Affiliates Take the Initiative to Implement Choose Law for Law Day
By Isa Gonzalez-Zayas
I sa Gonzalez-Zayas is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and is an attorney with the Legal Aid Society of Milwaukee, Inc. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
This year’s YLD public service project, Choose Law: A Profession for All, introduces the legal profession to minority high school students and incites them to consider the law as a career. Some affiliates have taken the initiative to implement projects that mirror the Choose Law project. In this column, the Wisconsin State Bar Young Lawyers Division’s (WSB/YLD) 2007 Law Day is highlighted.
The WSB/YLD is organizing Law Day activities to be presented in schools within ten counties around the state from May 1–4, 2007. This effort is in conjunction with Gannett Publishing and the Wisconsin State Bar Section on Individual Rights and Responsibilities, with the assistance of volunteer young lawyers across the state. “The primary date is May 1, but we’ll also have volunteer lawyers available from May 2 to May 4, just in case the project does not fall within the teachers’ lesson plan schedule,” said Jessica King, a member of the Board Directors of the WSB/YLD and also the person who presented the idea to the YLD board. The ten participating counties include Brown, Outagamie, Fond du Lac, Sheboygan, Manitowoc, Portage, Marathon, Winnebago, Wood, and Dane counties.
“Gannett has a running contract with the school districts [within their publishing areas] and they will ask teachers if they want to participate either on May 1 or on May 2 through May 4,” said King, who is a bankruptcy attorney at Steinhilber, Swanson, Mares, Marone & McDermott, in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. On May 1, the newspapers that are part of Gannett Publishing will run a 16-page insert that includes the theme of the project: “Separation of Powers.” The target audience will include adult readers, as well as the school age readers. These materials will be part of the information that the volunteer attorneys will present in the classrooms. The insert will be ready by mid-March and will be available via the Internet for the volunteer lawyers to read. Members of the Winnebago and Brown Counties’ young lawyers associations will help with the content and the editing of the insert. Training for the project will take place during the month of April within the different counties.
At this stage, the WSB/YLD is working to coordinate the volunteer lawyers within the ten counties and match them up to the schools where they will present the project. This is done in conjunction with the local bar association’s presidents, announcements through the WSB/YLD newsletter, and other state bar publications. If the demand is bigger than the number of volunteer lawyers, then there is a possibility that the lawyers will be assigned to two classrooms instead of one. “The idea is for kids to see local lawyers in their schools,” King said.
In terms of the funding, the state bar has authorized funding in the amount of $15,000 in contingency funds. In addition, some local bar associations have donated money for the project.
King participated in the Winnebago County Bar Association 2006 Law Day project, in which twenty-three lawyers went to classrooms in Oshkosh and met with 450 students in one day. On that day, Gannett Publishing included an insert in its newspapers that went to 20,000 homes with information about the project and the project’s theme. The theme for that Law Day was the importance of serving on a jury. King then presented the idea to the WSB/YLD Board and since then, she has been spearheading the implementation of the project.
Public service projects such as Choose Law: A Profession for All and the projects undertaken by the WSB/YLD are crucial for the development of the students’ goals and to highlight the importance of service for and within their communities.
For more information on how to implement, obtain funding, and organize a Choose Law project for your affiliate, visit the ABA YLD webpage