Each year the Rotary Club of Pacific Grove hosts “Job Shadow Day.” Rotarians volunteer to take one or two high school students with them to work for half a day. At noon, the Rotarians bring the students to the club for lunch and they are further introduced to other professionals in the community. For students, it is an opportunity to have a deeper understanding of various occupations at a time when they are beginning to think about life after school. For Rotarians, it is an opportunity to take a fresh, bird’s eye view of their vocations to reflect upon and appreciate their accomplishments and skills.
Although I am a supporter of the concept, as an attorney with a solo practice, I have often struggled to figure out how to successfully fill a morning. After all, I can’t very well have students sit in on confidential client meetings or go through confidential client flies. The prospect of having high school students spend their morning watching some guy type doesn’t seem too appealing, despite the fact that I am a true magician when it comes to my typing skills (thanks to my high school typing teacher, Mrs. Washburn). I tried to think about a way to introduce the students to the law in an engaging manner. And then I thought about how I decided to go to law school.
Close to the end of my junior year in college, I reached out to Monterey County Superior Court Judge Albert Maldonado, a family friend. I expressed my interest in learning more about the law. He proposed an informal arrangement whereby he would mentor me. I spent the summer hanging around the Monterey and Salinas courthouses and law libraries. Judge Maldonado had me observe trials and other court proceedings. I brought my notepad with me to take studious notes. At first, most of the judges assumed I was a reporter but relaxed a bit when Judge Maldonado later introduced me and they realized that I was just an eager and interested student. Judge Maldonado also taught me how to conduct legal research and gave me various projects designed to help me understand a wide array of practice areas. That fall I applied to law school and was on my way to becoming an attorney.
I decided to bring my students to the Monterey courthouse to give them a miniature “Judge Maldonado” experience. We went to the law library and spent a lot of time looking through the various books containing federal, state, and municipal codes, regulations, and case law. I explained the many ways that laws are made, interpreted, and applied. We then looked for an open courtroom to observe a proceeding. One of the greatest aspects of our American legal system is its transparency through public hearings.
We noticed that Judge Lavorato’s courtroom was open and that a proceeding was taking place. I decided to bring the students in for a few minutes. We were the only ones in the gallery and the judge and other court employees took notice. After the proceeding, Judge Lavorato inquired about why we were there. I explained who I was and who my students were. He was incredibly gracious and eager to carry on Judge Maldonado’s legacy by inspiring a new generation about the legal profession. He introduced us to the court employees and had them explain their roles. He then invited us into his chambers for a brief chat. It was certainly an experience that the students will never forget. Whether they go on to legal careers or not, they certainly have a deeper understanding and appreciation of our legal system.
The special day also reinforced the importance of community: Judge Maldonado and Judge Lavorato being willing to take the time to share insight about the law with students and the many service clubs such as Pacific Grove Rotary that are comprised of members who want to lend their knowledge and skills for the betterment of others. And of course it was also beneficial to those of us who mentored the students to be able to take a break from our daily grind and reflect on the “big picture” of what we do and how we achieved our professional positions.
KRASA LAW, Inc. is located at 704-D Forest Avenue, Pacific Grove, California 93950 and Kyle may be reached at 831-920-0205.
Disclaimer: This article is for general information only. Reading this article does not establish an attorney-client relationship. Before acting upon any of the information contained in this article, you should consult a competent attorney who is licensed to practice law in your community.