From Mentors to Mock Trials – Legal Prep Charter Academy Sparks Love for Justice System
Helping schoolchildren see themselves and their life opportunities in an exciting new light is a transformative experience for all involved – the student, the teacher, the mentor, the parents, and the community. These inspirational acts are currently taking place in a committed, caring and constructively challenging environment each month as dedicated teams of legal professionals, led by GE Transportation and Jones Day, participate in a special partnership with a very special place – the Legal Prep Charter Academy of Chicago.
Back in 2015, senior executives at GE Transportation and Jones Day saw an opportunity to teach and mentor a small group of students, and that’s when GE Transportation’s General Counsel, Tom LaFrance, got involved. Each month they invited a group of students to come downtown to their respective offices – one month GE Transportation’s, the next Jones Day’s – and interact with the students, working to develop their analytical skills through a series of logic games while also building rapport and trust.
“While most of the kids seemed to enjoy these games, our engagement with them really took off in 2016 after we suggested trying a new form of competition – mock trials!” said Mark DeMonte, Jones Day. “The logic games were good, but they didn’t have the dynamism and ‘skin-in-the-game’ immediacy of a trial. With the mock trials, we had the kids hooked from day one, and they haven’t looked back since.”
Opening new doors
“The simple but revelatory act of getting these kids out of their neighborhood and into our offices downtown has been an eye-opener for everyone involved,” said LaFrance. “I can tell the students have benefitted a lot from exposure to professional people of all backgrounds who are excelling in a field they hadn’t experienced quite this directly before.”
While exposing kids to the “hey, I could do that” possibilities of the legal profession has gotten more of them to consider law as a viable career path, the program with GE Transportation and Jones Day is doing more than shining a light on possibilities. It is teaching the kids practical skills they can put to good use in any academic pursuit or career.
“While the idea of a ‘legal-themed high school’ may beg the response, ‘Does the world really need more lawyers?’” added Michael Watson from GE Transportation, who has been volunteering for the program since its inception, “I sincerely believe the world would be a better place if more people learned to use reason, listen attentively to each other, and marshal their emotions in the service of rational discourse – something attorneys do every day.”
Want to learn more? Click here for a brief video Q&A with GET General Counsel Tom LaFrance.