LAW-RELATED EDUCATION INITIATIVES
This year, under the guidance of President Mark D Mason and Executive Director Marilyn J. Wellington, the MBA expanded its role in law-related and civics education. The MBA created a new standing committee, the Law-Related Education Working Group (comprising members of the MBA, Massachusetts Judges Conference and Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court). Through this collaboration, many projects were implemented this year, including: Choose Law, Lawyer-Teacher Partnership Program, a Law Day Survey and the Judicial Youth Corp. Program. Additionally, the MBA staff began discussions with the United Way, Girl Scouts and the organizers of the We the People Program.
In celebration of Law Day, the MBA implemented the Choose Law program developed by the Young Lawyers Division at the American Bar Association. It encourages students, especially students of color, to "be the change" they wish to see in the future by considering a career in the law. This program was offered by the MBA at various Boys & Girls Clubs throughout May and June. For more information, see story on page 20 - 21.
Lawyer-Teacher Partnership Program
More than 16 high schools enrolled in the MBA’s pilot program, the Lawyer-Teacher Partnership, for the 2007-08 school year. The Lawyer-Teacher Partnership paired attorneys with teachers of high school law-related courses to invigorate classes and familiarize students with the civil justice system, as well as expose them to possible careers in the law.
The Lawyer-Teacher Partnership utilizes Street Law Inc. course material. In addition to lectures from those with diverse roles in the legal system, the program includes student role-playing and a test bank that promotes critical thinking. Since the Street Law program was founded in 1972, the program has steadily demonstrated a reduction in crime in neighborhoods where the program has been instituted.
The plan is to expand each year by 10 or more high schools.
Law Day Initiative
The MBA celebrated Law Day on May 1 in a number of ways in addition to Choose Law. As an ongoing tradition, the MBA’s Community Services Department organized and presented free programs on important elder law issues to senior centers and councils on aging across the state with the help of volunteer attorneys.
The MBA’s LRE Working Group compiled a list of events coordinated by the various bar associations and courts in Massachusetts and distributed it via e-mail to bar associations and court personnel.
This year’s Law Day theme was "Liberty Under Law: Empowering Youth, Assuring Democracy." Judge Dina Fein and the LRE Working Group organized a daylong program for approximately 70 students to see how the judiciary and Legislature work. Students, parents and teachers began their day at the Edward W. Brooke Courthouse and were greeted by Chief Justice Charles R. Johnson, Fein and several other judges. They observed various courtroom sessions and met with state Rep. Eugene O’Flaherty, chairman of the Judiciary Committee.
Judicial Youth Corps Program
The MBA was proud to revive the Supreme Judicial Court’s Judicial Youth Corps program in Central Massachusetts, thanks to a grant of more than $20,000 from the Massachusetts Bar Foundation. When the program began in 1991, urban high school students in Boston, Worcester and Springfield were eligible to participate in legal education training and courthouse summer internships in their respective cities. In recent years, however, the Judicial Youth Corps has been limited to Boston students due to financial constraints. This year, the MBF’s Fellows Grant restored the program in Worcester for 10 public school students.
The program teaches young people about the judicial branch and fundamental principles of law. The four-month program consists of a seven-week court system orientation and a seven-week courthouse internship session in July and August. The Worcester orientation program is abbreviated this year, but the summer internships and educational sessions will be on the same schedule as the Boston program.
COMMUNITY SERVICE PROGRAMMING
While 2007 brought the implementation of several new law-related initiatives, the MBA’s Community Service Department continued its work expanding its current programming.
Mock Trial Program
The Mock Trial Program, created in 1985, has grown into one of the largest law-related education programs at the MBA, directly involving attorneys, judges, teachers and more than 2,000 students. Each year, the Mock Trial Committee creates a case that is timely and educational, but also fun and exciting.
Brown, Rudnick, Berlack & Israels LLP continued its longstanding support of the Mock Trial Program as the exclusive financial underwriter for the past nine years, contributing $225,000 since 1998.
This year’s state champion, Sharon High School, placed seventh at nationals, the first Massachusetts team to rank in the top 10 since 1992.
Mock Trial statistics:
High schools registered 118
Trials held 225
Tie-breakers/snow make-ups 29
Courts, city halls and libraries used 57
Attorneys who judged trials 196
Mock Trial finals attendance 300-plus
Since 1991, the MBA has offered to the general public a legal call-in service to assist them with their basic legal questions. On the first Wednesday of every month, MBA attorney volunteers provide basic legal information and advice via telephone between the hours of 5:30 and 7:30 p.m.
Also, Dial-A-Lawyer takes place in Springfield twice a year (October and May), which is co-sponsored by Western New England College School of Law, The Republican, El Pueblo Latino and the Massachusetts Association of Hispanic Attorneys. For the May 2007 program, the MBA’s Young Lawyers Division and Business Law Section Council were also sponsors. The program continued to offer legal advice for Spanish speakers by having at least two Spanish-speaking attorneys available.
Elder Law Education Program
For more than a decade, the MBA has celebrated Law Day by organizing free educational presentations about elder law throughout the state in May. This year’s program was helped by the MBA’s Probate Law Section Council, and, in particular, Chairman Edward Notis-McConarty and members Alex Moschella, Michael Loring and John Ford. The Massachusetts Chapter of the National Academy of Elder Law Attorneys also assisted.
This year, the program distributed the resource guide "Taking Control of Your Future: A Legal Checkup" to all participating senior service-related agencies and attorney volunteers. The guide, which will be updated yearly, contains information on a wide range of legal issues affecting the lives of seniors.
Also in May, the department coordinated more than 90 attorney presentations at senior service agencies.