September 12, 2013

Chicago-based law firm Much Shelist will participate again this year in the Edward J. Lewis II “Lawyers in the Classroom,” a signature program of the Constitutional Rights Foundation Chicago (CRFC) that begins on Constitution Day, September 17, 2013. The initiative engages attorneys and law students from the community to work with teachers to make civics lessons fun for Chicago elementary and middle school students. CRFC partners with 80 law firms and other organizations to deliver the program to nearly 100 schools, and nearly 16 Much Shelist attorneys plan to participate in this year’s effort. 
Robert K. Neiman, a Principal at Much Shelist, has volunteered for the program for the last 10 years and leads the effort at the firm. He finds the most rewarding aspect of the program to be the hands-on involvement. “Connecting with these students is such a gift. It is remarkable to see the kids react enthusiastically to concepts that might otherwise be far removed from their everyday lives,” Neiman said.
For nearly 40 years, CRFC has provided elementary and secondary students with hands-on learning about the Constitution, infusing civics lessons with authenticity and real-world experience. CRFC’s mission is to “strengthen democracy one classroom at a time” by promoting the nonpartisan discussion of controversial public issues and helping students understand the multiple perspectives involved. With knowledge of the law and the ability to teach critical thinking skills, attorneys are uniquely qualified for this mission. 

“Attorneys are really good at playing devil’s advocate,” said Jessica Chethik, Elementary/Middle School Programs Director for CRFC. “They encourage students to examine all sides of an issue and wrestle with complex questions that don’t have simple answers.” 

Attorneys involved in the program use daily headlines to illustrate how the Constitution affects modern life. “For example, today’s front page might have a story about privacy and government surveillance of private phone records,” said Neiman. “I might make this real for the kids by asking, ‘Would it ever be okay for the principal to cut the lock off your locker?’” 

Mitchell S. Roth, Managing Partner of Much Shelist, added, “The most rewarding experience is knowing that we have made an impact on these students’ lives. This initiative is a great reflection of our firm’s overall commitment to giving back to the community.”