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At age 14, as a student at Fort Mill High School, Ryan Newkirk saw the benefits of Mock Trial. As an assistant public defender with York County Government, he now works to inspire and coach students on the same high school Mock Trial team where his interest in the law started.
Newkirk’s dedication and enthusiasm to the SC Bar Mock Trial program and the Fort Mill High School team are just part of the reason he was named the 2021 Law Related Education (LRE) Lawyer of the Year.
Newkirk became an integral part of the program through his excellent performances as a student on the Fort Mill High Mock Trial team. As a lawyer in the community, he judged scrimmages and discussed ideas for themes with the team occasionally. However, he did not think he would be coaching.
“I participated in Mock Trial in High School at Fort Mill High, where I now coach. I graduated in 2005, and my fellow teammate Garrett Johnson was also on that team. In 2014, Garrett (who is the head coach) asked me to come and give the team some pointers before the regional competition,” Newkirk recalls. “After the practice, he said I was welcome to come back and coach full time. I would never have thought about coaching Mock Trial if it were not for him.”
Walter Dusky, an attorney at Monk Law Firm and former fellow coach of the Fort Mill High School Mock Trial team, said Newkirk’s passion for law is what inspires the students.
“The students on the team love Ryan, and Ryan loves the students. Ryan has volunteered and devoted numerous hours, both during the week after working a full day and on weekends, coaching the team, as well as providing food and snacks for the students,” Dusky said. “It is Ryan’s passion for law, teaching, and helping the students understand the law that makes him so deserving of receiving the LRE Lawyer of the Year Award.”
“It is an honor. There is really nothing else to say. So many great lawyers help with the LRE programs, and it is humbling to be named Lawyer of the Year when so many of my colleagues are deserving,” Newkirk said.
Newkirk has worked to expand the impact of the Mock Trial team by involving attorneys and judges in the program. This year, Newkirk recruited many volunteers from the 16th Circuit Solicitor’s Office and Public Defender’s Office. Newkirk is also responsible for recruiting numerous volunteers over the years to help the team in a presiding or scoring role for their scrimmages.
Volunteering with the Mock Trial program includes serving as an attorney coach, scoring judge, or presiding judge. Dedicating time to coach or judge Mock Trial students in one’s community is not only personally rewarding, but it invests in the future of our students. The SC Bar recognizes attorney volunteers through several outlets and recognizes their time as pro bono hours.
Newkirk says attorney involvement is key to the program’s success.
“Please get involved. It takes a lot of moving parts to put together the competition for the kids,” Newkirk said. "You can make volunteering work with your schedule, and every little bit helps.”