Lawyers Journal

More than 16 high schools are enrolled in MBA's Pilot Lawyer-Teacher Partnership

By Dennis Garrigan
More than 16 high schools are enrolled
in the Massachusetts Bar Association’s pilot
program, the Lawyer-Teacher Partnership,
for the 2007-08 school year.
The Lawyer-Teacher Partnership pairs
attorneys with teachers of high school lawrelated
courses to invigorate the classes and
familiarize students with the civil justice
system as well as exposing them to possible
careers in the law.
The partnership is an outgrowth of the
MBA re-energized focus on law related
education efforts, a goal of MBA President
Mark D Mason.
To achieve the MBA’s outreach goals for
the program, lawyer-teacher teams attended
a day-long training last month at Bentley
College in Waltham. The lawyer-teacher
training was led by Lee Arbetman, the
director of U.S. programs at Street Law
Inc., an organization dedicated to promoting
the knowledge of legal rights and
responsibilities. Arbetman is also the coauthor
of the leading textbook for high
school law classes, Street Law: A Course in
Practical Law.
“Lawyers and teachers in the classroom
have to approach the subject differently
than those in math and science,” said
Arbetman. “Where the sciences have explicit
solutions, any discussion of law in the
classroom is dominated by dynamic outcomes
and a lot of gray area. Therefore, the
whole approach to legal education takes on
a different look.”
Because students are dealing with civil
discourse, Arbetman says the physical layout
of most law classrooms may bear a closer
resemblance to a courtroom. In addition
to practical legal content and skill development,
Arbetman said the program has a
third and equally-important goal of positive
community engagement.
The Lawyer-Teacher Partnership utilizes
Street Law course material that goes beyond
one-time lectures from law professionals. In
addition to lectures from those with diverse
roles in the legal system, the program
includes supplemental case work for student
role-playing and a test bank that promotes
critical thinking.
“Students take advocacy roles in celebrated
cases,” said Arbetman. “They may
advocate for positions that they may not
necessarily sanction, but that’s where students
are able to elevate their critical thinking
skills on behalf of their mock clients.”
Participants in the MBA’s Lawyer-
Teacher Partnership training went through
many of the same exercises they will use in
the classroom in the fall.
Mason, himself a participant in the
Lawyer-Teacher Partnership, emphasized
the importance of legal education in the
community during the training session.
“Not only are we well-served by being
actively involved in the Lawyer-Teacher
Partnership, we help ourselves in maintaining
a citizenry that is knowledgeable of the
civil justice system,” he said.
Since the Street Law program was
founded in 1972, the program has steadily
demonstrated a reduction in crime in those
neighborhoods where the program has been
instituted.
Among the Street Law’s accomplishments
are:
• Empowering people to become active
in civic affairs;
• Promoting a culture of human rights
and democracy;
• Giving youth alternatives to violence;
• Providing leadership training to young
people;
• Addressing the special needs of teen
parents and youth in juvenile justice,
foster care and homeless/runaway
youth programs;
• Making teaching easier with cuttingedge
participatory methodology;
• Drawing real-world connections
between young people’s lives and the
law; and
• Offering opportunities to understand
conflict and transform problems into
educational experiences.
The curriculum for the Lawyer-Teacher
Partnership is divided into six blocks that
resemble terms usually reserved for law
school, including Introduction to Law and
the Legal System, Criminal Law and
Juvenile Justice, Torts, Consumer and
Housing Law, Family Law, and Individual
Rights and Liberties.
“It’s heartening to see students evolve
with the program, especially as they advocate
for cases involving constitutional law,”
said Arbetman. “Their commitment to
submitting thoughtful and thorough arguments
in the cases covered makes the
Lawyer-Teacher Partnership truly worth the
time invested.”
To learn more or to volunteer for the
Lawyer-Teacher Partnership, contact the
MBA Community Services Department at
(617) 338-0695 or e-mail communityservices@
massbar.org.

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association