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The Bar Bulletin
Jax Daily Record Thursday, Dec. 5, 201905:20 AM EST

Mentoring future lawyers, leaders

A time to reflect as students from Ribault, Raines high schools visit the Duval County Courthouse.
LaTesha Campbell

By LaTesha Campbell • Young Lawyers Section ex-officio board member

On Nov. 1, I organized a tour of the Duval County Courthouse and State Attorney’s Office for more than 30 students from Ribault and Raines high schools. While we were on the third floor of the courthouse, I learned that only two of the students had previously been on a field trip to the courthouse. I was reminded of my first time visiting a courthouse, as a law school student on an assignment to watch a criminal trial.

It also reminded me that my first time visiting the Duval County Courthouse was on my first day of work as a new assistant state attorney in 2013.  

I told the students that I too once was a Ribault High School student leader. I encouraged them to take advantage of the attorney mentors and opportunities the Jacksonville Bar Association Young Lawyers Section Future Lawyers and Leaders program at Ribault High School provides. 

I grew up in North Jacksonville and attended Jean Ribault High School. As a high school student, I had never seen the inside of a courthouse and did not know any attorneys.

I developed a vision for my life and legal career, largely because of the impact of young professionals giving back to our school through career days and initiatives similar to the Future Lawyers program. 

The program provides student leaders at Jean Ribault High School mentors and exposure to the legal profession. Each year, students and mentors interact through lunches, field trips and mock trial practices.

The program year ends with a mock trial at the Bryan Simpson U.S. Courthouse with U.S. District Judge Brian Davis presiding. 

After four school years volunteering with the Future Lawyers program, I have spent many hours coaching and giving advice to students. I have been paired with mentees and inspired while observing them go from participating in the program to graduating from high school and leaving for college.

It has been so rewarding to give back to the students, and my involvement in a YLS-sponsored program has led to my continued involvement with other student mentoring initiatives and the JBA as well.  

As young attorneys, we begin our careers eager to find our place in the profession. It can be difficult to find time to get involved outside of the office and still meet the demands of learning the job.

It also can be difficult to figure out the right things in which to become involved. My advice is to start by giving back to the community in ways that inspire you. 

I know firsthand the impact that meeting an attorney, having a mentor or taking a trip to a new place can have on a student with limited exposure to the world outside of their communities.

Because of this, I am passionate about showing the next generation a path into the practice of law and a career in public service. While this commitment to service is paramount, it has also served me in so many ways through meaningful relationships and opportunities as I grow in my career. 

I am grateful that life comes full circle, and I am able to give back in a way that is unique to my personal experience. I encourage all young lawyers to get involved with the JBA by finding an opportunity to give back. 

LaTesha Campbell is an assistant state attorney in the 4th Judicial Circuit and serves as a division chief in County Court. 

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