A contingent from Discover Financial’s law team recently made their annual trip to Midtown Center for boys to conduct a mock trial with the high school Law Apprenticeship program. Students in the apprenticeship spend their summer learning about the law through hands on projects, as well as immersive field trips and interactive career talks from center visitors. Each year, a team of lawyers from Discover and Burr Forman visit the Midtown apprenticeship to participate in a panel, where they regale tales of their educational and career paths, and then engage with students through a mock trial of a Supreme Court case.
Led by Discover’s Michael Gray, many lawyers on the panel were returning to the program for the 4th consecutive year! Gray, a member of the Midtown Advancement Council, serves the organization in a myriad of ways, including presentations to MEF staff and families, in addition to participating in various fundraisers throughout the year.
Our visiting lawyers kicked things off by engaging students in a discussion around attributes important for a career in law. Discover’s Jeff Wood encouraged the students to find a passion for learning, to uncover their learning strengths, and to maintain a curiosity. He shared these traits as means to not only be successful as a lawyer but in any career. Wood stressed the importance of reading and writing in any profession, encouraging the students to read a wide array of books and literature.
Ed Tabaczyk from Discover told a personal story of his inspiration to become a lawyer. His father was an auto mechanic and at night he would show his children his hands and say, “You don’t want your hands to look like this, become a doctor or a lawyer.” Tabaczyk took this advice to heart, especially after his father was involved in a legal dispute over property damage. Seeing the help his dad needed in this situation further inspired Ed to pursue a career in law.
David Elliott and Jacqueline Simms-Petredis of Burr Forman returned to the program from Georgia for an incredible 4th consecutive year. Burr Forman not only gives their time but also supports the Midtown Law Apprenticeship financially, contributing more than $12,000 over these years. Elliot spoke of maintaining a good reputation through the virtues of honesty, patience, and simply being good to people. Simms-Petredis echoed the importance of hard work, encouraging the students to take pride in their work in all that they do.
Sulejman Dizdarevic, another Discover lawyer, emphasized two things: preparation and opportunity, stating that “luck is when preparation meets opportunity.” Dizdarevic’s father was a judge and lawyer in Bosnia who had to escape the country at the height of its conflict. He spoke of bottlenecks in life, the tough times where you have to work hard to prepare for when opportunities present themselves. Upon moving to America, Dizdarevic didn’t know English but wanted to go to law school. Through a community of Bosnian refugees, Dizdarevic worked to gain the skillset to overcome the initial bottleneck of coming to America and ultimately become a lawyer.
“Some people are motivated by money. That’s a part of any career. But lawyers also have an opportunity to provide someone great service and to solve a problem for someone else.” – Michael Gray
After these introductions, students broke into groups to get to work on the case. Lawyers put students into groups of two law teams and a third group of judges. Each group selected a chief council member and the rest were delegated to co-council. Students enjoyed mingling with the lawyers during lunch before digging in to the case.
Carpenter v. United States is a landmark Supreme Court case from 2018 concerning the privacy of historical cell phone location. Both student lawyer groups presented to the panel serving as justices. After hearing both sides and deliberating, the justices ultimately sided with the government in a vote of 4-1. Interestingly, this was the opposite verdict of the actual case, where the Supreme Court justices sided with Carpenter in a tight 5-4 vote.
Midtown students beamed while reflecting on the experiences of the day, remarking, “This was by far the best day of the program. I wish every day of school was this exciting and engaging.” Many students commented how the real-world experience in the classroom further inspired them to pursue a career in law.
MEF would like to thank the law teams from Discover and Burr Forman for once again providing this outstanding opportunity for our students. This continuing partnership, has inspired dozens of young men to pursue a career in law through hands-on experience and personal interaction with working professionals, which are hallmarks of MEF’s apprenticeship program.