2006–07 Choose Law: A Profession for All Status Report
By J. Phenise Poole and Rita Diaz
J. Phenise Poole practices with Fifth Third Bank in Cincinnati, Ohio. Rita Diaz practices with Hahn & Hahn LLP in Pasadena, California. Poole and Diaz are co-coordinators of the 2006–07 Public Service Special Project.
The goal of the ABA YLD’s public service project, Choose Law: A Profession for All, is to encourage individuals of color to become attorneys through use of a video, written curriculum, a website, and attorney volunteers. Through Choose Law, students have learned the importance of the legal profession and how the law affects all aspects of their lives. Attorney volunteers also educated students that the legal profession is an honorable profession and that attorneys of color have played a crucial role in its development. Finally, students were exposed to the reality that there are wonderful and diverse opportunities for individuals pursuing legal careers but that they must begin now by obtaining a good education, making good grades, and staying out of trouble if a career in the law is what they truly desire.
The video and written guide were sent to all affiliates and district representatives. These materials have also been distributed to all state counselor associations across the country. The Choose Law Team has also been working on an article to submit to an e-newsletter and/or magazine that reaches the 20,000 members of the American National Counselor Association.
During the 2007 ABA Midyear Meeting, the team implemented the project at Miami Edison Senior High School’s Academy of Law Studies and Public Service. The team met with students, showed the video, and discussed their individual areas of practice. The presentation was well received, and several students had questions about how the law affects their everyday lives and how and why team members became attorneys.
People across the country have enthusiastically received the project and requests for materials continue to come in through the website. Various ABA sections and committees have also expressed interest in the project, including the Section of Labor and Employment Law’s Equal Opportunity in the Legal Profession Committee and the Section of Environment, Energy, and Resources. To date, over 100 local and state bar associations have made requests for materials. In fact, more materials had to be ordered to fill this high demand. Participating organizations include:
• El Paso Bar Association—During a career day scheduled at a local high school, several attorneys spoke to students using the Choose Law materials.
• North Carolina Bar Association—During the High School Law Career Conference, Choose Law brochures and booklets were sent to the career and guidance counselors, so they could be distributed within the schools.
• Virginia State Bar Young Lawyers Conference and the Fredericksburg Area Bar Association—These organizations presented Choose Law to local high school seniors on May 1, 2007.
• Kansas City Metropolitan Bar Association Young Lawyers’ Section—This affiliate is planning to implement Choose Law in its area.
• Dayton Bar Association New Lawyers Committee—The New Lawyers have requested Choose Law materials to use when its attorneys speak to local students about the legal profession.
• Minnesota State Bar Association New Lawyers Section and Hennepin County Bar Association New Lawyers Section—These affiliates partnered together to implement the project in March 2007.
• Indianapolis Bar Association—After being contacted to have a booth at a local public high school career fair, it selected Choose Law. Over 1,200 students were expected to attend the career fair, and the minority population at the school is over 72%.
• Alaska Bar Association Law Related Education Committee—As part of its Law Day activities, the Committee used the Choose Law DVD.
• Alaska Bar Association Young Lawyers Association—The Young Lawyers presented the project at community recreation centers for Martin Luther King Day events.
• The University of Texas—The university hosted Explore UT, the biggest open house in Texas, and included the project. Phi Alpha Delta Law Fraternity hosted a sixty-minute program that included the Choose Law project (15 minutes) and TYLA’s They Had a Dream Too (45 minutes).
In addition, the team continues to field inquiries about getting involved and to answer requests for assistance in implementing the project in local communities. Several young lawyers across the country have simply heard about the project and contacted us to inquire about what they can do to get involved.
These are only a few examples of the bar associations, organizations, and individuals who have expressed interest in the implementing the project. The team continues to track the implementation of the project across the country.
The ABA YLD recently receivedan American Bar Association 2007 Partnership Award for the Choose Law project. The ABA Partnership Awards Program recognizes efforts by bar associations to increase the participation and advancement of lawyers of color in the organized bar and to attract students of color to the legal profession. This annual awards program is open to all bar associations that can show how their efforts nurture or increase diversity in the legal community. All program submissions are reviewed by a panel of judges from the sponsoring organizations— ABA Standing Committee on Bar Activities and Services, Hispanic National Bar Association, National Asian-Pacific American Bar Association, National Native American Bar Association, and the National Bar Association. Choose Law will be showcased at the joint annual meeting of the National Conference of Bar Presidents, the National Association of Bar Executives, and the National Conference of Bar Foundations, to be held in San Francisco on August 10, 2007.
For more information or if you have questions about the project, contact Phenise Poole ( Phenise.Poole@53.com
) or Rita Diaz ( firstname.lastname@example.org