Davis Polk recently completed its first year teaching a weekly law class to eighth-grade students at One World Middle School in the Northeast Bronx. The course focused on the legal system, how to write and deliver opening and closing statements and direct and cross examinations, and how to make objections. It also helped the students develop and practice critical thinking skills. The students used what they learned throughout the course to present a mock trial in the Southern District before Judge Ronnie Abrams, with a mock jury comprised of Davis Polk associates and summer associates. On the day of the mock trial, the students also enjoyed a question-and-answer session with Judge Abrams and a presentation by the United States Marshals Service.
While previously an associate at Davis Polk, Pro Bono Attorney Dara Sheinfeld created the law program and curriculum that, at the request of the Second Circuit’s Justice for All: Courts and Community Initiative, a civic education initiative created by Chief Judge Robert A. Katzmann, served as the model for the One World pilot. On June 20, 2017, members of the Davis Polk team, along with the classroom teachers from One World, attended a meeting of the Second Circuit’s Justice for All Initiative to report on the successful pilot. The Davis Polk team spoke about adapting materials for students with various reading levels and learning styles, and the challenges and triumphs of preparing each student to execute his or her role in the mock trial. One World teachers shared how rewarding it was to see their students – especially those who have learning differences, or who otherwise are reluctant to participate in daily classroom lessons – rise to the challenge of and embrace the mock trial curriculum, and emphasized how excited the students were to attend the weekly law classes.
Davis Polk associates Edith Beerdsen, Jamie Bagliebter, Molly Greer Gurny, Amanda Meyer and Charlotte Savino participated in teaching the class at One World. They received support from Sheinfeld.
Next year, Davis Polk will continue working with students at One World, and will finalize and package the curriculum for use by associates in other law firms at various schools across the city.