The Power of Commitment
The verdict is in, and the UAB Department of Justice Sciences has found the law firm of Burr & Forman LLP extremely supportive. It was a generous gift from the Birmingham firm that funded the completion of the Burr & Forman UAB Mock Courtroom, benefiting the pre-law program at UAB.
“Burr & Forman has always been committed to the communities where we live and work,” says Bryance Metheny, an attorney with Burr & Forman and the firm’s current representative on the UAB Pre-Law Advisory Board. “We have attorneys and staff in our firm who, like me, are UAB alumni. We recognize the positive impact UAB has on the Birmingham metropolitan area and our state. When the opportunity to fund the mock courtroom was presented to our firm, we viewed it as a sound investment in both UAB and the future leaders of Birmingham and beyond. We are proud to have our name displayed on this outstanding facility.
The outcome exceeded our expectations. The mock trial courtroom is a beautiful facility, but even more significantly, it provides the students and faculty with new technologies that will enhance learning and train them for their future in the legal profession.”
The interdisciplinary pre-law program, administered by the Department of Justice Sciences, prepares students for careers in the legal profession. At the heart of the program lies the recruitment and fielding of its annual, nationally recognized mock trial team. The American Mock Trial Association (AMTA), established in 1985, is an undergraduate program designed to give students an opportunity to learn firsthand about the work of trial attorneys, understand the judicial system, develop critical thinking, and enhance their communication skills.
“National-level AMTA competitions are typically conducted in real courtrooms, so the ability to practice in one on our campus affords our students the opportunity to realistically train as we compete,” says John Grimes, J.D., director of the pre-law program and a coach for the current mock trial team. Now in its 14th year, the team recently earned a bid to the national championship competition and received two Best Witness awards.
“There is no doubt that the Burr & Forman courtroom has given the UAB team a competitive edge,” says Jean Ann Linney, Ph.D., dean of the School of Social and Behavioral Sciences.
“We are beyond fortunate to have the advantage of working in the mock trial courtroom,” says Cory Ricci, a pre-law student and one of the co-captains of the 2008-2009 UAB Mock Trial Team. “The mock trial team has been by far the best experience of my college career thus far. I didn’t fully realize how benefical it was until I actually competed in a federal courtroom in front of a real judge and a real jury; it didn’t even make me flinch. We are extremely thankful for our supporters at Burr & Forman and other local law firms. It is amazing to see that these successful and gifted people are passionate about our program and are willing to afford us such gracious advantages.”
Beginning in 2005, the Pre-Law Advisory Board, which comprises 15 practicing attorneys including a U.S. magistrate judge and county circuit court judge, started hosting an annual chili cook-off to help provide scholarship funds and travel expenses for students participating in the mock trial team. Each year Birmingham-area attorneys and others in the legal profession compete at the event.
“We all benefit tremendously when alumni and friends share their knowledge, time, and resources for our student programs,” Linney says. “These gifts allow us to develop student talents further, to enable students to be better prepared for employment or graduate study, and ultimately to share those talents and return the gift for succeeding generations.”
Metheny adds, “The students at UAB today will be our friends and colleagues tomorrow. From my own personal experience at UAB, I recognize the influence a practicing lawyer can have on a curious, confused student and understand how a mentoring relationship can evolve into a lifelong friendship. It is our responsibility to share our experiences and knowledge with students so that society benefits from the collective wisdom gained through generational information sharing. These students need guidance and support and will find role models somewhere; we need to do our part to make those examples as positive and persuasive as we can. We were happy to contribute our resources to a facility that encourages learning and training in the law. But our aim is to help UAB develop good people. We have no doubt our investment is paying dividends.”