Informing, educating and training

The New Jersey State Bar Foundation’s free resources for schools

By Taya Ros 

The New Jersey State Bar Foundation is marking more than six decades as a law-related education resource for the people of New Jersey. Established in May 1958 as the charitable and philanthropic arm of the New Jersey State Bar Association, the foundation strives to help people of all ages better understand the laws that affect them every day.   

Informing kids about the law  

Compelling publications to spark student interest 

With a focus on making law relevant and helping kids think critically, the foundation provides free resources for educators for classroom use. In addition to civics and law-related newsletters and blogs, the foundation publishes The Legal Eagle, a legal newspaper for kids, and Respect, a diversity and inclusion newsletter.  

Each issue is a valuable, easy-to-use resource for students and educators. With colorful graphics, glossaries and discussion questions, every article provides the perfect, ready-made lesson plan. Each publication and the individual articles are available to download from the foundation’s website at Published, three times per year, free print subscriptions are available to New Jersey schools and can be ordered through our website using the publication order form.  

The Legal Eagle was first published in 1996 to create a law-related program for middle school students. Today, The Legal Eagle is distributed to more than 1,600 elementary, middle and high schools across New Jersey.  Respect was first published in 2001 and examines social justice issues. Copies of Respect are sent to more than 1,200 middle and high schools. 

Educators have shared that The Legal Eagle and Respect make civics and the law real for students by showing them the importance of government and how it affects them. Almost every article touches on civics curricula and ties into current events, focusing on issues that students are aware of and want to talk about. The information is presented in a way that helps students understand an issue and how it is relevant to them.  

“NJSBF’s publications are very valuable resources in my classes,” says Michael Hayes, an eighth-grade social studies teacher at Von E. Mauger Middle School in Middlesex. “I have used Respect articles, like “Stand Your Ground,” as the basis of a class project, and I have used “Does Banning Books Violate the First Amendment” article when teaching my Bill of Rights unit. My students benefit greatly.” 

“The foundation offers high quality, relevant and free materials for school use,” says Louis Russo, a social studies teacher at Vineland High School, and the president of the Vineland Education Association. “The Respect newsletter helps support my A.P. U.S. Politics and Government course. The Legal Eagle helps inform my U.S. History students with current issues and perspectives on the past.”  

In addition, the foundation has civics publications for students and educators, including The Bill of Rights Up Close, which takes a deep dive into the Bill of Rights, and Beyond the Bill of Rights, which covers amendments 11 through 27.  

The NJSBF also produces The Informed Citizen, a civics blog, which explores how the Founding Fathers created the nation and what every citizen’s rights are under the U.S. Constitution. Recent blog posts include an explanation of the responsibilities of the Speaker of the House, the origins of the U.S. Supreme Court and the Electoral Count Act of 1887.  All blog posts include discussion questions, and relevant glossary words, providing a ready to use lesson plan.  

“The free publications and blogs are top notch and extremely well done,” says Thomas Prendergast, a middle school social studies teacher at Our Lady of Sorrows School in Hamilton. “They really help students see law and government at work. My students actually learn about what their state is doing or has done. For example, my students can read about the Bill of Rights and learn about how it can and will affect them.”   

Teams “Rock the Mock” at High School Mock Trial regional competitions

Educating and inspiring  

Mock Trial competitions for high schoolers 

The New Jersey State Bar Foundation’s annual mock trial competitions are a shining example of how legal and education communities come together to provide interactive, hands-on ways to learn about the justice system. Close to 5,000 students, from grades three through 12, participate in the free competitions each year. 

“When participating in mock trial competitions, my students have such fun, and grow by leaps and bounds in their critical thinking skills, public speaking, research, and ability to look at things from others’ points of view,” says Tracie Smith-Yeoman, senior naval science instructor and mock trial adviser from the Marine Academy of Science and Technology in Monmouth County. 

High school teams compete in the Vincent J. Apruzzese High School Mock Trial Competition using an original case prepared by the foundation’s Mock Trial Committee. Student teams take on the roles of attorneys, witnesses and jurors and present the case in county courtrooms for the first round of competitions. Regional competitions, semi-finals, and the finals, are held at the New Jersey Law Center.  

The winning team represents the state at the National Mock Trial Championship held each spring. In 2023, over 200 teams—3,000 students and 300 teachers—participated with more than 250 attorneys volunteering their time as county coordinators, mock trial team advisors and competition judges.  

A 4th Grade Law Fair team objects at NJSBF annual “You Be The Jury” event

Law Fair and Law Adventure for younger students 

The mock trial program was expanded in 1991 to include a Law Fair for third- to sixth-grade students and expanded again in 1995 when Law Adventure was launched for students in grades seven and eight. For Law Fair and Law Adventure, students and their teachers are invited to create and write an original mock trial case on legal issues of interest. Rules and guidelines are provided by the foundation.   

In 2023, the Law Adventure winning cases, selected from 83 entries, dealt with student rights and defamation. Law Fair winning cases, selected from 69 submissions, dealt with negligence, theft, perjury, child custody and Fentanyl poisoning.  

Law Fair and Law Adventure winners present their original cases before juries of their peers at the New Jersey Law Center in the annual “You Be the Jury” events, which give students an opportunity to experience what it is like to be a juror in a mock trial.  More than 1,000 elementary and middle school students attended.  

“My students have been enriched by programs like Law Fair, Law Adventure, and the High School Mock Trial Competition,” says Lori Bathurst, a social studies and humanities teacher at Chestnut Ridge Middle School in Washington Township, Gloucester County. “I have seen students’ interests in a career in law blossom, along with their critical thinking skills. Programs sponsored by the foundation help students expand multiple areas of their development from reading and research to public speaking, along with various styles of writing and teamwork. The students share awesome feedback each year explaining why they think Mock Trial is such a rewarding learning experience.”  

A middle school Law Adventure defense team rests.

Courtroom Artist Contest 

In 2015, the program was expanded once again to add a high school Courtroom Artist Contest where student artists sketch a mock trial team in action during county mock trial contests. Thirty-eight students from 19 schools entered sketches in 2023. The winning student artist is invited to represent the state at the annual National High School Mock Trial Championship.  

2022-2023 1st Place Winner Cypress Drueding Cumberland County Technical Education Center

Hearing from an attorney 

The NJSBF Speakers Bureau has over 200 attorneys who volunteer to share their legal expertise in classrooms on a variety of topics including careers in law, the court system, criminal law, constitutional law, turning 18 in New Jersey, hate crimes and more. In the last year, over 35 speaking events took place, reaching over 120 elementary school students and 740 high school students. 

Restorative Justice circle at in-person training at the New Jersey Law Center.

Training educators  

Creating a positive school climate: violence prevention, peer mediation, restorative justice and more 

In 1991, the foundation held its first Law-Related Education Conference for educators. In 1994, the foundation’s Violence Prevention Training Initiative was launched, followed by a focus on preventing teasing and bullying. Today the foundation offers free training for educators year-round. Over 3,500 educators attend trainings—and earn professional development hours—each year.  

More than 15 different training topics are offered virtually and in person at the New Jersey Law Center. In-school and in-district training options are also available. Current topics and trainings include conflict resolution and peer mediation programs; active school climate teams; trauma informed schools; social and emotional learning and character development; addressing bias, race, and racism in schools; HIB characteristics; and restorative justice practices.  

NJSBF is committed to providing educators with a toolbox of intersecting approaches, mindsets, and practices to promote a positive school climate, as well as reduce violence and bias. For example, the restorative justice training complements many of the other training topics offered by NJSBF. Restorative justice is trauma informed and helps students and adults practice social emotional skills. It can be used as a way to resolve conflict through circles and peer mediation sessions, and it prevents bias, bullying and violence. 

“Every training I have attended has been meaningful and applicable to the work I do with my students,” says Constance Koutsouradis, student assistance coordinator at Burlington Township School District. “I take information I have been given and turnkey it to my colleagues. The free resources provided are invaluable.”  

The belief that “informed citizens are better citizens” is reflected in everything the foundation offers. Our school and public programs, from mock trial competitions and publications to law-related conferences and scholarships, foster increased awareness, appreciation and knowledge of the law for people of all ages. 

Taya Ros is the marketing director for the New Jersey State Bar Foundation. You can learn more about the NJSBF and its resources at  

For more about the free programs and services offered by the New Jersey State Bar Foundation visit

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