The next generation of attorneys have already started its work.
Foley & Lardner has been working with the national Street Law program for about 8 years, presenting seminars lasting two days. A few years into their participation, Foley partners and program directors, Linda Benfield and Nick Welle, decided to invite the firm’s clients and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee, turning Foley’s Street Law into a semester-long program. Working with schools around the greater Milwaukee area, the partnership led to about 50 students and 40 lawyer and client volunteers at its highest.
“It is really a fabulous program and has survived all this time because of the impact that it has on kids. The kids are the magic,” Benfield said.
This year, 25 students from various Milwaukee schools signed up through the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Milwaukee for hands-on learning experiences with Foley lawyers and client volunteers. Lasting from February to May, the participants learn various aspects of a legal career like how to negotiate a contract, perform an investigation, argue in front of a court and more.
Between the firm and outside company volunteers, paid internships are available to the Street Law students. With the extension of Milwaukee’s Street Law program, Foley hopes to continue their success stories with one day graduating a Street Law student and welcoming them back as a Foley associate after law school.
“That’s the ultimate goal,” Welle said. “If these students truly want to pursue a career in the law, that they get this mentor-mentee relationship that can last hopefully for the years to come. That’s truly the goal of this thing. It’s not just ‘come participate in a six-night course.’ It’s ‘stick around. If you want to be a lawyer, we’re here to be your advisor and your champion.’”
First year Street Law participant Daniel Damon found the opportunity to further his interest in the legal profession after joining the Boys & Girls Club.
“It’s wonderful,” he said. “I always had an interest in a legal career and when I saw this opportunity I jumped at it.”
A sophomore at Rufus King High School, Damon is particularly interested in the contracting and legal statistics side of the industry, as well as criminal and courtroom law.
“With the contracting side, it makes me think of when you sign something that says, ‘Yes, I agree to the terms,’” Damon said. “It taught me to look in the view of day-to-day things.”
Damon says his favorite part of the Street Law program is connecting with the lawyers and learning about their daily life as a lawyer in contrast to what is portrayed in movies and television. He enjoys the networking and early professional connections he’s making that will carry into his future pursuit of a legal career.
In April, the students engaged in a mock trial on the matter of Scribe vs. Dada, a fictional music copyright infringement case. They were divided into groups of 4-5 and assigned as representation for the plaintiff or defendant. A lawyer coach was assigned to each group to discuss strategy and how to argue their side. The groups were then split into pairs that would take their matter before a 2-3 person panel of judges to decide the case with each panel ultimately selecting a winning counsel.