Author: Attorney Tammy Stafford Ruble
Every year our Firm is invited to participate in a large number of school career days at elementary, middle and high schools, and I have had the pleasure of speaking at many of these events. I particularly enjoy the opportunity to tallk to the elementary school students.
Usually I start by introducing myself, telling the children where I work and my title, and then asking if any of them know any lawyers. Older students will often mention President Obama, Governor McDonnell, or former Governor Kaine, and nearly every child is familiar with Judge Judy or one of the other television judges.
I then explain the educational requirements to earn a law degree, a total of 20 years from kindergarten through law school, and then talk briefly about the Bar Examination, usually by comparing it to a two day SOL test. I find that every child has at least heard of the SOLs, even if they haven’t yet taken them. I encourage the students to raise their hands with questions as they think of them. I never mind a question, even when it takes us off on a tangent. I’m not there to tell them what I know; I’m there to tell them what they’re interested in knowing about laws and being a lawyer.
I have a few props I use to illustrate the importance of laws in their lives. When I hold up a baby doll and ask if they can think of ways the law might affect a baby, there are always great answers about parental responsibilities, feeding and clothing children, and so forth. I tell them that the law affected them before they were even a week old. Eyes often open wide in confusion until I prompt them: “Were you born in a hospital? Did you come home in a car? What were you riding in the car?” Hands shoot up: “Car seat!”
Next I bring out a stuffed puppy, which prompts a discussion about their pets and how the laws help to ensure pet safety. Although this often invites sad stories of a family pet that was struck by a vehicle, it’s also an opportunity to emphasize the importance of obeying leash laws and keeping their pets safety behind a fence or inside the home. Following these laws ensures the safety of both the pets and people on the street. We talk about the requirements that pets be cared for properly, vaccinated, provided food and water and never abused by being left in a hot vehicle.
I bring out a Matchbox car to discuss the importance of seat belts and motor vehicle safety. We talk about the need to always wear a seat belt and the importance of being careful and cautious both in and out of a car. Often the kids will volunteer safety suggestions, such as avoiding rowdiness in a car, looking both ways before crossing the street, not distracting the car driver, or crossing the street at crosswalks.
In concluding my remarks to the children, I discuss how the things they’re learning today will help them throughout their lives. Skills developed in reading, writing, math, and research will be employed throughout their education and their professional lives, whatever career path they may pursue. Although the expression “all I really need to know I learned in kindergarten” might not be entirely accurate, the lessons learned in elementary school will certainly always be useful.
About the Author: Tammy Ruble is a long time Chesterfield resident and an attorney with personal injury law firm of Allen & Allen. She serves as a resource on issues in her special fields of expertise which include the crafting of Complaints and documents relating to infant settlements, wrongful death settlements, due diligence, and discovery.
 The “Bar Examination” is the test that prospective lawyers must take and pass before they can be licensed as an attorney. Each state has its own examination. Most have two parts; a multi-state part that is common to many states and consists of multiple choice questions, and a second part that is unique to the specific state and usually has questions applicable to the law of that specific state. In Virginia, the exam is given by the Virginia Board of Bar Examiners: “The Virginia Board of Bar Examiners (the “Board”) is an agency of the Supreme Court of Virginia. In addition, its statutory authority is found in § 54.1-3919 et seq. of the Code of Virginia. The Board is responsible for ascertaining the qualifications of applicants for admission to the Bar of Virginia and licensing those applicants who meet those requirements as established by the Supreme Court of Virginia, the Virginia General Assembly, and the Rules and Regulations issued by the Board.”, as described at http://www.vbbe.state.va.us/bar/bar.html.
 For more information about car seat requirements in Virginia, see other blog articles: Child Seat Belt and Safety Seat Laws in Virginia (4/1/2010) and Child Safety Seats Save Lives – Buckle Up Your Children (7/1/2009).
 Many of the Virginia laws concerning pets and animals are compiled at http://www.animallaw.info/statutes/stusvast3_1_796_66_89.htm.
 For more information about Virginia law and safe use of seat belts, see The Importance of Seat Belts (3/25/2010) and ASLEEP BESIDE THE WHEEL”: AUTO SAFETY & THE DANGERS OF INEFFECTIVE SEAT BELTS IN RECLINED SEATS (9/7/2010).
 A best-selling book by the same name was published in 1988. Written by Robert Fulghum, the book is comprised of fifty essays, of which the first has the same title as the book. For more information, see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/All_I_Really_Need_to_Know_I_Learned_in_Kindergarten.