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Official Magazine of the Denver Bar Association

Back to School for Lawyers: Three Primary Focus Areas for Volunteers in Denver’s Schools

 

Sharpen your pencils and get ready for fun and meaningful volunteer opportunities in our Denver schools! The DBA’s Lawyers and Schools Committee (LSC) is kicking off the 2014–15 school year by announcing three focus areas to get lawyers and legal staff into Denver classrooms.

Last school year, the LSC worked with Denver’s teachers, principals, students and staff to identify the volunteer activities that will be most useful to Denver students. The LSC invites lawyers and legal staff to participate in the following three volunteer/partnerships:

1. Conduct Law and Civic Events in Classrooms—Coordinate with a Denver teacher and help students with any or all of the following school events.

Constitution Day: Attorneys and/or legal staff volunteer to help teach a provided lesson plan on the Constitution to third-grade and eighth-grade classes during the week of September 15.

Court Tours: Attorney volunteers work with a teacher to take students to a courthouse to watch our courts in action. Most tours include an opportunity to watch court proceedings and meet with a judge.

Career Day: Attorneys and/or legal staff work with schools to make brief presentations to students in classrooms or at career fairs to help them learn about how to become a lawyer and what lawyers do and/or discuss job fields related to their profession.

Law Day Art Contest: Each year, a theme is released by the American Bar Association. An attorney and/or legal staff works with a teacher to speak to the students about the importance of the theme, and leads the class to participate in drawing a picture with captions about the theme.

2. Become a Reading Tutor and Work with the Reading Partners Organization.

LSC has teamed up with Reading Partners, a national education nonprofit organization, to train attorney and/or legal staff volunteers to provide one-on-one literacy tutoring to students who are struggling with reading. Reading Partners staff will be present in the classroom to work with volunteers in specific Denver elementary schools as volunteers tutor students from low-income communities who are reading 6 months to 2.5 years below grade-level. A reading tutor’s commitment level can be coordinated with Reading Partners to meet the volunteer’s calendar. Reading Partners is conducting an initial training program on August 20 at the DBA offices, with additional training sessions during the school year (please contact Jessica Harper at jessica.harper@readingpartners.org for details on these).

3. Participate in Denver’s Regional Mock Trial or Pre-Mock Trial Programs

For many years, Denvers attorneys have worked with high school teachers and students to help coach High School Mock Trial Teams as they compete in the Denver Regional Mock Trial Tournament in our Denver courtrooms with Denver judges presiding. The LSC has two mock trial goals: first, to expand the number of attorney–coaches and high school teams; and second, to provide younger Denver students with pre-mock trial advocacy skills so that they can better participate when they reach the High School Mock Trial level.

High School Mock Trial: The High School Mock Trial Program is an extracurricular program. The year begins with an attorney volunteer partnering with a high school teacher–coach and identifying student participants in September and October. The case problem is released November 1. Practices, using a case-based curriculum, are conducted by the attorney and teacher–coaches normally once a week after school.

In-Class, Pre-Mock Trial Events: Attorney and/or legal staff volunteers will visit K–12 classrooms and partner with teachers to explain to students how a mock trial works. Volunteers will also work with teachers to conduct foundational activities to provide students mock trial skills.

The Lawyers and Schools Committee is confident that “going back to school” will be rewarding for you and for the students and teacher with whom you will interact. While the LSC has additional opportunities for volunteers, by volunteering in one of the above primary areas, you will be providing our schools with the help from our legal community that is needed most. Contact Meghan Bush at mbush@cobar.org to get involved in the committee and/or volunteer opportunities.

 

By Erich Bethke, a Director at Senn Visciano Canges P.C., where his practice emphasizes family law and commercial/business matters. He has been the committee chair of the Lawyers and Schools Committee for the past five years and has been involved in school-related volunteer projects for over 20 years. He will always be passionate about the volunteer involvement of DBA members in Denver’s schools.

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