Law Student of the Year: Christopher Schmidt, University of Nebraska

Christopher Schmidt has all the makings of an excellent law student.

He is in the top 10 percent of his class and serves as the editor-in-chief of the Nebraska Law Review. But it is his leadership of the Community Legal Education Project (CLEP) that sets him apart from others. 

“Chris exemplifies what is best about the University of Nebraska College of Law and our community of faculty and students," said Molly Brummond, assistant dean of student & alumni relations.

CLEP is a student organization that is focused on teaching local elementary and middle school children about the Bill of Rights, the U.S. Constitution and other legal issues in an accessible way. Under his leadership, CLEP has grown and thrived. In September 2015, CLEP organized 47 law students to go into 10 schools to teach a total of 94 class periods. At approximately 24 students per class, law students taught almost 2,250 eighth-grade students that day. In September 2014, about 60 law students taught 90 U.S. history classes in eight public schools.

Not only has this particular program grown in size during his tenure, the program itself has become more accessible for its audience. A former teacher, Schmidt and his peers worked to revise the curriculum to make it current and relatable. He even incorporated social media. So, in addition to lecturing about the government, the program also includes an opportunity to debate and discuss topics such as cyberspace. Based on that discussion, each class developed a tweet expressing that opinion which CLEP then posted on its Twitter account. It garnered publicity it garnered and teachers have been reaching out to this student organization asking for members to come to their classrooms. CLEP has received interest from college professors, high school civics teachers and elementary school teachers. 

“It is my belief that CLEP's exceptional success would not have been possible without the commitment that Chris has to that organization, the college, and more broadly, to the community,” Brummond said. “His passion for making the law accessible has reformed a student organization, provided thousands of children across Lincoln with the opportunity to learn, while at the same time providing our law students with the opportunity to step outside the walls of the College and engage with the community in a meaningful way. His leadership has been nothing short of transformational.”

Schmidt is one of 25 future lawyers honored in the National Jurist’s inaugural “Law Student of the Year” feature.