Indiana Trial Lawyers Association leaders said it was natural for the organization to pledge $25,000 for the national high school mock trial championships to be held in Evansville in May 2020.
“I cannot think of a more fitting partnership for the Indiana Trial Lawyers Association to be part of,” ITLA President Frank Julian said when the gift was announced earlier this year. “We are looking forward to witnessing these outstanding young individuals display their talents.”
In conjunction with the Indiana Bar Foundation and other sponsors, ITLA Vice President Fred Schultz of Greene & Schultz in Bloomington is leading efforts to raise money for the event and ensure there are enough lawyers on hand. With an anticipated 900 students coming to Evansville for the event, Schultz said a virtual army of volunteer lawyers will be needed to serve as judges and help with the event. Boosters also are trying to raise a total of $250,000 to underwrite the event.
Schultz said being a major sponsor of mock trial is a perfect fit for ITLA. “Trial work is what we do. We’re an organization of close to 1,000 Indiana lawyers who believe in the jury system. We’re also committed to the long-term soundness of our judicial system and our courts, and a big part of that is people understanding precisely what the right to trial by jury means.”
For Schultz, mock trial competitions are a way of giving back. He’s been involved in such events through his work as a committee member of the American Association for Justice. It’s not just the students who get something from mock trial, he said, but so do the legal professions who assist.
“When you go to these competitions and you see how hard these students have worked — it gives me energy to see them be passionate about trying to learn the skills it takes to be a trial lawyer. And it reaffirms in me that it’s just such a wonderful profession,” he said. “For (students) who catch the spark, it can be an eye-opening, game-changing experience for them where they say, ‘This is what I want to be, and this is what I want to do.’
“We’ll always need the next generation of advocates, and so being a small part of giving people an opportunity to find out if this is right for them or not is exciting.”•