[Good Works] L.A. Law Meets Big Brother
L.A. Law Meets Big Brother
Los Angeles civil litigator Jeffrey M. Lenkov says he loves being a lawyer. But he also admits the only reason he went to law school was that his father forced him to. So it was with this constructive coercion in mind that Lenkov made a cold call one day to the Southern California Big Brothers Big Sisters program, proposing a mentorship idea to pair lawyers with disadvantaged teenagers. The initial reaction was hardly positive. In fact, the organization's coordinators wondered whether Lenkov might be a little strange. But from that inauspicious start, a successful mentoring effort was launched. Called "Littles in Law," the program, which is about to start its second year, drew 18 lawyers from five Los Angeles firms in 2005 to meet with disadvantaged youths for two hours a week over an eight-week period.
The teenagers visited law firms, law schools, and courtrooms; they even argued a slip-and-fall case in a mock trial held in Long Beach. "I enjoyed everything," said 15-year-old participant Dejon Williams. "But the trial was my favorite part. I liked standing up in front of the court and talking."
This summer Lenkov expects to see a dramatic increase in the numbers of both law firms and adolescents participating. "The first year is always a learning experience," says Lenkov, who's a partner at Manning & Marder, Kass, Ellrod, Ramirez. "I thought I was just going to put this thing together and benefit some kids-I didn't realize the greater impact this actually had on the families." That became apparent, he says, on the first day of the program, when a number of the mothers who had brought their kids to the law firm began to cry.
"If at the end of this program one of these kids goes on to be a lawyer, think about the difference that could make," says Lenkov. "You can change generations if this spark ignites."-Laura McClure
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