Midtown Apprentices Discover Real-World Experience of the Legal Field

For the third consecutive year, the law teams from Discover Financial and Burr Forman visited the Midtown Law Apprenticeship for a full day of career and educational advice, an overview of the American justice process and a mock oral argument of an actual United States Supreme Court case. The Discover Team have become familiar faces at Midtown and Metro, also presenting at Metro’s annual Parent Conference. Discover’s Michael Gray, a tremendous ambassador for MEF programs, also recently spoke to the Metro Summer Staff on the topic of Virtuous Leadership.


The day began with introductions, where students talked about their educational background and what drew them to the Law apprenticeship. The lawyers from Discover and Burr Forman then introduced themselves breaking down their individual educational and career paths, telling tales that touched upon many types of law practice, and speaking of the traits that make a great lawyer including: Passion, Hard Work, and the Tenacity to Get the Job Done.

For the first time, Discover also brought a group of their law interns, which included undergrad and law students who provided valuable insights from their college experience and internship with Discover. Clifton Martin, who attends USC and also works in their admissions office, broke down the different components that admissions offices analyze in accepting students, encouraging students to foster relationships with teachers and taking advantage of opportunities such as Midtown.

Jim Swift, who recently retired after 37 years with Discover, spoke of his many years of hiring lawyers at Discover and performing mock interviews while volunteering for the Future Business Leaders in Illinois. He encouraged the apprentices to be a person who people would want to work with and encouraged the kids: “Understand who you are, and sell that brand in an interview. Seeking mentors will help you find who you are, and make you better equipped for an interview and for working professionally.” Jim included a handout with the “25 Most Common Interview Questions,” encouraging students to spend time in finding an answer to each question.

Tomas Rivera from Discover team then introduced the case, Texas vs. Johnson, 1984, which involved burning the American flag. He began by presenting an American flag, and asking the students what it represented to them. Students responded with answers such as, “Freedom…the rights of the people…independence.” As Tomas described the case, many students expressed dismay at the idea of burning the flag. This opened a discussion on the difference between what one believes to be right or wrong and what the law defines as legal.

The team then delved into appeals and how the case of Texas v. Johnson rose through the court system, and the regulations involved in each petition; and the honor of a lawyer getting to argue at the Supreme Court level. Before breaking for lunch the law team divided apprentices into three groups, lawyers for Mr. Johnson, lawyers representing the State of Texas, and Supreme Court Justices to hear the case.

During lunch (provided by Potbelly, a sponsor of the Business Apprenticeship at Metro) law apprentice Eduardo, who has been coming to Midtown since he was nine, recounted his experiences at Midtown with the group: “When I came to Midtown, I was a very shy person and kept to myself, but Midtown helped me get to this point today, where I can speak in front of you all. The mentors here have definitely helped me every step of the way, and the classes have helped me to keep up and often stay ahead at school.”

As they prepared for the oral arguments, the attorneys worked with students, challenging their arguments to prepare them for what they may face. The oral arguments then began with each team picking a student to take the lead in their presentation. The judges heard the case, asking questions as the law teams collaborated to deliver answers. After the Supreme Court Justice team announced the verdict (siding with Johnson, in agreement with the actual Supreme Court ruling), the entire group listened to clips of arguments from the actual case, comparing their own strategies to the lawyers in the actual case.

While this was a monumental case and the verdict was important, the lessons the students took home from the Discover and Burr Forman teams were valuable in the courtroom or any profession. Like so many activities that Midtown and Metro students partake in, the law teams’ visit to Midtown provided life lessons that transcend the courtroom or workplace.

A few other life lessons from the team:

The most important thing is to push yourself to learn new things. Then you find something you’re passionate about.
You have to have energy, integrity, a willingness and a positive approach. People have to want to work with you.
It is so important to have role models. Ask them questions, and have that inner drive to persevere and say, ‘I have to do it.’ Don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Good lawyers know how to listen.
The best lawyers know how the system works, and make the system work for them.
Find a passion, get good at it, and go for it.
Identify someone who you really look up to as a mentor, and keep relationships with them.
Passion, hard work, and the tenacity to get the job done are qualities that will take you a long way as a lawyer, or any profession.
You don’t have to be the first one in to work in the morning and the last one to leave, but you should probably be one or the other.
Sometimes the small battles are where you have to start. The big picture can be overwhelming. People tend to get confidence as they build on their successes. Success breeds success.


MEF would like to thank Michael Gray, David Elliott, Jacqueline Simms-Petredis, Maxwell Levins, Andrew Buis, Clifton Martin, David Curcio, Andrew Budish, Tomas Rivera, Amelia Hyde, Donna Izzo for giving their time and efforts to help our students continue to strive to reach pathways of success. A special thanks also goes out to Discover Financial and Burr Forman for encouraging such service outings for their employees.