LLG’s Mock Trial Brings Genuine Joy to Students
LLG has done it again – passionately giving back to the community it is relentlessly committed to.

Laffey, Leitner and Goode (LLG) took its sponsorship of the Fresh Coast Jazz Festival to another level last Friday, when it hosted ten middle school students from Milwaukee’s St. Margaret Mary Catholic School at their Milwaukee office to take part in a mock trial created specifically for them. The visit was part meet, greet and cross-examine real-life lawyers, exploring potential career paths in the process. It was also part “play a lawyer on TV” by trying a “case” in a mock trial curated just for them.

This was the culmination of LLG’s ongoing inceptional sponsorship of The Fresh Coast Jazz Festival. The festival, entering its fifth year, was created to support scholarships, school music programs, and healthcare initiatives in a city known for its live music. Fresh Coast was founded by Carl and Nicole Brown, who worked with LLG to produce a unique, national-level jazz festival while creating a structure to benefit students throughout Milwaukee. The mock trial was the first iteration of this sponsorship translating to hands-on experiences with eager and talented students.

Carl connected LLG with St. Margaret Mary’s Principal Jessica Borkowski in 2023 to explore a more robust sponsorship with the firm, since some of LLG’s sponsorship dollars were earmarked to help the school’s music program. Principal Borkowski and LLG founders Jack Laffey, Mark Leitner, and Joe Goode discussed creating an opportunity independent of the festival to give students an experience they would not forget.

The connection, hopes, and plans came to fruition on Friday, April 26th. The LLG team planned a full day of activities to take place at its Third Ward office, including an attorney panel, office tour, pizza lunch, and a mock trial.

Andrea Contreras, who recently joined LLG as Senior Counsel, leapt at the chance to become the internal point person for the event. Andrea said, “I learned about this opportunity from Jack Laffey. Our firm is a fundraising partner with the Fresh Coast Jazz Festival. One of its goals is to bring music and other programming to schools like St. Margaret Mary’s to enrich the lives of its students, who often face hardships or come from under-served, less-privileged communities. The founders have been looking for a way to do more, hence, the idea of bringing students for an office visit was born.”

Once Andrea figured out the specifics of the visit, she knew first-hand that a mock trial would be the perfect experience to engage the students. “For me, it was one of the most formative experiences I had during my formal education and really set me on the path to becoming a lawyer. Plus, it’s so much fun!” Formative and fun make an unbeatable combination for learning and could be turned into a T-shirt.

Once Andrea shared her idea with the LLG team, volunteers from the firm – lawyers, paralegals, and administrative team members – jumped in to help. After a few brainstorming sessions, she built the program out to include educational and instructional components for the activity.

When the big day of the mock trial arrived, the students owned it – all of it. They were so excited and involved in preparing for it that they cut their pizza lunch short by fifteen minutes to get back to work. That tells you how much these kids were into it more than any words could.

Many LLG volunteers played parts in the trial, admirably filling the roles of judge, bailiff, and witnesses. The students performed as defense attorneys or prosecutors. The kids overcame their nervousness and rose to the occasion.

Andrea was impressed. She said, “The students were awesome! Smart, curious, engaged, creative, resourceful, full-of-energy, out-of-the-box thinkers. They handled a complex mock trial case packet in a short period of time, having never done anything like this before, and they were absolute ROCKSTARS.”

Principal Borkowski said, “The mock trial was a fantastic experience for our scholars. The team at LLG made our scholars feel welcomed and comfortable by engaging with them in a way that was relevant and meaningful. Our scholars were able to make connections between what they have learned in the classroom to the legal profession. It was truly a remarkable experience.”

Carl Brown, CEO of the Fresh Coast Jazz Festival, was another interested spectator. He said, “What we witnessed today is what we want the philanthropic work we do at Fresh Coast Jazz Festival to be all about.  Both Laffey, Leitner and Goode and the students from St. Margaret Mary were winners.  The students were introduced to career possibilities that they may not have known about.  The folks at LLG put their financial contributions to work in the most impactful way by making meaningful connections with the students and shaping their futures in a hands-on fashion.”

For Andrea, this project hit close to home. She said, “As a first-generation college student, law student, and now lawyer myself, I know how important programming like this can be to enrich the lives of students. Programs like this give students fuel to dream big, and I am a firm believer that if you can inspire people, they can do anything. I am so glad that we got to put on this program for these students, and that I practice law at a firm that prioritizes this kind of community involvement. This was a great way to give back to our community and to nurture the next generation of legal powerhouses. Can’t wait to see what they do next!”

The LLG team is already brainstorming on how they can improve upon this successful event in the future to get other students from challenged backgrounds gain exposure to other opportunities.

Carl Brown could not have foreseen what a success this event would be when he introduced Principal Borkowski to the founding partners of LLG, but he now recognizes the significance their meeting would have on these young scholars. He said, “My heart is full! The students were phenomenal and the amount passion and caring the folks at LLG showed those students was amazing!”

LLG has done it again – passionately giving back to the community it is relentlessly committed to. As Jack Laffey noted, “This is the best thing we’ve ever done. LLG stands for more than just the next billable hour.”

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