Today@Sam Covers LEAP Center’s Mock Law Class


Today@Sam provided in-depth coverage of the LEAP Center and its pre-law programming, offering a special emphasis on the LEAP Center’s recent Mock Law class.


Program Gives Students Law School Experience

At first glance, it looked much like any other class at Sam Houston State University.  A distinguished professor led an in-depth classroom discussion, facilitating comments among the 35 or so students assembled for a typical 75 minute class session. A keen observer, however, might have noted that the students were dressed in business attire, that the teaching style was exclusively the Socratic Method, and that all the students had read.  What was going on?

What was going on was a “Mock Law Class,” a unique partnership between the Center For Law, Engagement, And Politics (LEAP) and the South Texas College of Law, in which pre-law students had the opportunity to participate in a simulated law class.  The class was taught by Professor Val Ricks, whose qualifications include a JD from Brigham Young University’s J. Reuben Clark’s Law School, time as an Associate Attorney with Kirton & McConkie, and 18 years teaching at South Texas College of Law, including five years as the Vinson & Elkins Research Professor of Law.  The preparation for the class involved in-depth readings of three legal cases and the knowledge that the class would be fully participatory—there were no “passes” given when called upon.


To participate, students were required to sign up for the class in advance and agree to read the original court opinions issued by the courts.  The result was some dense reading, the expectation of being called upon and pressed for answers, and a bit of trepidation heading into the classroom.  “It was a little more intense than a regular class,” observed pre-law student Kaitlyn Tyra, “but it was good to get that experience.”

SHSU Senior Daylene Moreno agreed: “The way Professor Ricks engaged the students kept the class actively involved, and the experience solidified my plan to attend law school. I cannot wait to get an acceptance letter!”

“The idea of the class,” noted LEAP Center Director Mike Yawn, “is to help prepare our students for law school or for making the decision about law school.  There are so many uncertainties about post-graduate education, particularly law school, it’s important to give students a realistic view of what the experience is and allow them to use that information to make good decisions.”

In recent years, many SHSU students have made the decision to apply to law school.  In fact, the Law School Admissions Council now ranks SHSU as a top “law-school feeder,” meaning that it is among the top six percent of the nation’s Universities at producing law-school applicants.  Last year, for example, 97 SHSU students applied to law school, with 60 being accepted to one or more law schools, including Baylor, University of Colorado, University of Houston, Indiana University, Loyola, Penn State, University of Minnesota, Syracuse, SMU, University of Texas and South Texas College of Law.

In all, SHSU students applied to 92 different law schools last year, and South Texas College of Law was the one most applied to—45 different SHSU students applied there.  “We’ve been pleasantly surprised at the number of SHSU students applying here,” noted Denee Page, the Associated Director of Admissions. “This is the third year we’ve done the Mock Law Class at SHSU, and we’ve been impressed by how prepared and interested the students are in the class.”

The Mock Law Class is one of several activities that the LEAP Center offers to help pre-law students.  This spring alone, the LEAP Center has partnered with Kaplan to offer a Mock LSAT, worked with other law schools to provide informational sessions, and brought in several practicing attorneys to meet with students.  In addition, on April 1st the LEAP Center is hosting the 10th Court of Appeals, which will hear Oral Arguments in four separate cases.  On April 14th the LEAP Center will host a presentation by Michael Morton, whose wrongful conviction in 1987 and subsequent 25 year imprisonment resulted in the Texas Legislature’s Michael Morton Act, which changed the rules of the discovery process.

The LEAP Center’s programs go beyond law-related programs and extend to all academic disciplines. “Our goal,” noted Yawn, “is to expose students to diverse learning opportunities across all fields.” To that end, earlier this semester LEAP Center students lunched with Assistant Secretary of State Roberta Jacobson, attended the Governor’s Inauguration in Austin, and have worked regularly with local non-profits.  Later this semester, the LEAP Center will host a non-profit roundtable, a student workshop on “Paths to Public Service,” and will partner with the Huntsville Public Library to offer a “Citizenship Preparatory Course” to local immigrants who wish to earn their citizenship.

For more information about the LEAP Center, contact Professor Mike Yawn at or 936-294-1456.


Mock Law Class Comes to SHSU

The LEAP center partnered with South Texas College of Law from Houston to offer a Mock Law Class for SHSU students. Prior to the class, students were sent the case reading and expected to be ready to analyze the cases in class just as actual law students at South Texas College of Law (STCL) would do.


In fact, Professor Val Ricks–who taught the class–teaches at STCL.  He began class with open-ended questions to lead the discussion toward the rules of each case. He then let students guide themselves through their answers, although he was quick to question–and correct them–when needed.

Professor Val Ricks
                         Professor Val Ricks

The Mock Law Class gave students a clear idea on the structure and expectations of law school. Additionally, students realized the importance of reading prior to class and being prepared for discussion. Professor Val Ricks and STCL Admissions Coordinator, Ms. Denee Page, were also available to answer student’s questions after the class. Students took advantage of the opportunity to learn more about the law school admissions process and the philosophies of South Texas’s College of Law.


This event helped students gain a greater understanding of the reality and rigor of law school. For many, the Mock Law Class helped give a sense of direction for students on how to begin their law school journey. Many thanks to Professor Val Ricks and Ms. Denee Page for helping SHSU students learn and helping them prepare for their next steps toward a career in law.

LEAP Center Offers Mock LSAT

For the past seven years the Junior Fellows/LEAP Center has offered a Mock LSAT each semester to help students prepare for the real deal.  The LEAP Center encourages students of all classifications to take the Mock LSAT, which is generously sponsored by Kaplan Testing.  For freshmen and sophomores, the Mock LSAT provides an idea of what the test is like.  A lot of younger pre-law students, for example, think the test asks about the law.  It doesn’t.  It asks questions about reading comprehension, logic, and arguments.

For juniors and seniors, it provides an idea of how close they are to being prepared to take official LSAT.  This has to be planned out, because the LSAT should be taken the year before the student wishes to enroll in law school.

Forty-seven students showed up for this spring’s Mock LSAT, following a showing of 51 in the fall of 2014.  These are the largest class of Mock LSAT takers in SHSU history, a testament to the University’s growing number of pre-law students.


The LEAP Center will follow up this Mock LSAT opportunity with many other law-related activities:

These programs are part of the LEAP Center’s mission of helping students achieve their professional goals.  To attend any of the upcoming events, contact Professor Mike Yawn at

Austin Interns Work Hard, Have Fun

Sam Houston State University’s Austin Internship Program, run by the LEAP Center, is off to a rollicking start.

After undergoing orientation training from the crack staff in HR and Career Services, the eight Austin Interns–Oscar Aguilar, Jessica Rodriguez, Lexi Gonzales, Sadie McLaughlin, Ariel Traub, Lupe Cuellar, Shelby O’brien, and Sarah Landsman–underwent an orientation in Austin, Texas.  The event was to start with a Segway tour of Austin, but with freezing rain in the forecast, we switched quickly to an iFLY tour.  It wasn’t a tour so much, but it was a fun way to start the day.

The day began with an orientation on iFLY’s unique flight system, which evoked some anxiety while also bringing smiles.


But it was the flights that brought the big smiles.   iFLY doesn’t provide a long time in the air, but it’s a lot of fun.  Some of us were better than others, but all had a good time, or at least were glad they tried.

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The flights also provide that wind-blown look that is so flattering, perfectly complementing the smart flight suits.


Following the adrenaline rush of iFly, we moved to Quack’s Bakery on 43rd for a caffeine rush and some pastries.  For those who haven’t tried this mid-town delight, it’s definitely worth it.  Try the ginger crinkle cookies or the chocolate ginger; you can’t go wrong.


There was also some good conversation, with equal measure astonishment, disbelief, and delight.


But, mostly, it was about the cupcakes.


Armed with coffee and sugar, we embarked to the 2nd Bar + Kitchen, where we met Blake Roach, Emily Johnson, President Hoyt, and her husband John Hoyt.

It was an enjoyable time for everyone, and we were very impressed and honored that Mr. Hoyt and President Hoyt drove in to spend time with us.  It’s a reflection of the support we’ve received since we started this 140 day Austin odyssey.

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It was a great group outing, which we ended with a great group photo!


With the fun over, we prepared for our professional photographs in the capitol building.   Of course, we couldn’t go to the Capitol without getting a photo alongside Elizabet Ney’s statue of Sam Houston…


But that was just one of many of our stops.  We also stopped in the extension, looking up at the Capitol dome…




…in the House of Representatives’ chamber in front of the podium…


…and individual shots of us, with Sam Houston looking over our shoulder.

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Indeed, these photographs with Sam Houston’s portrait on the wall serve as a kind of a metaphor for our time thus far.  We have lots of family, friends, and University officials looking out for us, and ensuring we have a great time and learn a whole lot–even while dealing with dangerous flying missions and firearms!

On behalf of all the Austin Interns, we’d like to thank Paul Olle for the great photographs, President Hoyt for this wonderful opportunity, SHSU for supporting its students, and the following legislative offices:

Representative Senfronia Thompson (Jessica Rodriguez)
Senator Charles Schwertner (Ariel Traub)
Representative Armando “Mando” Martinez (Lexi Gonzales)
Representative Ron Simmons (Sarah Landsman)
Representative Todd Hunter (Shelby O’Brien)
Representative John Otto (Sadie McLaughlin)
Representative Carol Alvarado (Oscar Aguilar)
Representative Will Metcalf (Lupe Cuellar)