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WER Fall 2019 Feature 5
Volume LXX, Issue II

In This Issue:
"Lawyers Making a Difference Through Community Service"

MWL News

Upcoming MWL Events

View all of MWL's Upcoming Events


2019-2020 Board of Directors

View all MWL Leadership

2018-2020 Strategic Plan

 

MWL Welcomes Your Comments

MWL Inspires the Next Generation of Women Lawyers

By: Angie Streit

Angie Streit is a former co-chair of MWL’s Community Action and Advocacy Committee and has been involved with the committee for the past ten years. She works on the Westlaw Product Management team at Thomson Reuters in Eagan.


Angie Steit

If you were in the Girl Scouts a long enough time ago, your scouting memories may be full of pipe cleaners, popsicle sticks, and lots of hot glue guns. Mine are.  (And did anyone else’s troop have makeover and “new hairdo” sessions like mine did?) I’m not saying that the Girl Scouts of today can’t rock some serious craft time, but scouting today seems to be so much more than it sometimes was in the past.  One way the local Girl Scouts River Valleys prepares its scouts to be empowered and confident leaders of tomorrow is through MWL’s Girl Scout Law Day. 

Each year for more than ten years now, MWL’s Community Action & Advocacy Committee has organized and held an annual Girl Scout Law Day. Girls (typically 3rd-5th graders) from metro-area troops join us for a weekend morning of fun and learning about the law and legal careers. In recent years, Girl Scout Law Day has become a popular event, usually drawing between 50-60 scouts, plus many parents and troop leaders. I am always amazed at how many girls are willing to give up an entire weekend morning to attend.  And they sure do bring a lot of energy and engagement!

Girl Scout Law Day kicks off with a welcome message from MWL’s current president. My personal favorite was Pam Rochlin (2014-2015) telling attendees about her days in scouting, including the girls in her troop making their own “sit upons.” I’m not sure my memory is correct, but I think Pam even brought her handiwork to show to the scouts!  Every year, the welcome message is wonderfully unique and starts the morning with enthusiasm. 

Next, the girls learn about the legislative process from a woman who works in Minnesota’s legislative world. Past speakers have included women attorneys working in governing relations for the City of Minneapolis and for the Secretary of State, a lobbyist, and many more. The volunteer speakers guide the girls through activities that help them gain a better understanding about how a bill becomes a law. Scouts are also given the opportunity to learn how everyday citizens can increase their involvement in the process. 

 After learning about the twists and turns a bill takes before becoming a law, scouts play a game of Law Jobs Jeopardy led by MWL member Sunny Beddow, an attorney at Ballard Spahr. Several years ago, Sunny had the great idea of leading a game for girls—something to get them out of their seats and get everyone actively participating. And so Law Jobs Jeopardy was born! Jeopardy categories include things like Name that Female U.S. Supreme Court Justice, and many more. The scouts always have a fun and seem to learn a lot while participating in this friendly competition against other troops. This part of the morning has quickly become a big hit for many scouts. And it isn’t surprising—as a former camp counselor, Sunny’s energy and enthusiasm rivals the girls’!   

After a snack, Minnetonka Police Sergeant Rachel Meehan talks to the scouts about her work in law enforcement. Dressed in her full uniform, she explains her role as a police officer and what a typical day for her is like. Sergeant Meehan explains the purpose of all of the equipment and protective gear she carries, and even demonstrates her Taser in front of the girls. Every year, when she takes questions, it seems like about half of the scouts in the room raise their hands. Sergeant Meehan gets asked everything from whether she works with a K9 (and a surprising number of other animal-related questions) to whether she has ever shot anyone (answer: no).   She has a knack for giving the girls enough information to spark lots of curiosity and engagement yet withholding enough to keep the event age appropriate. MWL’s Community Action & Advocacy is so thankful to Sergeant Meehan for volunteering to speak at Girl Scout Law Day year after year!

The grand finale of the morning comes next, when the scouts learn about the judicial branch of government and participate in a mock criminal trial.  Before the mock trial kicks off, women with various roles in the trial courts talk to the scouts about their roles in the judicial system. They typically discuss what education and training they had to prepare for their legal careers, what their typical days involve, and the challenges and rewarding aspects of their work.  We have been lucky to have a number of Minnesota judges, county attorneys, public defenders, and private defense attorneys speak at Girl Scout Law Day over the years. And for the past several years, court reporter Caitlin Albrecht, of Paradigm Reporting & Captioning, has spoken to the girls about her role. The scouts love seeing her demonstrate her stenotype machine. As the event is wrapping up each year, many of the girls flock around Caitlin and her stenotype and ask for close-up demos. 

During the mock trial, scouts take the roles of a judge, bailiff, defendant, prosecutor, defense attorney, and witnesses. Their acting skills shine as they read/act their way through a mock trial script. The mock trial is intense and full of teenage celebrity drama over a stolen cell phone. After watching the mock trial unfold, the remaining scouts deliberate in small groups (juries) and each group decides on a verdict. The verdict among groups is never unanimous, which usually leads to an interesting wrap-up discussion as we issue each scout her hard-earned Inside Government badge.

MWL’s Girl Scout Law Day would not be possible without many volunteers each year. Not only do we need volunteer speakers but we also rely on volunteers for many other aspects of the program: general planning, script writing/updating, coordinating snacks, registering scouts as they arrive, and more. Most of the volunteer duties require no expertise whatsoever and only require a few hours of time on a Saturday morning. So, if Girl Scout Law Day sounds like fun, please consider helping out at our upcoming event on Sat., April 18th, 2020 at Thomson Reuters in Eagan. We need you to keep this important program going strong! 

Coincidentally, as I write this article, it’s International Day of the Girl Child (October 11th). The United Nations sums up the goals of this day as “highlight[ing] and address[ing] the needs and challenges girls face, while promoting girls' empowerment and the fulfillment of their human rights.”[1]  What better way to mark the occasion than promoting girls’ education and empowerment at the next MWL Girl Scout Law Day? As women attorneys, I think we have all had role models and mentors to inspire and guide us along the way. Pay it forward, and be a role model to our girls!

(To learn more about MWL’s Girl Scout Law Day or to volunteer, please contact Angie Streit at angie.streit@tr.com).

 


[1] https://www.un.org/en/events/girlchild/


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