The Atlanta Lawyer April 2012 : Page 5

president’s message between the media and our judiciary. Similarly, we would love to engage our non-lawyer legislators by inviting them to visit our courts to see what actually happens in our courtrooms. One of the most vital roles that lawyers can and do play with respect to protecting our freedoms and access to the justice system is to engage our youth. By the time a lawyer is admitted to the bar of a particular state, typically, he or she has had at least 20 years of formal education. That is equivalent to a generation. And yet, tragically, some of today's youth are at risk of never completing high school, much less obtaining a college degree or an advanced degree. According to recent statistics, in Georgia, 1/3 of our youth do not earn a high school diploma. Some districts haven even lower graduation rates. With a high school diploma (or equivalent), that individual faces significant hurdles in succeeding in life. Lawyers can positively impact and benefit today's youth in a variety of ways, including through mentoring, coaching, and other activities. We can, and should, educate and inform the next generation about the law, not only for those who might want the opportunity to practice law, but also to broaden the appreciation for and understanding of the importance of our court system. The Atlanta Bar has several programs focused on exposing youth to lawyers and the practice of law and offering first year minority law students an opportunity to gain valuable experience and networking opportunities. The Summer Law Internship Program (“SLIP”) will celebrate its 20th anniversary this year. Each summer, select high school students work in law firms, corporate legal departments, public interest organizations, or with judges to see first-hand what lawyers and non-legal support personnel do. These students also participate in rigorous weekly meetings, some with homework (called “enrichment”) where they are exposed to some of the pillars of our profession. Special thanks to the co-chairs of the SLIP Committee, Wade Malone , Natasha Perdew-Silas , and Nekia S. Hackworth , and the others who have been active with this program through the years, and to the employers and mentors who make the program such a success. In addition, the Atlanta Bar Association facilitates first year minority law students in gaining valuable work experience and making connections important for their future careers as lawyers. This summer, we will have a record number of 1L’s --23. Sincere thanks to Charlie Lester and Seaborn Jones , the co-chairs of the Minority and Diversity Clerkship Committee, and to their predecessors in that role, for such a wonderful accomplishment. (See page 23 for a listing of firms). Both of these programs are incredible and have benefitted so many young people and young lawyers. The Official News Publication of the Atlanta Bar Association Notably, however, while we have focused on high school and law students, we have not similarly engaged college students in any meaningful way. If you are interested in helping us identify an appropriate avenue to connect the pipeline, please let me know. For Law Day 2012, the Atlanta Bar is proud to sponsor an essay contest, using the ABA Law Day theme, for all high school students in the Atlanta Public Schools. Cash prizes will be awarded to the first, second and third place winners at a Law Day Ceremony held at the conclusion of a state-wide Georgia Bar Leadership Institute on Friday, April 27, 2012. Atlanta Bar members are visiting the schools to announce the contest and to talk with students and teachers about Law Day. Our members also will perform mock trials at a local elementary school and middle school, and will coach mock trial teams at the Atlanta Bar’s adopted high school, the D.M. Therrell High School of Law & Government. Fulton County Judges will preside at each mock trial and juries will render verdicts at the conclusion of the mock trial at Therrell. After the mock trial presentation at Therrell, a framed picture of five former Therrell students who participated in SLIP, and who now are practicing lawyers, will be presented to the School. These former SLIP participants are now helping mentor students participating with the SLIP program. I urge you to take just a moment on May 1 to reflect on how you help ensure an independent and adequately funded court system which provides access to justice for all. Whether you engage in political advocacy on behalf of the courts, talk with your friends about the qualifications of judicial candidates or why jury service is worth the “inconvenience,” or you engage our youth in understanding and appreciating the importance of our legal system, as lawyers, we have a special responsibility. ■ Connect with us now -just click the icons April 2012 THE ATLANTA LAWYER 5

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