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
"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.
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
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
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.
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.
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
"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."