For the 51st year of the national observance of Law Day, about three dozen Indiana attorneys, judges, and paralegals presented the Indiana Supreme Court's "Why Lincoln was a Lawyer" program to 125 different classes - almost 3,000 students - around the state.
To mark the 200th anniversary of President Abraham Lincoln's birth in February, more than 500 Indiana State Bar Association members presented the program to 26,000 school-aged children. Lincoln, "A Legacy of Liberty," is also the American Bar Association's theme for Law Day 2009.
Since its inception by President Dwight Eisenhower in 1958, the purpose of Law Day is for the legal community to reach out to students and others to tell them what lawyers and judges do, and how the courts operate.
Volunteers who spoke to Indiana students about Lincoln's role as a lawyer also answered questions from students about what lawyers and judges do. The average participant spoke to three or four classes.
"It's a great opportunity for the legal community to interact with young kids and high school students," said Elizabeth Osborn, assistant to the Indiana chief justice for court history and public education.
"We had an overwhelming response from attorneys and judges" to the February program, she said. "To get out and talk to students, they say it helped remind them how much students appreciate it when they can ask questions in person."
She added most of the students only know about lawyers and judges through legal dramas and reality-based court shows like "Judge Judy."
Teachers have also e-mailed Osborn, thanking the judges and attorneys for taking time from their busy schedules to talk to their students.
For the May 1 program, "We had no problem getting students and lawyers to participate," and most lawyers would self-match with schools they knew or where they wanted to speak.
Based on the February program's success, Osborn only expected, "maybe another 500 to 1,000 students for this, so I was thrilled to have another 3,000 students." Students in the May program did not participate in the February presentation.
Lesson plans for today's event and past educational events are available on the court's Web site.
While there aren't any other formal presentations scheduled for the near future, a speakers bureau of judges is available to classrooms upon request. For more information, contact Jennifer Bauer of the Indiana Judicial Center at (317) 232-1313, or firstname.lastname@example.org.