What is a Lawyer? Kindergarteners and the Law
What is a lawyer? Black’s Law Dictionary defines “lawyer” or “attorney” as “one who is licensed to practice law” or “a person who practices law”. Although these definitions are technically correct, what do they mean to a kindergartener?
We recently attended a local elementary school’s Career Day to teach students about the profession of law. Students were very familiar with rules both inside the classroom (no running) and outside the school (wear your seatbelt). We discussed how these rules – or laws – help illustrate right and wrong; teach responsibility for actions; keep us safe; and provide a fair way to settle problems.
After students identified what a law was, we talked about how lawyers help people understand and follow the law, as well as work to peacefully solve problems. We talked about making laws, famous lawyers like Barack Obama and specific ways our firm works with the law (such as starting a business or writing a contract between an artist and a customer). Students also received coloring pages entitled “What a Lawyer Does”, developed by the South Carolina Bar Law Related Education Division.
Undoubtedly, the highlight of the session was the case of A. Bear et al v. Gold E. Locks. Adapted from a series of lessons provided by the New Jersey State Bar Foundation, this brief demonstration allowed the students to act out roles of plaintiff, defendant, judge, and jury:
“Mr. Bear, did you invite the defendant into your home?”
“Ms. Locks, do you admit to breaking the plaintiff’s chair? Did you repay him for the damages?”
At the conclusion, the student “jury” had a wide variety of suggested sentences for Goldilocks, such as a $5 fine, forcing her to build a new chair for the Bears, or an extended jail term.
Participation in educational forums like Career Day – while it may result in new clients – is important because it presents a positive image of the law to the next generation of attorneys. Resources to help your interested student learn about lawyers or celebrate Law Day are available from the American Bar Association.