New Jersey State Bar Association - The voluntary Bar Association of New Jersey, serving members since 1899.

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Director, New Media Communications & Promotions

Video Contest Focuses on Lincoln Students to Create Law Day Videos to Air on YouTube

New Brunswick, NJ - It’s not unusual to see President Abraham Lincoln on a visit to the New Jersey Law Center. His portrait is hanging on the wall.

But on a recent day, the 16th president was in the flesh. Lincoln reenactor Robert Costello and a crew of middle and high school student actors were in New Brunswick to film scenes for the 2009 Law Day YouTube Video Contest.

The contest, which begins today, centers on this year’s Law Day theme “A Legacy of Liberty – Celebrating Lincoln’s Bicentennial.” In a new twist, students are being invited to create a video showing their take on Lincoln’s legacy. Video entries will be featured on the websites of the association and foundation and also posted to YouTube. In previous years, the Law Day contests have typically focused on posters and essays.

The contest is sponsored by the New Jersey State Bar Foundation and New Jersey State Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division. The contest runs from today through March 30. Winners will be announced in April. A ceremony for the winners will be held on Law Day, which is celebrated on May 1.

“The Young Lawyers Division is very excited to be expanding our Law Day contest using technology such as video and YouTube to encourage greater participation by students as well as offer a different route to the educational experience of learning about Lincoln,” said division chair Kimberly Yonta.

Added Jeffery Neu, chair of the contest: “This is a great opportunity for students, which rewards them for their creativity and interpretation of one of America’s historical legacies. We wanted to engage students with resources we felt would excite them and allow them to express their creativity in ways that would not be available to a student creating a poster… With all the excitement about YouTube, Facebook and other technologies, the contest exposes them to technology and helps to open a door to creativity.”

The contest is part of a growing trend across the legal community to use outlets such as YouTube.

In 2007, the Pennsylvania Bar Association landed on YouTube, when one of their television ads about the good things lawyers do was posted to the site. Also that year, the Texas Bar Association sponsored a video contest, posting entries on YouTube. This year, state bars in New Jersey, Washington and Oklahoma are sponsoring YouTube contests.

On a day in mid-November, the Law Center was transformed into a makeshift movie set for the creation of the video kicking-off the contest and inviting participants.

Cameras rolled and the slate board clicked off the scenes. The acting troupe filmed scenes in the rotunda, the association’s presidential office, the library, the reception area and a private conference room. The actors also headed outdoors for some final works.

While working with one of the country’s most celebrated presidents was both awe inspiring and intimidating, the student actors held their own.

For a one-on-one scene with Costello, the Lincoln look-alike, eighth grader Victoria Weber didn’t shy away from the tough questions.

“Was Mary Todd actually considered a spy?” she asked.

“Mrs. Lincoln was as much an abolitionist as I am, and that she was as loyal to the Union as I am,” said Costello, who invoked the former president with his regal carriage and the timber of his voice.

Contest officials said they are looking forward to viewing the entries.

”I’m excited to see the entries from the students, and hope the video produced by the Foundation and the YLD for the contest provides some great inspiration for their videos,” Neu said. “We are also excited to reward the students’ efforts with some great prizes.”

The makers of the best high school video will win $500 and the best middle school entry will get $250. Honorable mentions will get $50 iTunes gift cards. The awards will be presented at the New Jersey Law Center.

In accordance with privacy laws, entries by students under 13 years of age must be submitted under the supervision of a teacher, parent or guardian, Neu said. And eligibility is limited to New Jersey high and middle school students.

The contest rules and entry forms are available on the Law Day 2009 YouTube Video Contest page that can be reached from or Entries will be posted as they are received.