With the holiday season upon us, and all the attendant programs, dinners, parties, vacations, and schools closing for a week or so, the predominant business theme sometimes seems to be wait until next year. Two groups among us, though, will be working diligently during this time of year. Business lawyers whose clients want to close that deal before the end of the calendar year are one. The other is that group of lawyers we know as attorney coaches.
org gbrown wisbar George C. Brown is the executive director for the State Bar of Wisconsin.
Attorney coaches are lawyers who volunteer dozens to hundreds of hours to coach the more than 100 Wisconsin high school mock trial teams whose training began this last autumn. They work closely with teacher coaches to train their teams for the annual statewide competitions. The case that will be used in the competition revolves around the issue of whether a college student who shot and killed his roommate did so in self-defense. The case was released to participants on December 1 and with the first regional competitions scheduled for February 14, the coaches and students have much to do to prepare.
With Wisconsin’s annual high school mock trial competition, we are training students about more than just the case in front of them. Certainly, they are learning the law and the facts of the case and experiencing the justice system first-hand. But they are learning so much more. They are learning to think on their feet, to present a compelling argument to a group of people they do not know, and to work both as individuals and as a team, and they are learning what it takes to lead.
Through the State Bar’s sponsorship of the annual high school mock trial tournament, we are training tomorrow’s leaders. These students’ predecessors have gone on to become lawyers, bankers, doctors, business leaders. And some who are lawyers and judges now are volunteering as attorney coaches.
The mock trial tournament is only one of many ways the State Bar is helping train tomorrow’s leaders. Annually, the State Bar Young Lawyers Division sponsors its Young Lawyers Leadership Conference, bringing together more than 100 young lawyers for a half day of leadership training. The program is free of charge and open to any young lawyer member of the State Bar. Preceding that conference, the State Bar sponsors the Leadership Development Summit, which brings together 25 young lawyers who have been nominated by their law offices or experienced lawyers in their communities because they show promise as future leaders. Summit attendees often stay for the Leadership Conference later that day. Both events present the qualities, characteristics, and benefits of leadership, including opportunities at the State Bar.
To help complete the circle, last year the Wisconsin Law Foundation offered leadership scholarships that paid the registration to the State Bar’s Annual Meeting and Conference to any Summit attendee who volunteered to be appointed by the State Bar president to serve on a State Bar committee or task force. Only two of the 25 attendees chose not to offer to serve on a committee.
As you ponder your year-end giving or your new year’s resolutions, think about the opportunity to give a gift to the Wisconsin Law Foundation, to volunteer to help train tomorrow’s leaders, or to learn how to become one of those leaders. And think of it not as a gift of money or time, but as a gift of leadership.