Are you looking for service ideas for your local or state bar association? If you are, I want to share one that will help teach the next generation the Rule of Law.

Mike Pace is a friend of mine from Roanoke, Virginia. When I practiced law in Roanoke I interviewed Mike when he as a student at Washington and Lee Law School. He went with another firm and now is the managing partner of that firm. In 2008 Mike served as The Virginia Bar Association (VBA) President. While serving he created the vision and spearheaded the effort to create the VBA Rule of Law Project.

When I visited Mike a few months ago we spent an hour talking about this innovative educational program. He explained that the purpose of the VBA Rule of Law Project is to give 7th and 8th graders a better understanding of the rule of law as the basis for the freedom we enjoy as American citizens, and the need to protect it for future generations. He told me that the project has created a buzz in both the VBA and the teaching community and has brought those professionals together.

After months of hard work and preparation in February, 2009, 60 lawyers and judges working with 60 teachers conducted classroom activities and discussions for over 2000 7th and 8th grade students in three Virginia school divisions. Since then, the VBA Rule of Law Project has been introduced in 37 additional school divisions all across Virginia.

Mike shared with me why the project has been so successful. At the heart is the collaborative working relationship among local bar associations, school superintendents and directors of instruction. See the website for how The VBA Rule of Law Project innovatively uses a web-based curriculum that features a video of prominent judges, public officials and citizen lawyers discussing what the rule of law means. VBA has also created resource materials for lawyers, judges and educators including a training video, instructional materials for lawyers, class activities, lesson plans, reading lists and other resources for teachers and students.

The VBA Rule of Law Project curriculum is adaptable to any age group and any organization. Because it is web-based, anyone may use it in their schools, communities, bar associations, civic groups or other educational program designed to enlighten the public about the rule of law.

Finally Mike shared with me that if any readers of this blog are interested, he would be happy to share with you how your Local or State Bar might implement the project.