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Introducing the Rule of Law

Almost a year ago, Mike Pace, a 1984 Washington and Lee Law graduate from Salem, Va., asked his daughter what she was learning in her seventh grade civics class. She mentioned the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, the amendments, and the structure of government, but when Mike asked about the rule of law, she wasn’t as clear about what that meant. Mike discovered that her textbook had very little information about what he called “the basis for the freedoms that we all enjoy as citizens of the United States” in an article on a Roanoke Times blog. That was the genesis of the Virginia Bar Association’s Rule of Law Project, a partnership among teachers, lawyers and judges that “provides students with an enriching, interactive experience about the importance of the rule of law in their daily lives and gives them a better understanding of the need to preserve and protect it as the foundation for the rights and freedoms we enjoy.” After starting in the Roanoke area, the program is now a statewide initiative. But the idea has also gone international, since Mike and the program’s co-founder made a presentation at the World Justice Forum in Austria. Last month, Mike, a managing partner with Gentry Locke who has created an externship for W&L law students, was one of 25 Virginia lawyers inducted into The Virginia Law Foundation 2010 Class of Fellows, a special honor conferred by the VLF Board on selected Virginia attorneys, law professors and retired members of the judiciary who are deemed to be outstanding in their profession and in their community.

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