Thinking like a lawyer

Here's a quiz: Say Oprah gives a free car to everyone in her audience, and later in the day, one of the lucky recipients rear-ends Oprah at an intersection. Is Oprah, who gave out the car, partly to blame for the accident?

Here's another: Suppose a bully gives Justin Bieber a hard time in school and Bieber commits suicide off campus. Can the bully, who didn't push Bieber off the bridge, be charged with a crime?

And one more: If you build a house on Nick Jonas' property and live there long enough without Jonas attempting to throw you off, is the property rightfully yours?

OK, pencils down. The answers are: (1) no, whoever caused the accident is at fault regardless of who supplied the car; (2) yes, the bully can be charged; and (3) yes, through the law of adverse possession, Jonas has forfeited the land to you.

Welcome to the curriculum of Everyone's Law School, a website founded by Huntington Beach residents Casey and Crystal Reinl that aims to teach basic law to people who may never take the bar exam.

The Reinls, who graduated from Florida A&M University's College of Law and recently moved to Surf City, aren't passing off their program as an equivalent to law school. Rather, they want to provide customers with a knowledge of how the law works — and which civil rights apply — in common situations, from strip searches and credit card debt to free speech and copyrights.

"Law school prepares you to be a lawyer," Casey said. "We're not preparing people to be lawyers. We're preparing people to learn how to think in their everyday lives."

Everyone's Law School features specialized programs for high school students, fourth- through seventh-graders, housewives and seniors, as well as a general program for adults. Customers do all the course work online and get feedback from both the Reinls and fellow students.

As the sample questions above indicate, Everyone's Law School seeks to explain the law in layman's terms, even working in pop culture references. Casey said when he asked his mother for feedback on the housewives curriculum, she asked him to explain concepts using "Desperate Housewives" and soap opera characters.

The website for Everyone's Law School notes that professionals in many fields, including politics and business and even entertainment, benefited from law degrees. The Reinls, likewise, say they went to law school to hone their business idea rather than find courtroom careers.

With the first online classes scheduled to begin in August, the Reinls are busy reaching out to school districts in California and their home state of Florida, with hopes of eventually expanding nationwide. So far, their business is in the start-up phase: The couple operates out of a second-floor office in their home near downtown, and they're still awaiting their first sign-up.

Once word of mouth gets around, they expect their enterprise to take off — and they won't be surprised if a few parents urge their kids to take the course, just as Casey's father, he said, once mandated that he earn a law degree.

"Going through law school really helped us see that there are a lot of things people don't know that they should," Crystal said.

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