Shortly after the ground hog emerges to look for its shadow, young adults from Boys & Girls Clubs across the commonwealth this year will appear at the Massachusetts Bar Association's sixth annual Job Shadow/Law Career Day on Feb. 3.
Each year, Job Shadow/Law Career Day provides students with the opportunity to shadow an attorney throughout the day. Students are exposed to a wide range of legal activities including visiting courthouses, meeting judges, watching court proceedings, spending time in law firms, sitting in on meetings and doing research.
Although Job Shadow and Law Career Day share a common goal of educating youngsters about the practice of law, the two programs differ slightly in their approach.
The Job Shadow experience focuses primarily on middle and high school age Boys & Girls Club members who see firsthand what attorneys do by learning about the legal system. The program provides a one-to-one experience between attorneys and students who are members of clubs in Dorchester, Worcester and Springfield.
For instance, when Boston attorney Michael Costa of Greenberg Traurig LLP last year participated in the Job Shadow Day he showed his "shadow" a variety of aspects of the profession. The student viewed trials at local civil and criminal courts, sat in on a Suffolk University Law School class and visited Costa's office where a variety of practice groups work.
"I have found the students to be extremely interested and hope that this experience will help shape their career paths," Costa said.
For Costa, the program allows him to share his experience with a student while giving him or her a glimpse of what the practice of law entails. He credited the mentors he encountered in his career for guiding him.
"Throughout my career I have been fortunate enough to be surrounded by wonderful role models, which have shaped me both personally and professionally," Costa said. "I am confident that without the support of such individuals and my family and friends I would not be where I am today."
And the youngsters participating in the Job Shadow program are equally appreciative.
Alana Jackson, career prep director at the Colonel Daniel Marr Boys & Girls Club, said participants from last year's program were pleased with their experiences.
"B&G Club member Nicole Boone-Montgomery, who was actually allowed to read the police report in a bail hearing, was especially excited," Jackson said. "She was already interested in pursuing a criminal justice law career, and her experience in court only solidified her interest."
Jackson said Boys & Girls Club member Brian Winston was a little nervous about the experience but was "totally blown away" when he was allowed to sit in on a parole hearing - a proceeding that he had only previously read about in newspapers or seen on television.
While Job Shadow provides a one-to-one experience, Law Career Day, a program that the MBA's New Lawyers section has implemented for the past several years, pairs law firms throughout the state with groups of students. It is designed to educate students about careers available to them in the legal profession.
The program emphasizes the diversity of positions within a law firm environment. It also teaches students about support, technical and marketing careers as well as traditional legal positions. Students learn about career paths that are available to them while law firms get to give something back to their respective communities.
Law Career Day activities culminate in an interactive exercise that may include a mock trial, deposition or client interview.
An active participant in Law Career Day, MBA New Lawyers Section Council Chair Amy Cashore Mariani recognizes the benefits of the program.
"It is often difficult for newer attorneys in particular to commit to long-term volunteer projects," she said. "This project, however, gives them the chance to make a difference in kids' lives by volunteering a day of their time."
Mariani is confident that the New Lawyers section is making a positive impact on students' impressions of attorneys, thereby improving the overall image of the profession.
"By putting this program together at their respective firms, Law Career Day gives MBA members the chance to take a leadership role within their community, which in turn helps them to enhance their careers," Mariani said.
Job Shadow and Law Career Day function as educational, productive and enriching events for both the participants and volunteering attorneys.
Opportunities for MBA members to participate are currently available. Those interested in contributing to the success of Job Shadow/Law Career Day may contact MBA Job Shadow Coordinator Catherine Utrup at (617) 338-0563.