By: La Toya Palmer and Bill Pilchak – 5/15/14
On May 2, 2014, in its sixth annual Law Day celebration, Pilchak & Cohen again hosted students from Rogers Elementary School of the Pontiac School District for lunch, education, and a mock trial. The Honorable Cynthia Walker, Judge of the 50th District Court, served as guest speaker. Law students from Cooley Law School assisted LaToya Palmer and Bill Pilchak in the Mock Trial program, assuming roles usually played by Dan Cohen, who was representing P&C at the semi-annual Worklaw® Network meetings and Rhonda Armstrong, who was celebrating a milestone birthday in a warmer climate. This year’s event hosted 45 students; a capacity crowd for our firm’s classroom/law library.
An important part of the program is illustrating to the students how doing well in school translates into personal success later in life. The program highlights how reading, writing, speaking up in class, and learning while navigating “the rules,” eventually become skills that are valuable in society. Students are generally surprised to learn that our firm earns its revenue by reading the law and writing briefs and other material on behalf of our clients.
The judge, attorneys, and law students also shared their employment histories on their path to their legal careers. All demonstrated to the students how working diligently in every job can either fund one’s education and dream or result in personal growth, community respect and financial rewards. The program is designed to show how early obstacles, such as broken families, health issues, and poverty have been overcome on the lawyers’ and judges’ respective paths: sometimes from “the projects” to the podium.
The 50th District Court in Pontiac, actually a client of our firm, has been a long-time supporter of the firm’s Law Day program. Judge Walker spoke at the event for a fourth time. Judges Preston Thomas and Rhonda Fowlkes Gross of the 50th District Court are past participants. Several years ago, Judge Thomas offered a personal anecdote about a member of the community providing help with his tuition, demonstrating how funding will often take care of itself if the students strive academically.
For the attorneys and judges, the best part of the program is often the questions posed by the students. For example, this year and in the past, the students have asked:
- Why isn’t it plagiarism when attorneys quote legal decisions in briefs?
- Could Pilchak & Cohen turn legally down a client on the basis of his/her religion?
- What happens when a lawyer commits a crime?
- What happens if a person breaks the law while doing something good, like running red lights while taking someone to the hospital?
- Can someone be a lawyer if he/she is an illegal alien?
- And the first question asked this year: How much do you make? (Answer: enough so that good attorneys generally do not have money worries.)
Students sitting as a jury, decided a First Amendment mock trial by a fictitious rapper, James Jammer, who was excluded from a Malaysian Flight 370 benefit concert, because of his controversial songs and lyrics, including: “Kick That Puppy Again, Sucka,” “Don’t Bother ME with No Haiti-Tragedy,” and his latest song, “Plane Malaysian- Poof It’s Gone- What an Occasion.” The jury decided that the government was not liable for violating Jammer’s First Amendment rights, when it did not allow him to sing at the public amphitheater because there was a legitimate fear that his Malaysian plane song would cause civil unrest.
Pilchak & Cohen is honored to say that the firm’s law day program has been recognized by the Oakland County Bar Association. In 2012, the firm received the Leon Hubbard Community Service Award for its efforts in support of diversity in the legal profession for developing and continuing the event.