Monday, October 25, 2021
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New Club Focuses on Criminal Law

The Criminal Law Association joined over 300 UMKC student groups as the newest organization on campus.
The group, led by president Megan L. Stiles, aims to offer its members practical legal experience.
“[We] hope to prepare members for their future by creating opportunities that otherwise might not be available to them for years,” Stiles said.
While the Criminal Law Association is not the only law-centered student organization on campus, it is the only one focused specifically on criminal law.
“We hope to stand out by offering our members practical legal experiences, including the chance to shadow attorneys in the courtroom,” Stiles said. “Because CLA is focused on both the prosecution and defense, we intend to offer events that give students a more holistic view of the law.”
Though CLA is open only to UMKC School of Law students, it welcomes members interested in any area of law. Additionally, because CLA provides greater insight into criminal law in particular, it may be especially valuable for students who are uncertain of which kind of law they want to practice.
Even if a student decides not to pursue a law career after graduation, Stiles said involvement in the group is still beneficial.
“Criminal law impacts everyone, not just attorneys and their clients,” she said. “It’s critical to have a basic understanding of the law and the legal rights of all people in a variety of situations.”
Membership will provide students with unique access to elements of the field they may otherwise only study in textbooks, such as witnessing jury selections, parts of trials, sentencing hearings, and more. As members, students will also be able to make valuable connections and network with visiting industry professionals.

“We plan to bring in community speakers from various legal backgrounds to speak on especially pertinent criminal law topics,” Stiles said. “Because one of our main goals is to arrange for our members to shadow attorneys, our members will hopefully become more accustomed to the daily ins and outs of practical criminal law. These are the types of things you can’t learn from a book.”
Stiles hopes the organization will broaden not only members’ understanding of the law inside the courtroom, but their ability to use it outside of the courtroom
as well.
“CLA’s emphasis goes beyond what we see on the news or in the movies,” Stiles said. “We truly hope that members will benefit from their experience in CLA by being able to apply those experiences to everyday interactions.”
As part of a new organization, members will have the chance to influence CLA’s goals and areas of focus for the year. The group’s first meeting will focus on members’ interests in criminal law, and the types of opportunities they would like CLA to offer. As of press time, no meetings have been officially scheduled yet.

For more information, contact Megan L. Stiles at meldcd@mail.umkc.edu.

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