Bar News - June 22, 2007
Stories from Law Day
By: Andrew D. Myers
This article, first published May 2, 2007 in the Derry News (and reprinted here with permission), is one of a series of columns by attorney Andrew Myers, a Derry practitioner, on general legal topics. It’s fun to read and exemplifies how to promote your law practice by genuinely sharing who you are with potential clients through the local media.
The history of Law Day, May 1, is a bit murky.
Andrew D. Myers
In 1957, the president of the American Bar Association proposed the idea [of creating Law Day] but was rebuffed by no-less-a-figure than White House Chief of Staff Sherman Adams. Adams, a famous former governor of New Hampshire, discouraged the idea. He claimed that the president would never sign a proclamation praising lawyers.
Law Day is now used as an opportunity by groups like the New Hampshire Bar Association to send attorneys into the schools to speak to young minds about the law, both in principle and as a career. I’ve gone a number of years to different schools. No one has ever asked me better questions about the law or my place in it than students in the schools where I have been dispatched. Yes, there’s almost always a wise guy who asks “How much do you make?” or “What kind of a car do you drive?”
Question one: The New Hampshire Bar Association did a study on this, and I’m square in the center in my experience group.
Question two: Kids used to be impressed with my old sports car. Now, they think it’s cool that I have a 4-wheel drive. Students are smarter now.
Once, I told a class all about a complicated civil case I took all the way to the appeals courts. I drew diagrams on the blackboard showing the many levels of our judicial system. I explained a “cause of action” and “burdens of proof.”
I thought I’d done a pretty nifty job of explaining the court system, some basic civil law and the place of attorneys and common folk in the system.
A sixth-grader stumped me: “Why did you take that case? Did you have to?” I had to think: “Hey, this is volunteer day. I’m not getting paid to think.”
Other questions I’ve been asked:
“What was your worst case ever?”
“Have you ever wanted to punch out the lawyer on the other side?”
“Was O.J. guilty?”
Once I did a Law Day presentation together with a Boston TV anchor. The school had turned it into a general career day. We both stood behind the teacher’s large old oak desk as the high school students, sharing equal disdain for both professions, peppered us with questions.
“Why do you report all the bad stuff and not the good stuff?”
“How can you defend someone if they’re guilty?”
Actually, students are pretty sharp these days. Their teachers are sharper than ever. A couple years ago, I was in Auburn teacher John Wheeler’s class. As I discussed the U.S. Supreme Court and its role in government, John googled a diagram of the court and photos of the Supreme Court justices, displaying them on monitors in front of the class.
We didn’t even plan it. When I was in that grade, I think we had dusty cardboard cut-outs of Abe Lincoln and George Washington on the wall.
The “rest of the story” on the first Law Day is that Sherman Adams apparently hadn’t even shown the Law Day bill to the president. When President Eisenhower actually saw the proposal, he told Adams, “Sherm, this proclamation does not contain one word praising lawyers. It praises our constitutional system of government, our great heritage under the rule of law, and asks our people to stand up and praise what they have created. I like it and I am going to sign it.”
The year was 1957. The rest is history. Thanks a lot, Ike.
Andrew Myers of Derry has law offices in Derry, NH and North Andover, Mass. He is a member of the American Association for Justice and the New Hampshire Trial Lawyers Association; he has been a member of the NH Bar since 1990.