Law Related Education – Does it matter?

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 Tomorrow I will be a JUDGE.

A Mock Trial Judge.

Not the PRESIDING mock trial judge, but a judge nonetheless.

No fancy black robe BUT I do have the fascinating joy and responsibility of judging mock trial for MIDDLE SCHOOL STUDENTS!

You may be thinking to yourself, big whoop. Now YOU have to “work” on a Saturday. And besides, it’s not real life.

Well, newsflash – it does offer the opportunity to CHANGE someone’s life.

Wait. WHAT?!?!?

That’s right. Mock trial can change someone’s life. I’m not saying it will, but it is within the realm of possibility.

Participating in mock trial or other law related education allows students to gain a deeper understanding of how the legal system works. The South Carolina Bar’s Law Related Education (LRE) division offers many differents programs in addition to mock trial,including Foundations of Democracy, Community Works, Law Day, We the People, and Foundations of Democracy to name a few. Here are some of the comments that LRE has received from teachers, students and parents about the impact of LRE:

From an elementary school – “[the] impact is far reaching and has included reading, writing, public speaking and social studies.”

From a high school student – “I never knew, until We the People, how the Constitution plays an intricate role in my life. Now I understand the limits of our government . . . We the People has made me a better presenter, speaker and a more educated American.”

From a middle school teacher – “Students from Project Citizen demonstrate leadership skills in dealing with school and community concerns. It is amazing to watch these students present their research to large groups of adults with confidence and pride.”

From a parent – “Participating in [We the People] was a remarkable experience for [my daughter] and for the other members of the team.  . . . My daughter has always had a dream of being a physician, but she came home from the national competition with a changed mind and heart. Because of this experience she had found her passion – and that passion is the study of the Constitution and of law.”

I find these remarks absolutely convincing. Yes, participation in law related education is a great thing. And, as one who has participated in the past and is LOOKING FORWARD to tomorrow’s mock trial rounds, it means a lot to me. I haven’t even told you about how it makes me feel. And trust me, if it didn’t make me feel good, it would be awfully hard to get out of bed early on a Saturday morning in order to be downtown no later than 8:45 a.m.

Mock trial makes me feel good because I see passion in these students. Tomorrow middle school students will stand in front of strangers, their parents, their coaches, their opponents and their opponents’ families. They will be nervous. They will present their cases. They will look at the judges. They will remember to ask for the judge’s permission before starting. They will question witnesses. They will make closing arguments. They may even stumble over their words.

But these 11-14 years will be there. On a Saturday. No later than 8:45 a.m. In their suits. Ready to take part in a demonstration of our justice system.

THAT takes passion.

What have you concluded? Does Law Related Education matter?

What do I think? I think it definitely matters. It allows students to study the law, study the system, and learn how to present their argument without resorting to fisticuffs. There’s no violence involved. Sure a courtroom can get heated. But it’s respect of and for the system that allows it to succeed.

It’s what allows us to ponder access to justice for all.

(And to dream of being a judge, even if only for a day, a Saturday.)

-RFW

If you would like more information about the South Carolina Bar’s Law Related Education, please visit http://www.scbar.org/public_services/law_related_education/.

If you are interested in supporting the South Carolina Bar’s Law Related Education program OR the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission, please visit http://www.scbarfoundation.org/.

Both the South Carolina Bar’s Law Related Education program and the South Carolina Access to Justice Commission are funded by IOLTA grants from the South Carolina Bar Foundation.

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