April 07, 2010

We the People Team Prepares for National Finals at Baker & Daniels

Some 30 Munster High School students prepared for the national competition in the We the People program with practice at Baker & Daniels' downtown Indianapolis office, the Indiana Lawyer reported in its blog post, "Taking Time for Civics." It marked the fifth year that coordinators from the Indiana Bar Foundation (IBF), attorneys and others gathered at Baker & Daniels to help judge the students' presentations in advance of the national finals April 22-27.

While the We the People program in Indiana is supported in large part by the IBF, the annual practice days have been at Baker & Daniels since spring windstorms damaged the Indiana State Bar Association's offices at the Regions Bank Building in 2006, according to the Indiana Lawyer blog. That year, We the People alum Caryn Glawe, a Baker & Daniels lawyer, suggested the firm could host the team that would represent Indiana at the national championships in Washington, D.C.

The first and subsequent groups of students have been particularly impressed not only with their day at a big law firm, including views of downtown Indianapolis from the 27th floor, but also that attorneys would take time out of their busy schedules to work with them, said Erin Braun, director of civic education for the IBF.

Thomas C. Froehle Jr., Baker & Daniels chair and chief executive partner, told students he was thrilled that the firm was able to host their visit, Indiana Lawyer reported. Scott Chinn, a Baker & Daniels partner and We the People volunteer, also addressed the students, comparing their work to that of the Butler University basketball team on the way to finishing as national runner-up in the recent NCAA Tournament.

Like the team that lost by one basket in a nail biter, Chinn said the key things for the students to keep in mind for the upcoming We the People competition were execution, character and enthusiasm, the blog reported. Chinn added they should plan, as citizens, to participate by voting, to educate others about the issues while being respectful of opinions that were different from their own and to remonstrate when they had reason to disagree with the direction the government was heading, based on what they learned in the We the People courses.

At the practice session, one group of students compared the Magna Carta, the U.S. Bill of Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Indiana Lawyer reported. Judges for the practice session included Rich Eynon, former ISBA president; Jill Baisinger, the Hamilton Southeastern High School teacher who helped her school's team win fifth place in the national competition in 2009; Seth Lahn, a professor at Indiana University Maurer School of Law–Bloomington; and Mark Sausser, an attorney at Baker & Daniels.

"When we take on the rigors of civic education with the vigor generally reserved for sport, and when the arena we play in is one of the top law firms in the state, there is something right in society," Michael Gordon, the teacher for the Munster students, told Indiana Lawyer.

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