Lawyers Journal

Job Shadow Day encourages students to learn, obtain their dreams

Omaira Alicea isn't sure she wants to be an attorney. But the Charlestown High senior values the importance of being aware of her legal rights and understanding how the legal process works.
Alicea was able to deepen her understanding of the law recently thanks to the MBA's Job Shadow Day, in which more than 20 attorneys were paired with students from Boys & Girls Clubs in Boston, Springfield and Worcester.

Job Shadow Day's goal is to foster an appreciation of living in a society of laws and to give students an up-close look at the law as a career choice.

"The (Job Shadow Day is interesting) because you really get a chance to take a day off school and get a hands-on experience on things you've heard about, but never had a chance to know about," Alicea said.

Alicea spent Feb. 3 shadowing MBA member Ronny Sydney, director of legislative documents at the State House. In addition to touring the chambers and meeting various attorneys who work in the State House, Alicea had the opportunity to meet Gov. Mitt Romney and Speaker of the House Thomas M. Finneran.

Whether Alicea decides to pursue a legal career, the valuable lessons she learned during Job Shadow Day will stay with her, she said.

"It was really nice to witness firsthand this is what lawyers do on a day-to-day basis," Alicea said.

A former teacher and former director of law-related education at the MBA, Sydney said she enjoys the program because it allows her to teach students again. The program also shows students the variety of career options available to lawyers.

"There are a lot of lawyers working here and they all do different things," Sydney said. "It's not like private practice, and I think people need to know lawyers do other things than private practice."

The variety of legal fields shown to the students was almost as extensive as the number of attorneys participating in the program. While some students watched portions of a criminal trial involving a motor vehicle homicide, others spent the day at a large law firm. Many also had an opportunity to meet and speak with judges.

"It's an opportunity for students to learn what actually goes on in a lawyer's day," said Amy Cashore Mariani, chair of the New Lawyers Section. "It educates the students, and, in turn, the student's family about the realities of being an attorney versus the misconceptions people get from watching television."

And the attorneys who volunteer are rewarded by the opportunity to teach the young men and women some of their professional skills, Mariani said.

Alana Jackson, career development director at the Col. Daniel Marr Boys & Girls Club in Dorchester, agreed. She also said the day shows the students how hard attorneys work - an image not often seen on nightly legal-drama television shows.

"The Massachusetts Bar Association's annual Job Shadow Day is not only rewarding for the students but, in my opinion, rewarding for all involved," Jackson said. "Students not only get the opportunity to meet law professionals, but also get 'to live a day in the life of,' which in some cases may mean lots of walking and desk work - not exactly last week's episode of 'LA Law.' Students come away with a real sense of what attorneys do and the work it takes to do it."

Vanessa DePina, a South Boston High School student, spent the day with Assistant Suffolk County District Attorney Jonathan Tynes. Though a motion to suppress hearing was canceled, Tynes was able to show DePina the courthouse and introduce her to judges.

"We were fortunate enough to talk to a number of excellent judges," Tynes said

DePina said she learned a lot from her day shadowing Tynes and listening to the advice he and judges gave her.

"They gave us a lot of advice about the future," she said. "(They told us) to stay in school, have goals and don't let anyone get in the way of those goals."

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association