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From the OJEN Blog

20th Anniversary Profile – Amanda Cutinha, former Justice Education Fellow

I learned the value of justice education, specifically, the ways in which it can empower young people.

Amanda Cutinha was a student at the University of Toronto Faculty of Law when she was accepted into OJEN’s Justice Education Fellowship program in 2019. OJEN’s Fellowships are year-long placements in which students receive in-depth training in public legal education theory and methods. Each Fellow then plans and runs a minimum of 3 justice education projects in their local community’s schools, with support from OJEN’s staff team and volunteers from the local legal community. In the upcoming academic year, OJEN has offered Fellowships to students from every law faculties in Ontario and, for the first time, to 2 students in paralegal studies programs.

During her time with OJEN, Amanda created two programs for high school students: an introduction to trial advocacy and, a discussion of cybersafety. 

Amanda describes the two programs she created in her role as an OJEN Fellow:

“Within the Introduction to Trial Advocacy program, I walked through the meaning of advocacy and the forms it can take; we reviewed the timelines of civil proceedings; and looked at the ways in which torts are litigated. More excitingly, I crafted a fact pattern based on the facts of a real tort case and divided the class in two, with each group crafting arguments to support one of the two parties within the fact scenario. The students also challenged themselves to find faults in the other group’s arguments.” 

“My second project on Cybersafety was created in conjunction with another fellow, Miscia Sullivan. Miscia and I spoke to highschool students about online harassment, revenge pornography, the principles of consent, and the types of avenues for obtaining justice in these instances. Given the increasing online presence of young people on the internet, we were excited to empower the students with legal information such that they could make better-informed decisions and were aware of how the law could help in situations gone wrong.” 

“I really enjoyed working with students to make law and legal education seem accessible to them.”

What Amanda is doing now

Amanda recently graduated from the University of Toronto Faculty of Law and is in the process of completing her articles with Miller Thomson LLP. 

Amanda tells us, “I’m very interested in commercial litigation and privacy law and hope to continue working in this space and thinking about these issues. A lesson I learned from OJEN that I keep in mind in practice is the value of creating law which is accessible to the people it governs.” 

Lessons from her year with OJEN

“Through my involvement with OJEN, I learned the value of justice education, specifically, the ways in which it can empower young people. In the present, they are able to understand laws that impact them and, in the future, they are able to see themselves represented in legal careers.”

“Justice education allows for legal literacy. I think it’s especially important for highschool students to be legally literate since these students are often interacting with the law or making decisions that are governed by law. Navigating legal concepts with highschool students can allow them to feel as though they are able to understand the law and can empower them.”   

“Additionally, seeing people from various backgrounds work within the legal system can inspire students from all walks of life to work towards a legal career. When I was in high school, I didn’t often see lawyers that looked like me. I think challenging the notion of what a lawyer looks like is an important part of justice education. The legal system benefits from a diversity of experiences and voices and justice education allows for a proactive approach to diversifying the profession. There are a lot of high school students from more disadvantaged communities that don’t think law school is in their reach so going out to these communities through OJEN was really empowering for me and I hope beneficial for the students.”

Everyone at OJEN wishes Amanda every success in her future law career!  Volunteer with us anytime, Amanda!

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