Mayer Brown Urban Debate Invitational Promotes Diversity

Chicago-Based Law Firm Hosts Tournament with Legal Career Theme

Mayer Brown LLP, a leading global law firm, has partnered with the Chicago Debate Commission and Chicago Public Schools to hold the inaugural Mayer Brown LLP Urban Debate Invitational of Chicago. This 2-day event took place on Friday and Saturday, November 21 and 22, at Mayer Brown’s impressive offices on the upper floors of 71 S. Wacker Drive.

“This was a precedent-setting event on many levels,” according to CDL Manager for Chicago Public Schools Sylvia Nelson Jordan. “CPS hopes that the CDL will develop its relationship with Mayer Brown and other law firms in the future.” The theme of this extraordinary event was “Urban Debate and Diversifying the Legal Profession”.

Debaters from Kelvyn Park High School listen intently to oral critique from lawyers serving as judges at the Mayer Brown Urban Debate Invitational of Chicago.

The top 20 “A” and AA” Conference Varsity teams from 18 CPS high schools came together to debate this year’s high school debate topic, whether the federal government should substantially increase alternative energy incentives. More than 40 Mayer Brown attorneys were extensively involved at the event, judging, assisting in tournament administration, hosting a legal career workshop, and hosting tables filled with informal exchange during meals. “Mayer Brown attorneys enjoyed participated as debate judges and offering insight and advice to students interested in pursuing a legal career,” said Mayer Brown partner Mary Richardson-Lowry, the chief member of the firm driving this project. The firm also provided bus transportation, meals and awards for all participants.

A highlight of the day on Saturday was a one-hour panel comprising five attorneys at Mayer Brown, offering the CDL debaters insights on the various forms of law that one can practice, what a lawyer does on a daily basis, what talents and abilities are required, and how they might begin to prepare for a legal career. Thereafter, debaters returned to their heady academic debate competition, the Final Round of which saw Lincoln Park High School narrowly defeating Harlan High School , on a 4-3 decision.

“We are proud to provide urban debate teams with an additional opportunity to showcase their knowledge and critical thinking skills,” said James D. Holzhauer, Chairman of Mayer Brown. “Debate honed my ability to think analytically, improved my communications skills and steered me toward a law career. We look forward to continuing our involvement in this event with Chicago Public Schools and the Chicago Debate Commission. We also hope to explore with NAUDL the expansion of this program to our other U.S. offices. ”

CPS Right Now, a cable program sponsored by Chicago Public Schools, featured a report in December on the Chicago Debate League, filmed at the Mayer Brown Urban Debate Invitational. Click here to view it (2008/09 Season, Episode 9) —