School starts up again soon. It made me think about the joy I experienced when I spoke at career day.
I was frequently asked to speak at career day in the spring at grade schools in the district where my daughter taught special education Most of the students in that school district are living in poverty.
On career day, I showed up in a suit and had to compete with firemen and women who were able to let the students get up in the fire truck. There were many other far more exciting occupations.
When I spoke to 4th and 5th graders, my goals were to engage them, help them understand the role of lawyers in the United States, let them know what it takes to become a lawyer and conclude by sharing with them the wide variety of things lawyers do.
I begin by asking what the students dream of doing when they grow up. In one career day, several told me they want to be doctors, others shared they want to be veterinarians, a couple said they want to become boxers. Two students said they want to work for the CIA and four of the students told me they want to become fashion designers. One student told me he wanted to become a marine biologist. Only a handful told me they wanted to become lawyers, and I believe it was just being nice to the speaker.
When I looked into their eyes, I always saw the passion they felt for their dream future careers. I often wondered at what age someone begins to take their dream away, so many of them no longer believe they can achieve their dream work. I figured it started in middle school. If I could do something to help at that point, I would in a heartbeat.
Since several students dream of future pro sports careers, I always mention that when I was their age, I wanted to become a major league baseball player, but even in grade school, I had a “Plan B” if that did not work out.
I explained that to become a lawyer you have to work hard, study, learn and be a good citizen. I also told students that to be a good lawyer you have to be able to see what others don’t see. I showed them the logos for Federal Express and for The Big 10 conference and ask what they saw. Very few saw the arrow in Federal Express before I told them to look for the arrow. Most all of them saw the 11 in the Big 10 Conference logo, when there were 11 schools in the conference.
Then I talked to them about what lawyers do and point out that lawyers help doctors, veterinarians, boxers, the CIA, and fashion designers. Finally I toldl them about my work helping construction contractors. Because I competed with fire trucks, I showed them my MacAir, iPad and iPhone and told them those are tools lawyers use.
Each time I leave the school building, I am truly energized. Just being around those grade school children and hoping I say one thing that will inspire them to go for their dreams was a fantastic reward for my morning away from the office.
More recently I suggested younger lawyers I coached to take my place. I wanted those lawyers to share my experience and I thought the students would better relate to someone their parents age rather than someone older than their grandparents…