Wake County Young Lawyers and the Case of the Big Bad Wolf
Isa Gonzalez-Zayas is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and is an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Inc. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
In the spirit of this year’s ABA YLD Public Service Project, Choose Law: A Profession for All, young lawyers around the country are giving back to their communities one school at a time. On January 26, 2007, the Wake County Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (WCBA YLD) in North Carolina presented the case of the Big Bad Wolf to Ms. Whitmore’s module class at Conn Elementary in Raleigh. Two Raleigh attorneys, Albert Hwang, who practices with Troutman Sanders LLP, and Christina McAlpin, who practices with Smith, Debnam, Narron, were two of the attorneys who spoke with the students about their jobs as attorneys and prepared the students for their roles in presenting the case of the Big Bad Wolf. The case is based on the book entitled The True Story of the Three Little Pigs and the Big Bad Wolf by John Scieszka.
The curriculum for this presentation is divided into two parts that are usually presented over the course of two days. The lesson is divided into a day during which the rule of law and legal vocabulary are discussed, and then a day for the actual trial. The classroom is divided between the students playing the role of defense attorney, prosecutor, court reporter, bailiff, judge, the pig, the “Big Bad Wolf,” Granny, and the panel of prospective jurors. “The fifth graders were somewhat familiar with the legal terms and procedures because their teacher had discussed definitions, words, and amendments with the fifth graders prior to our project,” said McAlpin. This was McAlpin’s second time volunteering to present the project to elementary school students.
It is the WCBA YLD’s goal to make this presentation on a yearly basis and to take it to more schools. “Our first duty is to help the public,” said Hwang, who is the past chair of the Division. Hwang added that he emphasized to the students that there are always multiple sides to a story and they always should be willing to listen to other people. “The students also benefit because they act out the parts of lawyers, clients, witnesses, bailiffs, and jury members,” said McAlpin.
The students asked such questions as “what is the difference between a lawyer and an attorney?” or “why does the defendant sit on one side and the prosecutor on another?” The students also learned that not all attorneys go to court and the difference between a civil lawyer and a criminal lawyer. “After we complete the project, we try to discuss with the children how it would feel to be a defendant being charged knowing you were innocent or how important jury members are and jury duty,” McAlpin explained.
McAlpin went on to note that projects like this are also great for young lawyers “because it gives us an opportunity to educate the public at a young age; we worked hard to explain to the children that the defendant is innocent until proven guilty.” Hwang added, “If you like working with children, want to do something that’s just fun, and want to find an easy and efficient way to reach the community, then this project is an excellent way to do it.”
When asked what she would remember the most of this experience, McAlpin answered watching the children perform the skit because “they were so accurate on playing the parts of being an assertive defense attorney or a timid witness, it was great!” Projects like the case of the Big Bad Wolf and Choose Law continue to make a positive impact on how society’s youngest minds can be positively influenced, and most importantly, they enable young lawyers to give back to their communities!
This project was highlighted in the March 2007 issue of the Wake Bar Flyer
newsletter. For more information about the project or how to become a volunteer and participate, contact Meghan Knight at firstname.lastname@example.org.