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    Wisconsin Lawyer
    December 06, 2019

    Your State Bar: Mock Trial: Investing in Our Civic Future

    Your contribution of time, talent, or money to the State Bar's Mock Trial Program can help Wisconsin teenagers become tomorrow's leaders.

    Larry J. Martin

    mock trial team

    Members of the Golda Meir team from Milwaukee pose with coach Kori Ashley (back row, second from left) during the 2019 Wisconsin Law Foundation Dinner in Madison. The mock trial program is instilling a necessary knowledge and appreciation for the rule of law and the judicial system and how they form the foundation of our democratic society.

    I must admit, it’s getting harder to open a daily newspaper (yes, I still read one!) or turn on the evening news. Every time I think the doom and gloom of yesterday’s headlines can’t be topped, I’m proven wrong. If this were one’s only measure, it would be easy to lose hope and perceive that the world is simply spinning out of control. Attacks on our core values and principles and the underpinnings of democracy itself seem to be fraying the very fabric of our civic society.

    But whenever I get too down, I look to where the next generation is headed and I suddenly realize there not only is hope but also optimism for the future.

    Larry J. MartinLarry J. Martin is the executive director for the State Bar of Wisconsin.

    For the last few years that I have been executive director, I have had the pleasure of attending the State Bar of Wisconsin’s annual mock trial banquet, held each spring to celebrate the end of the state tournament. I have learned two fundamental lessons from my participation. First, these students are incredibly smart, determined, passionate, and informed young adults. Second, never get between 300 of them and an all-you-can-eat pasta buffet.

    More than 1,440 students from 120 high schools across Wisconsin participate annually in the State Bar’s high school mock trial program. Since its inception in 1983, nearly 36,000 students have learned to think on their feet and work as teams, developed self-confidence, and, most important, gained a strong understanding and appreciation for the U.S. and Wisconsin legal systems.

    Teams participate across the state in 11 different regions, with the top two teams from each region moving on to compete at the state level. Here is what is truly wonderful: Nearly 450 attorney and judicial volunteers give of their time each year to help put on the regional and state competitions, acting as coaches, judges, case writers, and coordinators. Hundreds more donate through the Wisconsin Law Foundation to sustain the program.

    Countless times, mock trial has been the spark that has led to a legal career, but its most significant effect has been even greater and more profound. It has given literally thousands of future leaders in almost every profession a set of life skills that cannot simply be learned in the classroom: how to be a member of and depend on a team, develop confidence in public speaking, become a critical thinker and think on your feet, and learn the important skills of problem solving.

    Now more than ever before, the mock trial program is instilling a necessary knowledge and appreciation for the rule of law and the judicial system and how they form the foundation of our democratic society.

    Mock trial creates the opportunity for students from big schools and smaller ones, from rural, urban, and suburban settings, to compete on an equal field. It is an opportunity to bring together students of different religious, cultural, and socioeconomic backgrounds with the common goal of learning to understand, appreciate, and value an important cornerstone of a civil society.

    All this happens each year because of the time, talent, and treasure provided by hundreds of Wisconsin lawyers and judges. Join us in nurturing the next generation of leaders. By doing so, you will be helping to renew democracy itself.

    Support Mock Trial

    Volunteer as a program participant and learn about options for giving. There are several ways to make a charitable gift and you can designate your contribution to the Mock Trial Program.


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