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State Bar Young Lawyers Section Earns National Award From American Bar Assn. For Minority Pre-Law Conference Program

Brad Carr
Alabama State Bar
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Montgomery, Ala., August 18, 2008 - The Alabama State Bar's Young Lawyers Section has received national recognition from the American Bar Association for a project that introduces 11th and 12th graders to the American civil and criminal justice systems.

The state bar's YLS received a First Place Award of Achievement for its Minority Pre-Law Conference program created to address the shortage of minorities in the legal profession and increase diversity in the bar.

The conferences were held in Birmingham and Montgomery in April. Students have an opportunity to view a simulated trial which provides them with a better understanding of how U.S. courts resolve legal conflicts and the roles that judges, lawyers, juries, and witnesses play in the system. By participating in the mock trial as jurors, students gain an "insiders" perspective on courtroom procedure.

Montgomery attorney Navan Ward (Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C.), who chaired the conference committee said, "The goal of this program is building confidence in our system of justice, in our judiciary, and in the lawyers and judges who provide legal service to all Americans despite barriers of language and culture. If lawyers and judges can achieve diversity, we believe our citizens will have more confidence in the ability of the legal and judicial system to help solve their problems."

The pre-law conferences featured a panel of minority attorneys from both cities representing various areas of law practice. The lawyers explained their day-to-day work experiences and answered questions. For students who were interested attending college and/or law school, the conferences sponsored a college preparation speaker. The format of the program allowed students to attend breakout sessions where they were paired with minority attorneys to discuss specific questions and concerns regarding the practice of law.

Conference co-chair J.R. Gaines of Montgomery (Gaines Law Firm, LLC) said, "By participating as jurors in a mock trial, students gain a better understanding of how courts resolve conflicts and the roles judges, lawyers, juries and witnesses play in the system."

Gaines noted with more than 400 students attending the program, the event was a successful outreach because it demonstrated that lawyers have a strong commitment to diversity and to interacting with the community.

The 4700-member YLS is composed of all lawyers who are 36 years of age and under or who have been admitted to the bar for three years or less. The section conducts various seminars and also sponsors service projects designed to aid the public in their understanding of the law and assist in solving legal problems.

The ASB Award Winning Team

The ASB Award Winning Team (left to right): Navan Ward of Montgomery (Beasley, Allen, Crow, Methvin, Portis & Miles, P.C.), who chaired the YLS Minority Pre-Law Conference Committee, Immediate Past YLS Chair George R. Parker of Montgomery (Bradley Arant Rose & White, L.L.P.) who is holding the award, and J.R. Gaines of Montgomery (The Gaines Law Firm, LLC) pre-law conference committee co-chair.