Illinois Law and Leadership Institute

Illinois Law and Leadership InstituteProgram Description

The Illinois Law & Leadership Institute ("ILLI") is a legal immersion program for high school students of diverse backgrounds, with a curriculum that includes fun and educational activities centered on the legal profession. The program, which is a joint venture between the Illinois State Bar Association and Southern Illinois University School of Law, features a one-week summer camp hosted by the law school in Carbondale. The 2015 program will run from July 26 - August 1, 2015, and offer a combination of classroom lectures, logic and critical thinking exercises, writing and oral advocacy instruction, guest speakers, and field trips to law firms and the U.S. District Court in Benton, IL.

"Not many people know the process of actually becoming a lawyer and going to law school. For one I did not know. This program really helps to open your eyes to what it takes to become a lawyer, and now I am even more excited than I was ever before." 
Omar Mendez, Chicago, Illinois, ILLI Participant, 2014

"If you want to be a lawyer the best thing is ILLI . . . and the experience is like no other." 
Allena Loft-Lotton, Springfield, Illinois, ILLI Participant, 2014

Students who participate in the ILLI will:

  • Study the legal system and try a mock case;
  • Build leadership and teamwork skills;
  • Cultivate critical thinking skills through analyzing selected cases, debating legal issues and participating in a mock oral argument;
  • Learn what it takes to become a lawyer;
  • Develop contacts with legal professionals and organizations that provide scholarships, internships and mentors; and
  • Gain insight into the college admissions process and financial aid resources.

More About the Law & Leadership Institute

Highlights of the Week

SUNDAY – Welcome Dinner

  • Professional Etiquette and Dress Presentations
  • Movie Night "To Kill A Mockingbird"

MONDAY – Overview of our Legal System & Trial Work

  • Mock Law School Class
  • Mock trial instruction and practice
  • Networking dinner with attorneys

TUESDAY – Trials and Federal Court Day

  • Mock trial competition
  • Winners perform mock trial before federal judge
  • Movie Night: "Amistad"

WEDNESDAY – Oral Advocacy and Leadership

  • "Wrongful Incarceration" - Innocence Project Speaker
  • Appellate Argument Instruction and Practice
  • The Lawyer as Public Policy Advocate - Guest Speaker—Illinois Congressman
  • Touch of Nature Team-Building Course

THURSDAY – Field Trip to Law Firms

  • Negotiation Exercise and Lawyers Panel
    Hosted by Sandberg, Phoenix, & von Gontard
  •  Moot Court practice & Networking Reception
    Hosted by Husch Blackwell  

FRIDAY – Moot court competitions & Celebration Fun

SATURDAY – Closing Ceremonies

  • Moot Court Final Round
  • Awards Ceremony/ Scholarships

The Illinois Law & Leadership Institute is a statewide initiative directed at students from diverse populations that are currently underrepresented in the legal profession, including racial and ethnic minorities, students with disabilities, and students from modest or low-income families. Open to students who will be going into high school in the fall, the program is designed to expose students to interesting aspects of the law and a variety of legal careers. Delivered in a highly interactive environment, with assistance from Law Student Leaders, the program also seeks to help participants sharpen the critical reading, writing, oral advocacy, and leadership skills necessary for success in high school, college and beyond. 

ILLI is a collaborative partnership between the Illinois State Bar Association (ISBA), Southern Illinois University School of Law (SIU), and local bar associations around the state. The program is based upon an award-winning Summer Leadership Institute operated in Chicago by Just The Beginning Foundation (JTBF), which helped design and direct the ILLI program in its early years. The ISBA launched ILLI as a pilot program in June 2011 with a three-week commuter program at The John Marshall Law School in Chicago. The program expanded to SIU as an overnight residential program in 2012, giving downstate students the opportunity to experience living and learning on a college campus. By assigning students "homework" in the dorms and taking advantage of SIU's "Team Building" course and other campus amenities, the residential program also helps students develop effective study habits, build their social skills, gain leadership skills, and promote a strong sense of confidence in their own ability to thrive in a university setting.

Diversity Pipeline programs like ILLI provide a truly life-changing experience for students who may not otherwise be exposed to these opportunities. The program helps them envision a rewarding legal career and traverse the educational pipeline into that career – or a host of other careers – through which they can enrich their own lives, communities and the lives of others.

For photographs and more complete descriptions of the activities that took place during past year's program, take a look at the Yearbook posted.

2013 Yearbook (3 MB)

2012 Yearbook (4 MB)

Photo Galleries

Law and Leadership Institute posts on Illinois Lawyer Now

How Can You Help?

ILLI is offered free of charge to students from targeted underrepresented populations. While some of the programming will be offered through ISBA and SIU School of Law volunteers, the program needs your help to defray the costs of housing, food, and transportation for the students. Please consider joining our partnership at one of the sponsorship levels below:


While some of the programming will be offered through ISBA and SIU School of Law volunteers, the program needs your help to defray the costs of housing, food, and transportation for the students.

Sponsorship form

Supreme Court -- $5000 (sponsor five students)
Appellate Court -- $3000 (sponsor three students)
Circuit Court -- $1000 (sponsor one student)
Amicus Curiae -- $500 (sponsor a meal or event)
Advocates -- Any amount (Contributions will be put towards other costs associated with running the program.)

All sponsors will receive recognition in the ILLI yearbook.

Donations can be made payable to the SIU School of Law, and earmarked for the Illinois Law & Leadership Fund Donations should be mailed to:

School of Law
1150 Douglas Drive
Mail Code 6804
Carbondale, Illinois 62901

If you have questions about your donation, please contact Thomas C. Britton Director of Development, Professor Emeritus at or (618) 453-8980 (O).

If you have questions about the Illinois Law & Leadership Institute, please contact the Valery C. Behan at the SIU School of Law at or (618) 521-1847.

Thank you for your generosity.