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Happy Law Week to you! So, how are you celebrating? What? You don’t have Law Week plans? Too busy? Disenchanted by the law? Apathetic? Say it ain’t so – after all, what other profession has its own national holiday? I know, I know, no other profession has as many folks in Congress as we do. Even so, you don’t hear about Medicine Day or Engineering Day, do you? Yet, most of you did not commemorate Law Day on May 1.

While I know I am naïve, I have visions of Law Day becoming a holiday for everyone. There are no religious or political overtones, and the possibilities for the holiday are limitless. And, everyone loves the law. Look at all of the versions of Law and Order on television, not to mention the national focus about Martha, Michael, Kobe and other celebrities’ legal troubles.

So, just what is the right way to celebrate Law Day and Law Week? Should we send greeting cards with poems like:

Roses are red; violets are blue.

If it weren’t for lawyers, how would you sue?

Or, we could go “Law Week caroling,” singing “I Fought the Law and the Law Won” and “Lawyers, Guns and Money” door to door. We could even create a traditional Law Week feast. It should probably be a cookout, in line with the other patriotic holidays like Memorial Day and the Fourth of July, but maybe featuring a more lawyerly-sounding dish, like spicy tongue. In addition to flags, we could hang copies of the Constitution from our rooftops as decorations during Law Week. And what is a holiday without parades, department store sales and gift giving?

Actually, I am relieved that Law Day and Law Week have not become commercialized Hallmark holidays. In fact, the only greeting card I could find was for Mother-in-Law Day. In addition, during Law Week, I never need worry about out-of-town relatives overstaying their welcomes or finding my Nana’s potato salad recipe. But I do wish there was more of a hubbub about the holiday. I’d even settle for a weeklong moratorium on lawyer jokes.

A Brief History of Law Week

I’m obliged to offer a little history lesson about the origins of Law Day. In the late 1950s, the American Bar Association designated May 1 as Law Day to draw attention to the principles and practice of American law and justice. In 1958, President Eisenhower issued the first Law Day proclamation and every president since has done so annually. In 1961, Congress, by joint resolution, made Law Day official. The resolution is codified in Title 36, Section 113 of the U.S. Code, and designates May 1 “Law Day, U.S.A., a special day of celebration by the people of the United States in appreciation of their liberties and the reaffirmation of their loyalty to the United States and of their rededication to the ideals of equality and justice under law in their relations with each other and with other countries; and for the cultivation of the respect for law that is so vital to the democratic way of life.”

Over the years, bar associations have turned Law Day into Law Week celebrations, with a focus on law-related education activities. Each year, the President is requested to issue a proclamation calling on all public officials to display the flag of the United States on all government buildings on Law Day and inviting the people of the United States to observe Law Day, U.S.A., with appropriate ceremonies and in other appropriate ways, through public entities, private organizations, and in schools and other suitable places.

Although I missed any reports about Law Day on or in the news, a quick Google search confirmed that President Bush kept with tradition and issued the proclamation this year, in between issuing proclamations about a national day of prayer and one asking all citizens to reaffirm their allegiance to the nation.

The theme of this year’s Law Day celebrations is “To Win Equality by Law: Brown v. Board at 50,” celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s landmark decision in Brown v. Board of Education. And what better example than Brown is there of how lawyers can help people fight injustice? In his proclamation this year, Bush recognized that there is still “work to be done” to ensure that all children are treated equally and that we should “continue our work to promote equality and opportunity for all.”

And that, my friends, brings me to how I suggest we really should celebrate Law Week, by rolling up our sleeves and tackling some of the unfinished business of Brown and cases like it, by making an investment in the schoolchildren of our nation and by recommitting ourselves to a great profession.

A Bar Assocation promo

Come on, you didn’t expect me to write a column about Law Week without a shameless plug for the Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and American bar associations did you? Check out their Web sites for the myriad of activities commemorating Law Day. In Philadelphia, celebrating from May 3 through 7, the Young Lawyers Division will converge on schools and community forums, teaching about the U.S. legal system and its impact on the nations’ classrooms.

In addition to going into schools and bringing students into courtrooms, Philadelphia lawyers will offer free legal advice to area residents, honor jurors in a Juror Appreciation Day, welcome new American citizens, and host a special commemoration of the Brown ruling featuring testimonials about the Brown case and a re-enactment of the case’s key arguments, performed by Philadelphia students.

The Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Law Day activities run throughout the month, beginning Friday, May 7, in Harrisburg. The Law Day luncheon will feature the women (then little girls) who were at the center of the case, the Brown daughters. The American Bar Association’s activities also continue all week, with events for educators and members of the media.

Even if you don’t have the time or inclination to talk to students or participate in other bar association Law Week activities, find some time to follow Congress’ instructions to “appreciate your liberties” and “rededicate yourself to the ideals of equality and justice under law.” And, if you really want, feel free to send me a “Happy Law Week” card.



MOLLY PECKMAN is the director of associate development at Pepper Hamilton. Peckman works with the associates committee and is responsible for coordinating the evaluation and partnership nomination processes. She is a member of the Board of Governors of the Philadelphia Bar Association and is a former chairwoman of the Young Lawyers Division. Peckman was a trial lawyer for 10 years before joining the firm. She can be reached at [email protected].

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