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DCE Magazine

Alumni Spotlight: Learning Law, Serving Others

Spring 2018

UCI's high school summer program inspired Ben Boyd to pursue a law degree.

It seemed inevitable that Ben Boyd would someday decide to pursue a law degree. After all, he comes from four generations of attorneys and judges, but the high school senior's real passion is business. He always dreamed of owning and running his own company.

Like many young people, his future plans were in flux. Equipped with a sharp, analytical mind, Boyd seems well-suited for the business world. He spends time every day researching the stock market, analyzing trends and industries. But a passion for serving others also led him to consider joining the Marine Corps.

“I really wanted to join the Marines, but when I realized the country was relying less on our military, I decided I wanted to create my own private security firm to send overseas,” he said. “The U.S. is using private firms to help train allied forces, defend local citizens and our own military personnel. It seemed like a perfect opportunity to run a successful business and serve America at the same time.”

That sparked an interest in business law, a prerequisite for achieving his new goal. So Boyd enrolled in UCI's High School Summer Institute in Law, an intense one-week program taught by UCI law faculty.

The experience gave him a real-world taste of what law school would be like, with lectures, simulated court cases and up-close interaction with attorneys and judges. The experience was a turning point. For the first time, Boyd was drawn to the legal profession. It's certainly in his blood. Starting from his great grandfather, generations of numerous family members went on to become attorneys.

Currently a student at Bellevue High School in Washington, Boyd plans to pursue a law degree after college. But first things first. A few days after taking the all-important SAT, Boyd caught up with us to chat about his experience last summer.

Tell me about the attorneys in your family. I understand you come from a long line of lawyers.

Yes, going back four generations. My mom is an attorney, and so are her father, uncle, aunt and grandfather. The furthest back I know of was my great-grandfather, an L.A. Superior Court judge who took an interest in child welfare, helping abused and neglected children through the court system. He believed that when crimes are committed against children, they need assistance dealing with the legal proceedings, so he eventually created CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates program).

But you weren't interested in studying law, at least at first. What made you decide to check out the High School Summer Institute of Law?

I took a business law class my junior year and it really opened my eyes. I wanted to learn more, but from teachers with real-world experience. My high school teacher wasn't an attorney; all she knew was taken from the course textbook. So I decided I wanted to explore the subject from a more experienced perspective, and that's when I learned about the Summer Institute from my sister. She found out about it while she was taking a drama class at UC Irvine. It sounded like a great opportunity, so I decided to apply.

What was it like studying in a real law school setting and learning from UCI School of Law faculty? Did it meet your expectations?

Absolutely, I thought it was fascinating. All of the people who taught us were experts: UCI law faculty, attorneys, and current UCI law students. One of our lecturers works with the Orange County District Attorney's office. And the projects we were given were very realistic, not really debates but simulations of real-world courtroom situations like arguing before the Supreme Court. We also had guest speakers who were judges, among other things. I managed to make some personal contacts that might be helpful down the line. I have been emailing back and forth with some of the guest speakers ever since the program ended.

So the experience helped you decide to study law?

Yeah, the Summer Institute was an incredible experience and it convinced me to pursue a law degree, but not necessarily so I can become an attorney. While I don't plan on becoming a lawyer right now, I do want to learn about the law, specifically how it applies to private security firms employed for foreign wars.

What sparked your interest in private security?

I wanted to serve my country, and I was hoping to join the Marines. I even founded my high school's first Marine Corps Junior ROTC, a really lengthy process, and I was unanimously elected to be its first president. But when I found out that private firms were being used more and more overseas, I decided that I could serve more effectively by building and running my own security firm. A close friend of my mom gave me the idea — she works for a contractor who deals with the Pentagon. Business had always been something I was very interested in, so becoming a business owner and helping my country at the same time was very appealing, but I realized I need to learn the international laws that govern these firms.

What were your favorite aspects of the Summer Institute?

I'd have to say the realistic, simulated hearings and trials. For instance, our final project was arguing a Supreme Court case on freedom of speech that involved classroom prayer at a Missouri school. And we argued before a panel of judges, just like a real Supreme Court hearing. The class was divided into two groups and I was assigned to the side that argued against school prayer. During the process we learned that freedom of speech on campus didn't apply to sanctioned religious prayers at school. Earlier in the program, there was an interesting case about a traffic accident that killed a motorcycle driver who didn't have his headlight on at night. There was a lot of conflicting evidence, and we had to decide if it was murder or manslaughter.

Overall, the entire experience was fascinating and very rewarding, and I want to express my gratitude to the staff for all their help. The Summer Institute allowed me to find my direction and convinced me to pursue a law degree in order to serve others. I'm very grateful for that.

Learn more about the High School Summer Institute in Law at ce.uci.edu/hslaw