Lawyers Journal

For Jim McGuire, Mock Trial has always mixed family and business

Three years after the Massachusetts Bar Association's Mock Trial Program began in 1985, Jim McGuire somewhat reluctantly agreed to serve as a volunteer coach for his son's junior high school team.

"He came rushing home from school when he was in the eighth grade and said, 'Dad, Dad, I made the Mock Trial team,' and I said 'congratulations,' " McGuire said, remembering the conversation he had with his son, Joshua A. McGuire. "He then said, 'Not so fast, I volunteered you as the coach.' "

That decision began the former Brown Rudnick partner's more than decade-long love affair with the educational program. His accomplishments comprise coaching five teams - two of which included his son and daughter - to state championships, fundraising for a team to attend the national competition and securing the program's private financing through his former firm.

"Mock Trial was a big part of our family," said McGuire, whose wife, Claire, a former partner at Ropes & Gray LLP, would accompany him to the national championships.

The younger McGuire, an assistant attorney general, celebrated victory again in March 2010. The team he served as attorney coach, The Winsor School of Boston, became state champions. It was the team's first year participating.

The Beginning

It was 1988 and McGuire's son was an eighth-grader at F.A. Day Middle School in Newton when the family started down the path of Mock Trial. The program had just begun three years before, and at that time, accepted junior high school students. The program is now restricted to students in grades 9 through 12.

"I was immediately in love with the program, and that year we became the state champion," McGuire said in a strong voice full of pride.

One year later, Joshua went on to Newton North High School and McGuire's daughter Julie entered F.A. Day as a seventh-grader. Joshua again petitioned his school to create a Mock Trial team and again volunteered his father as the coach. Julie joined the team her brother had created.

The brother and sister battled against each other in the play-off round, and F.A. Day was victorious, and went on to win the state championship for the second year in a row. The school was the only middle school to win back-to-back championships in the history of the competition.

To The English

It was 1993 when McGuire was approached by Jerry Howland to coach a team from Boston's The English High School at the national tournament in Atlanta. Howland was a teacher and Mock Trial coach at the school, which had won the 1993 state championship. McGuire agreed. It was 10 days until nationals.

Then McGuire realized it might be impossible for the team to compete. There was no money to cover the cost of the trip. "So I called up my travel agent, ordered 15 round-trip tickets to Atlanta and put it on a credit card," McGuire said matter-of-factly. "They all had a wonderful time."

McGuire and his wife then sat down and figured out how to cover that $3,000 charge. "We knew we had to get the word out to Boston law firms," said McGuire, who believed attorneys would donate to the program if they knew how special it was. An informal fund-raising drive was born and Claire spearheaded the firm collections, starting first with her own, Ropes & Gray. They more than covered the amount.

Brown Rudnick

Mock Trial was wildly successful by the late 1990s and had ballooned to more than 120 participating schools. It was a bittersweet achievement because the MBA was struggling to cover the costs of administering the massive program.

Knowing firsthand how instrumental the program was in educating young people not only about the law, but themselves, McGuire approached the policy committee at Brown Rudnick about funding the program. "They thought it was a good idea," McGuire said.

1998 was the first year that Brown Rudnick became the lead financial underwriter of the program. The firm, through its Center for the Public Interest, donates $25,000 each year and has contributed more than a quarter-million dollars to the program.

LEGACY

McGuire has tried to follow the paths of several students who have moved through the Mock Trial Program's ranks over the years. His informal research and anecdotal evidence proves to him that the program has had a great impact.

"Over the past 22 years, I've tracked some of the students … For the most part, we've graduated two kinds, teachers and lawyers," he said.

"The ripple effect of the program goes beyond helping kids understand the law," said McGuire, who credits the program with giving his daughter Julie, now a social psychologist, poise and the ability to speak on her feet. "The public speaking skills they gain transfers in any direction they want."

©2014 Massachusetts Bar Association