From Sea to Shining Sea: Law Day Activities Around the Country

Volume 37, Number 4

By

Rachel Packer is an attorney in Northern New Jersey and co-chair of the ABA Section of Litigation, Ethics and Professionalism Committee, Diversity Subcommittee.

Each year, Law Day brings with it exciting new challenges and activities designed to educate students and the public about our country’s legal system through the chosen annual theme. Affiliates across the nation plan a wide range of programs and contests for students of all ages, as well as the public at large, and there are numerous resources available to Law Day coordinators to assist in the successful implementation of these programs. If you don’t know where to begin, one helpful starting point is the ABA Law Day Planning Guide (available at www.lawday.org), which includes information on the theme “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom,” steps to a “winning” Law Day, ideas for public programming and student activities, and a guide to promotion and publicity.

I contacted state and local bar associations from coast to coast to find out about activities in the pipeline for Law Day 2012, and all were eager to discuss what they have planned.

Oklahoma

Lori Rasmussen, Law Day Coordinator for the Oklahoma Bar Association (OBA), provided me with a long list of events including an “Ask-A-Lawyer” TV show, “Ask-A-Lawyer” day, and county bar events such as continuing legal education luncheons, blood drives, and golf tournaments. The OBA offers numerous opportunities for students of all ages to get involved, including a YouTube Video Contest open to all students up to the 12th grade, a coloring contest for pre-K to 1st grade, a drawing contest for 1st and 2nd grades, a collage contest for grades 3–5, a creative writing contest for grades 5–8, a visual arts contest for grades 6–8, and a “creative free-for-all” for grades 9–12.

“More than 1,000 students so far have entered this year’s contests,” said Rasmussen. The success of these events is undoubtedly due to the OBA’s extensive planning and preparation, as well as its enthusiasm for getting students and the public involved in Law Day. On its website, the OBA provides plenty of project and promotional ideas for Law Day that any affiliate can easily incorporate into its own Law Day celebration. Access this information by visiting www.okbar.org/lawday/2012 and clicking on the link “Information for Law Day Chairs.”

Nevada

In Nevada, Law Day is a “group effort,” said Kathleen Dickinson, Law Related Education Coordinator for the State Bar of Nevada (SBN). Nevada’s Supreme Court Chief Justice Nancy Saitta leads “Law Day Live,” a video conference event that connects students, teachers, and judges statewide to facilitate discussions incorporating the annual Law Day theme. Following Law Day Live, “Nevada attorneys visit schools throughout Nevada to present and discuss various levels of information regarding the ABA theme with students from elementary school through 12th grade,” Dickinson added. The SBN’s Young Lawyers Section offers poster and essay contests for students at all grade levels, with prizes awarded to students in several categories.

I also came across some unique events being hosted by the Utah State Bar (USB) and the Chicago Bar Association (CBA).

Utah

Jenifer Tomchak, President of the USB Young Lawyers Division, told me about the annual Law Day 5K run to benefit the organization “And Justice for All,” a collaboration of free legal aid providers for individuals and families struggling with poverty, discrimination, disability, and domestic violence in Utah. In addition to the 5K race, the Utah Minority Bar Association sponsors an art contest and an essay contest, both open to high school students.

Chicago

In Chicago, the Young Lawyers Section of the CBA holds an annual program called “Lawyers in the Classroom,” which is a “one-day program where lawyers go to [elementary school] classrooms and teach civics lessons from the perspective of lawyers,” said Malcolm “Skip” Harsch, Special Project Coordinator for the CBA YLS. Last year, students were asked to study the freedoms afforded by the Bill of Rights and choose which five of the first 10 Amendments they would keep if aliens invaded the earth and forced them to give up all but five. “Lawyers in the Classroom” is an opportunity to “interact with students and engage them,” Harsch added, and “the kids absolutely love it.”

Connecticut and Louisiana

The Connecticut Bar Association is offering three different contests to students categorized into various age groups. The annual Law Day Video Contest is open to middle school (grades 6–8) and high school (grades 9–12) students. There is also an essay contest for middle school students and a coloring contest for students in grades 1–3 and 4–5. The Baton Rouge Bar Association of Louisiana is organizing similar activities, offering a poster contest to middle school students (grades 5–8), an essay contest to students in grades 6–12, and its first annual Law Day Video Contest to high school students.

With all of these ideas and resources at your disposal, you can hit the ground running to plan a successful Law Day celebration. Whether you look to another affiliate for inspiration, or develop your own unique program, you can make Law Day 2012 the best one yet!

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