This year's event was hosted by the Alabama Middle District, in Courtroom 2F -- the Ceremonial Courtroom that also houses events such as naturalization ceremonies.

The 2016 Minority Pre-Law Conference opened with a viewing of the U.S. Court's "Pathways to the Bench" video of the ALMD's Judge Myron H. Thompson.  Following opening remarks by Judge Thompson -- who pointed out that the Tuskegee school represented this morning was in fact his alma mater as well -- the students in attendance were introduced to their keynote speaker.

This year's keynote speaker was Judge Johnny Hardwick (15th Judicial Circuit Court Judge). Following his opening remarks, Judge Hardwick presided over the mock trial, presented by the Jones Law School's Black Law Student Association's Mock Trial teams. The jurors for this mock trial were selected from the students attending the event.

During lunch, Judge Calvin Williams provided an overview of the criminal and civil justice systems, discussed various specialty areas of the law, and spoke about his day-to-day work experience.  Following the luncheon, the students spent time in conversation with local attorneys.

The students rounded out their day with jury deliberations, announcing their verdicts from the mock trial. Local attorney Joel Caldwell of Copeland Franco was the point of contact for this year's event.