Forman advocates for children
February 11, 2002
“It was a transforming moment,” recalls Jamie Forman ’81, partner and chair of the Commercial Litigation Practice Group with Rider, Bennett, Egan & Arundel in Minneapolis.
In 1994, as special project coordinator for the Children’s Project of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division, he and 60 other YLD members traveled to the District of Columbia Superior Court to scrub and paint the walls of sterile waiting rooms and furnish each room with books, toys, and a bookcase.
“As I stepped back to view our work, I saw two young children enter one of the waiting rooms. Their eyes just lit up, and their smiles said it all. I knew at that moment that we had had an instant impact on their lives.
“That experience ignited my passion for helping children,” says Forman, coordinator and a lead editor of America’s Children Still at Risk, a recently released comprehensive report documenting both the legal issues confronting children and the efforts of lawyers nationwide to address them.
The 521-page book builds on the 1993 landmark America’s Children at Risk and challenges lawyers to undertake an all-out effort to “act, represent, advocate, and collaborate” on behalf of America’s children.
“The future of our society rests with our children,” emphasizes Forman, who believes that in today’s world, all children are at risk.
“Lawyers must act not only as legal representatives but as public advocates for the well-being of children. Lawyers can mentor, tutor, and teach children, help them to prevent and resolve conflicts, coach them in mock trials, and work with them in debate teams,” he says. “Lawyers can provide pro bono legal assistance for kids who need help with immigration issues, name changes, custody issues, and landlord issues among others.
“Most important, they can be there to listen to kids and to help them make the transition from childhood to adulthood.”
Forman puts his philosophy into action. He has taught Street Law, coordinated and judged high school mock-trial competitions, and worked on a poster campaign to address the risk of handguns around children.
An active member of the ABA, he has chaired its Steering Committee on the Unmet Legal Needs of Children and the Advisory Board to its Center on Children and the Law. He is a member of the Commission on Homelessness and Poverty and of the editorial board of Business Law Today.
Recently, he was named a trustee of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, established in 1963 at the request of President John F. Kennedy to encourage the private bar to provide legal services to address racial discrimination.
Fortunately for Lewis & Clark, Forman’s interest in public service and volunteerism extends to his alma mater, where he is president of the Board of Alumni and an ex-officio member of the Board of Trustees.
While a Lewis & Clark student, Forman majored in political science, participated in the College’s Benelux study program (Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg), served on the Student Judicial Board, and tutored other students in the Writing Center.
“The strength of America’s Children Still at Risk is its collaborative nature,” according to Forman, who credits his liberal arts education at Lewis & Clark College for giving him the background and skills to work with experts in many disciplines.
Forman earned his juris doctorate cum laude at William Mitchell College of Law in 1985 before joining Rider, Bennett, Egan & Arundel. He and his wife, Karen, live in St. Paul with their children, Ben, 11, and Amelia, 6.
—by Jean Kempe-Ware