D.C. law firm hosts dozens of kids on take a child to work day

April 26, 2012

Shortly after 10:30 Thursday morning, a gruff voice echoed through the otherwise quiet 10th-floor hallways of the D.C. law firm Crowell & Moring.

“Don-kay!” it boomed somewhat incoherently in a mock Scottish accent. “Don-kayyyy!” the voice called again before being consumed by a fit of giggles.

The voice belonged to John Ferko, the firm’s business manager, getting into character as Shrek, DreamWorks’ beloved giant green ogre, and aping the ogre’s well-used call for his friend “Donkey.”

And the giggles came from nearly 100 children eagerly awaiting a mock trial: Shrek fighting a case of stolen identity with the help of his attorney, Spider-Man.

This, needless to say, is not a normal day at Crowell & Moring.

The firm was one of 3.5 million workplaces to open its doors Thursday for the 20th anniversary of “Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day.”

This year, the firm hosted dozens of kids — including 20 students from its community partner, Davis Elementary School in Southeast Washington — for a variety of activities designed to teach them about life at a law firm and beyond.

“We always really want this to be a positive event, to promote education and empowerment,” said Christine Evans, legal secretary to five lawyers and the ringmaster of Crowell & Moring’s take a child to work program, which began in 2004 and takes nearly six weeks to orchestrate each year.

In addition to the Shrek skit, the children participated in conference calls with the firm’s New York and Los Angeles employees and their children, watched science experiments, including a laser demonstration, and worked on art projects that will be displayed throughout the office.

Topics of discussion included the different jobs and responsibilities of employees at the firm, as well as bullying and the importance of staying in school.

“You know, I didn’t think it would be this much fun,” said 15-year-old Tyra Fields-Maynard of Hagerstown, Md. She came to work with her aunt, a record specialist at Crowell & Moring whose two sons also attended.

Tyra, who dreams of becoming a lawyer “because I’m good at debating,” said she was interested in learning more about the different people who work at a law firm. The freshman at North Hagerstown High School said that she’d heard of lawyers but that “the p-word” — paralegal — was new to her.

“I’m loving this,” she said with a smile and a shrug.

Her cousin, 5-year-old Joe Thomas, was less enthusiastic about the career possibilities presented to him than he was about his art project. “I made rainbows,” he said proudly of his collage.

When Mark Klapow, a partner at the firm, accompanied his father to work “years ago,” he was less than enthralled.

“There was no program like this,” said Klapow, 38, of Somerset. “My dad worked on Wall Street. It was not child-friendly.”

Three of his four children — 9-year-old Emily, 7-year-old Zachary and 5-year-old Avery — attended Thursday’s event. (At 2 years old, his youngest was too little to attend.)

“I hope that this event connects them to what I do, that it’s not just a job Daddy goes to,” he said. “And I hope they don’t fight with each other too much.”

The Klapow kids raved about the Shrek skit, the catered breakfast spread and the gifts — everyone gets a rubber duckie, the firm’s “we don’t take ourselves too seriously” mascot, to take home. But none of them expressed an interest in going into law.

“I hear things like, ‘I want to be a hockey player,’ ” Klapow said. “I can’t compete with Alex Ovechkin.”

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