General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionMagazine

American Bar Association
General Practice, Solo, and Small Firm Division
The Compleat Lawyer
Spring 1998
© American Bar Association. All rights reserved.

The Chair's Corner

BY MICHAEL E. MASSIE

Lawyers in the Classroom

As part of our effort to make the practice of law more fun and rewarding to our members, the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division is proud to adopt and publicize I'm the People: It's About Citizenship and You, an ongoing public service program developed by the ABA Division for Public Education for use in elementary and secondary schools. Where else should kids learn about law and citizenship but from lawyers?

This program is perfect for our members because it encourages lawyers to be active in their communities and generates positive publicity. Yet no big organization is needed to support the program. All it takes is one lawyer going to one school or classroom to make a difference.

The instructions couldn't be simpler:

There are four instructional booklets focused on key citizenship concepts: making rules and laws, resolving conflicts, community service, and influencing public policy. Each booklet includes a few lessons for each of four grade levels—K-3; 4-6; 6-8; and 9-12—and a teaching poster. Additionally, each booklet contains reproducible instructional materials, such as background readings, puzzles, charts and a glossary of legal terminology. The program is designed for use by lawyers in cooperation with classroom teachers.

The I'm the People program was launched on Constitution Day (September) 1995 by ABA President Roberta Cooper Ramo as an initiative to improve the constitutional literacy of young people. The kick-off event, "Conversations on the Constitution: An Assembly of Students and Policy Makers," brought together Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley, distinguished lawyers such as Solicitor General Drew S. Days III and U.S. Circuit Judge Patricia M. Wald, and D.C.-area high school students in a discussion of First Amendment issues.

By December 31, 1997, a total of 20,000 I'm the People booklets were distributed to every state plus D.C., Puerto Rico, and Canada. Of those, approximately half were distributed to lawyers, bar associations, and LRE projects and half to teachers and other educators.

A total of 25 state and 42 local bar associations received the I'm the People booklets. The state-wide law-related education (LRE) project coordinators in seven of the twelve states receiving the largest quantities of the series were primarily responsible for recruiting participants in their states. Six of those seven LRE projects are largely funded by their state bar association/foundation.

Let's Keep It Going

The ABA General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division is calling upon its members to get involved. Turn to page 10 for more information on the booklets. Then get involved! Combine your interests in law, teaching, children, and volunteerism. Contact your local school system to determine interest. Order the booklets from the ABA Service Center (800/285-2221). E-mail Ronald Banaszak, Director of Youth Education, at the ABA Division for Public Education if you have further questions (rbanaszak@staff.abanet.org).

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