The recently announced theme for Law Day 2013 is “Realizing the Dream: Equality for All.” Selected in honor of the 150th anniversary of the issuance of the Emancipation Proclamation, this year’s theme promises a chance to study our country’s civil and human rights movements and their impact on equality under the law and to open up a new dialogue concerning what remains to be done.
On May 1, 2012, affiliates across the country celebrated Law Day 2012 with a variety of activities. The theme was “No Courts, No Justice, No Freedom,” designed to highlight the importance of the judicial role in ensuring justice for all Americans in the face of recent budget cuts. As young lawyer affiliates begin planning for Law Day 2013, it may be useful to look back and examine what kinds of Law Day programs have been successful in previous years. Consider the following ideas from 2012:
- Get Moving. Law Day programs don’t have to take place sitting down; instead, they can provide an excuse for young lawyers to get out from behind their desks and engage in physical activity for a good cause. Host a fun run, bike race, or kickball tournament, with proceeds going toward a civics-themed nonprofit group. The Amarillo Area Young Lawyers Association (Texas) held a Law Day 5k race with the proceeds benefitting the YMCA’s Youth in Government Program and the Amarillo Teen Court Program.
- Get Creative. Law Day is the perfect time to get the creative juices flowing. The New Jersey State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division invited middle and high school students to film their own Law Day video, highlighting the role of the nation’s courts in our constitutional democracy and educating the public about the judiciary. The top four finalists received an all-expense-paid trip to Washington, D.C., for the national Law Day festivities. The Denver Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division (Colorado) invited Denver public high school students to submit entries in any form (including artwork, essays, or videos) pertaining to the Law Day theme.
- Get Writing. If there’s one skill future lawyers need, it’s writing skills. With that in mind, the Maricopa County Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division (Arizona) held a sports-themed Law Day essay contest for junior high students, with winners receiving their awards from the Chief Justice of the Arizona Supreme Court. The Tennessee Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division hosted an essay contest for high school students, asking them to incorporate the 2012 theme and write about the importance of the courts.
- Get in the Classroom. Law Day is a time to educate, so why not do it through good old-fashioned classroom instruction? Work with local teachers to turn attorneys into “teachers for the day.” The Oregon State Bar’s New Lawyers Division organizes an annual “Civics Day” during which attorney volunteers make one-hour classroom presentations to middle school students using lesson plans from www.icivics.org. Many of these lessons could easily be tailored to Law Day.
- Get in the Courtroom. Instead of turning lawyers into teachers for the day, turn students into lawyers for the day. The North Carolina Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division hosted a high school moot court competition and awarded savings bonds and trophies to the winners. Alternatively, invite students to observe in the courtroom. The North Dakota Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Section presented the trial of Gold E. Locks and the Three Bears for middle school students and an actual DUI trial (with a few modified facts) for high school seniors.
- Get Involved. Law Day is a time for young lawyers to look beyond their day-to-day practices and provide much-needed legal assistance to vulnerable members of their communities. The New Mexico State Bar’s Young Lawyers Division hosted a Law Day “Ask-A-Lawyer” call-in program, with call centers located in four cities. Through this program, members of the public were able to call in and speak to an attorney regarding bankruptcy, landlord-tenant, criminal, family, and employment law questions free of charge. The Wisconsin State Bar Young Lawyers Division partnered with the Family Resource Center of Sheboygan County to provide 15-minute consultations and legal assistance to families on a variety of topics.
- Get Connected. Last but not least, it’s important to remember that Law Day provides more than a chance to connect with the public—it also gives young lawyers an opportunity to network with the “big bar” in their area. Assist in planning a luncheon, or arrange a volunteering event that attorneys, both young and old, can participate in together.
With these suggestions in mind, it’s time to start planning for Law Day 2013. It will be here before you know it! For more information, visit the ABA Division of Public Education’s Law Day website at www.americanbar.org/groups/ public_education/initiatives_awards/law_day_2012.html.