How Lawyers and Judges Can Help Educate the Public about the Law

The WSBA urges lawyers, judges, elected officials, and others involved in law and government to help us educate the public by speaking to a classroom or community group, writing a guest editorial for a local newspaper, or otherwise sharing your experience and expertise. WSBA members are encouraged to track and report their volunteer activities under RPC 6.1

The American Bar Association offers an excellent booklet, Educating the Public About the Law, that contains much practical advice about where and how to volunteer as a public educator. View and print the online version at the ABA's website.

Judges and lawyers who wish to visit a classroom can contact their local schools directly. A directory of the state's public schools is located on the website of the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. You are encouraged to incorporate the games and lesson plans from the iCivics website in your classroom visit, and/or use our Foundations of American Democracy pamphlet.

Where can I volunteer?

Following are a handful of Washington state programs that welcome volunteers:

  • The Street Law program of the Council on Public Legal Education matches volunteer judges with high school clasrooms around the state, and Seattle University School of Law's Street Law program pairs law-student teachers with high school classrooms. The latter program needs volunteer judges and attorneys in Seattle and Tacoma to assist with mock trials. For information on either program, contact Margaret Fisher at fisherm2@seattleu.edu.
  • The YMCA Youth and Government Mock Trial and Youth Legislature programs for high school students provide both one-time and ongoing volunteer opportunities for attorneys and judges. For more information, see www.youthandgovernment.org, and contact Sarah Clinton at youthandgovpdir@qwestoffice.net or by phone at 360-357-3475.
  • The Judges in the Classroom program gives judges the opportunity to teach students about the legal system. For more information, visit the Administrative Office of the Courts' web site at www.courts.wa.gov/education or call 360-753-3365.
  • We the People, a classroom-based program that helps students develop critical thinking skills while learning about their rights and responsibilities under the Constitution, seeks volunteers to work with teachers and assist with its state competition. Project  Citizen is a student driven portfolio project in which students learn how to change public policy. Volunteers are needed to discuss with students the legal aspects of their proposals, and to become involved with student showcases. For more information on both programs visit www.civiced-wa.org, or contact Kathy Hand at 206-248-3463 or kathyhand@comcast.net.
  • Youth courts, an alternative to traditional juvenile justice models, prepare young people to sentence their peers for minor infractions of criminal law, traffic law or school rule violations. Youth courts often use lawyers and judges as mentors and trainers. See www.youthcourt.net, and contact Margaret Fisher for further information (margaret.fisher@courts.wa.gov).

 

iCivics website

American Bar Association Public Education Resources

WA State Courts Education Resources

WSBA's Foundations of American Democracy pamphlet