La Jolla Country Day students launch nation’s second high school law review to ‘demystify the law’

La Jolla Country Day School juniors Ricardo Cervera (left) and Terry Tran co-founded the Torrey Law Review.
La Jolla Country Day School juniors Ricardo Cervera (left) and Terry Tran co-founded and are editors-in-chief of the Torrey Law Review.

In only the second effort of its kind in the United States, two La Jolla Country Day School juniors have created a high school-level law review and published the first volume this month.

Though the precedent had been set with the first high school law review in New York, La Jolla Country Day’s Terry Tran and Ricardo Cervera are raising the bar.

The Torrey Law Review is the only high school law review with a board of professionals and law school students, including a nonfiction author, a law professor, several national and international attorneys and LJCDS alumni.

The second volume of the law review is being readied for this spring with assistance from fellow junior Tavisha Khanna, head of design and development. Each volume contains six or seven analyses of individual cases, written by students.

Driven by their passion for law, Terry and Ricardo wanted to provide a place to delve into the legal writing process and generate interest in law in their school community.

“The goal is to cultivate legal thought at the school and demystify legal writing because we feel a lot of people think it’s a lot more complicated than it is,” Terry said. “It’s actually simpler than what a lot of students will do in high school if you break it down.”

To do that “took a lot of trial and error and a lot of discussion,” Ricardo said. “We had to research what a case note is in law school and break it down. For example, the facts section of a case note [an analysis of an individual case] would be a page or two. We decided to make it a paragraph. We wanted people to get to the point. ... It took working with people in the field … to get it down to the high school level.”

The two created a guide to writing a case note, including how to read one and everything that must be included in the analysis.

“I think the law is fascinating, but there is this gatekeeping aspect to it,” Terry said. “If you open a legal text, you might as well be reading another language. Legal language is not English sometimes. It’s a shame that people are turned off by learning about the law because of how complicated the jargon is. I want to demystify the law and show people it is not that intimidating if you learn a couple of tricks and practice.”

Terry said his love of the law came from a debate in seventh grade that he remembers vividly four years later.

“It was in class and it was over something small and trivial: Are smartphones or computers better?” he said. “But I remember having the time of my life. In high school, I joined the mock trial team and … began to develop a huge passion for philosophy and these abstract ideas. Seeing as how the law is codified morality, and morality is a huge part of philosophy, they tied together. I ran into the law while learning about that.”

Ricardo was introduced to law through another avenue entirely — hockey.

“I have always been obsessed with rules for some reason — not necessarily following them, but how they work,” he said. “When I was like 7, I was a huge sports fan and I bought the National Hockey League rule book and I read the whole thing. I realized in society, they don’t have an NHL rule book, they have the law. That’s where that obsession with rules — how the rules work, why they work this way, what’s right and what’s wrong, why it’s right and why it’s wrong — came from.”

Both students said they would “definitely” pursue a law school education and ultimately want to become lawyers.

Their advisor, La Jolla Country Day teacher Jonathan Shulman, said he couldn’t be more impressed and at the same time couldn’t be less surprised at what his students have achieved.

“On one hand, of course Ricardo and Terry would pull it off; but on the other hand, ‘Oh my God, Terry and Ricardo pulled this off!’” he said. “They have brought legal analysis as a form of writing into our curriculum.

“Usually we decide the types of writing the students do, because in high school, a lot of it is learning how to write and ... for a specific audience for a specific purpose. That means knowing how to do many different types of writing. And this is catching fire at Country Day.”

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