The young people who may be the future of our
As reported in the last issue of Lawyers Journal, I was
privileged to welcome the participants, families and guests at the
state finals of the MBA high school Mock Trial Competition at
Faneuil Hall on March 23. Given the grand history of Faneuil Hall
and the luminaries who argued and orated in the Hall's early days,
John Adams in particular, it was fitting that the high school state
finalists competed in that venue.
Kudos to Josh McGuire and all the members of his Mock Trial
Committee for superb work developing the case the students argued
and working with the teachers and coaches of the more than 100 high
school teams who competed. Josh McGuire is, as he told all
assembled, a proud product of the Mock Trial Program, participating
as a teenager, ultimately becoming a lawyer, and now serving as
chair of the MBA's Mock Trial Committee.
The two finalist teams, Pioneer Valley Performing Arts Charter
Public School and Marshfield High School, were well-coached and
well-prepared. As merely an observer, I had no say in the scoring,
but I did keep track in my own way. I confess it would have been
very difficult for me to decide between the two teams. The quality
of the witness examination and cross-examination, as well as
opening statements and closing arguments, was at a very high
Presiding Judge Barbara Savitt-Pearson (judge at the Lowell
District Court) observed after the case concluded that many
practicing attorneys could learn from the high school students'
performances. I would take her comments a step further: All
attorneys could learn from these students' fine performances. The
students' presentations were uniformly on point, succinct, polite
and persuasive -- in short, the hallmarks of effective advocacy.
Notably, the students also demonstrated a good sense of when not to
say anything, another hallmark of effective advocacy.
Reflecting on this uplifting experience while driving back to my
North Shore office, I wondered about the opportunities for these
young people were they to choose our profession, as Josh McGuire
did. I have long believed, as I was told when I was contemplating
law school, that our profession always has room for more good
lawyers. I now wonder -- as I suggest we all should -- whether that
still is so, given the large number of talented recent graduates
without legal employment. We owe it to these young people and our
profession to make sure there are opportunities for more good
And I would pose the following question: Why are not all lawyers
as well-prepared as these high school students were? If we are
honest about our profession, we know that too often, some in our
profession are not as prepared as they should be.
These young people from Pioneer Valley and Marshfield, and others
like them, are the future of our profession. What kind of
profession will they join? In large part, that is up to us. One of
the things we can ensure is that we promote professionalism in all
respects, as a given. That means civil, effective communication
among lawyers. That means more experienced lawyers being generous
with their time and mentoring less experienced lawyers. That means
judges and lawyers demanding of themselves and each other a high
level of professionalism and preparation.
I recall the admonition of now-retired Superior Court Justice John
Ronan, when he was regional administrative justice for Essex
Superior Court, at the inception of the conciliation program
developed shortly after time standards were enacted in 1988.
Justice Ronan was concerned that lawyers treat the conciliation
process seriously. Therefore, he demanded that the conciliation
notice contain a statement in substance that a high level of
preparation for conciliation was expected and required by the
court. Perhaps, like that conciliation notice, we have to be a bit
more direct in our insistence on preparation and
When we appear in court, regardless of the matter, we are on
display for all who are there to see, hear and comment on. We owe
it to our clients, ourselves, our colleagues in the profession, the
court and the society we serve, to be the best we can be, each and
every time we appear.
At Faneuil Hall, I saw a bright future in the energized, competent
performances of the students from Pioneer Valley and Marshfield.
Our profession would do well to emulate those performances, each
and every day, regardless of our practice areas. What I witnessed
on that March day is cause for celebration and optimism for the
future of our profession and society. By any measure, that is a
pretty good day.