Twelve Eager Boys Prepare for Trial

In the 1954 teleplay Twelve Angry Men, a jury of 12 men must decide whether to reach a guilty verdict and sentence a 19-year-old defendant for the death of his father.  The play is widely considered by many to be the most gripping, penetrating, and engrossing examination of the American judicial system in the history of American television.

Twelve high school students in the law apprenticeship at Midtown Center for boys this summer didn’t exactly experience the same intense feelings as those 12 angry men, but they did come away with a deep appreciation for the law and the grit, determination and preparation it takes to argue cases in front of the bench.

Seven attorneys from Discover Financial Services and two partners from Burr & Forman, a Birmingham, Alabama law firm, spent a half-day with the students on August 2, sharing career advice, offering encouragement, and role-playing a U.S. Supreme Court Case, Illinois vs. Wardlow, that involved the Fourth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution – the right of people to be secure…against unreasonable searches and seizures.  Split into three groups, the boys offered oral arguments for the State of Illinois, on behalf of Mr. Wardlow, and to a panel of mock U.S. Supreme Court Justices. In the actual case, the State of Illinois prevailed.

Midtown judges, however, concurred with the decision of the Illinois Supreme Court, that Chicago police had violated Wardlow’s Fourth Amendment rights.

Before the proceedings, Midtown’s guests stepped forward to briefly describe his or her career path, current position, and legal responsibilities. All had an interest in practicing law from an early age and followed their dream through college and law school. Some became criminal defense attorneys or public defenders, others contract or regulatory lawyers. Two, including an intern from Loyola University Chicago, practiced employment law. They worked in-house in corporate law departments or as outside counsel at law firms.

Jovan Castillo, an incoming junior at Von Stueben High School in Chicago, said their comments opened his eyes to the many possible career paths in the law. He observed that their passion and drive helped them succeed, not only in financial terms but as well-respected professionals.

Javier Favela, an incoming junior at St. Ignatius, learned other important lessons. “Be social and open with others, get involved, be a joiner, not someone who sits on the sidelines,” he said.

Throughout the morning program, the boys heard a steady stream of advice from the speakers:

  • Everyone has it in them to become successful, no matter what you choose to do.
  • Hard work, enthusiasm and initiative will take you far along the path to success.
  • Don’t be afraid to step out of your comfort zone; curiosity will help you grow in knowledge.
  • If you’re honest and trustworthy, people will want to work with you. You’ll make friends and co-workers for life.
  • Your personal reputation is everything. Be nice and walk with a smile on your face.
  • Surround yourself with good people.
  • Make the best out of opportunities when they present themselves.
  • Writing skills matter. They’re important in any job.
  • When applying for college, differentiate yourself, especially on the written essays. Good grades and high ACT test scores will only take you so far.

Frank Young, the law apprenticeship instructor, and Connor Wrigley, college advisor, gratefully acknowledge the contributions of everyone who made this day extra special in the lives of 12 Midtown boys:

Andrew Budish, Director and Senior Counsel, Discover
David Curcio, Senior Counsel, Discover
Sulejman Dizdarevic, Senior Counsel, Discover
David Elliott, Partner, Burr & Forman
Michael Gray, Director and Senior Counsel, Discover
Donna Izzo, Executive Assistant, Discover
Jacqueline Simms-Petredis, Partner, Burr & Forman
Tomás Rivera, Director and Senior Counsel, Discover
Jim Swift, VP and Assistant General Counsel, Discover (retired)
Ed Tabaczyk, Staff Attorney II, Discover
Sheyanne Williams, Employment Law Intern, Discover