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Ober’s version of ‘Take your Child to Work Day’ more play than work

Kristi Tousignant//Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer//April 29, 2012

Ober’s version of ‘Take your Child to Work Day’ more play than work

By Kristi Tousignant

//Daily Record Legal Affairs Writer

//April 29, 2012

The Evil Queen took the witness stand, her fingers encrusted with rainbow-colored plastic rings, a gold purse dangling from the crook of her elbow.

Snow White, played by Linda Dooley, listens to testimony from Frani Wartow’s Evil Queen during a mock trial with the story book characters at Ober|Kaler’s Take Your Child To Work Day.

The court’s bailiff asked the queen if she swore to tell the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth.

“How dare you ask such an impertinent question young man!” the queen yelled.

The testimony continued in much the same way as the Evil Queen faced off against Snow White at law firm Ober|Kaler’s Baltimore office. The queen accused the fairy-tale princess of tricking the magic mirror into naming Snow White the “Fairest One of All” — thereby stealing her trademark rights to the title.

While the firm is not in the regular practice of defending story book characters, it does deal with a lot of intellectual property cases. Thursday’s mock trial was part of Ober’s Take Your Child to Work Day.

The firm hosts a series of events that day every other year for staff members who bring their children to the office. This year’s version included the mock trial, a Pictionary-like game with law facts and a “Game of Life” where the kids learned to manage their finances.

In the day’s lead-off event, the Evil Queen (played by computer service trainer Frani Wartow) explained that Snow White had invaded her rooms while cleaning the castle and had “willfully and maliciously tampered with the personal property of her Majesty the Queen.” Her testimony was interrupted by sneezes from dwarf Sneezy and loud snores from Sleepy, who had brought his own pillow to the trial.

Snow White testified next, proclaiming her innocence, followed by the Huntsman (played by assistant librarian Michael Beck), who wore a traditional Scottish kilt and spoke in a Scottish accent.

He explained how he had been ordered to kill Snow White, but couldn’t do it. The defense attorney asked him how the queen reacted.

“She went ballistic, didn’t she?” Beck said.

The jury, composed of the 21 young guests, left the room to deliberate for about a half hour. Before they left, Wartow walked around with a basket of apples with a sign reading, “Apple for loyal subjects. Poison optional.”

“Some of the jury took some bribes from me,” Wartow said. “We hope the decision will be in my favor. It is hard to be queen.”

A group of about a dozen Ober|Kaler employees plan the day’s events three to four months in advance, said Cynthia Cherry, human resources administrator. The group met regularly, but rehearsed the trial only once.

Cherry said the trial is meant to be both fun and educational.

“In today’s society, you’ve got all sorts of things people want to trademark,” said Rachel Murray, legal secretary at the firm, and Snow White’s attorney. “This gives them more of an understanding.”

When the jury returned, the children issued their not-guilty verdict for Snow White.

“The trial taught me a lot about being part of a jury,” said Bianca Radice, 12. “We reviewed all of it and made some very good points, but we didn’t find any bad things against Snow White.”

Afterward, it was time to leave fantasy behind for the real world in “The Game of Life.” Organizers laid out laminated papers in a square on the floor and the children were put into teams.

John Anthony Wolf, chairman of the firm, introduced the game, giving each team a salary of $70,000 in “Ober Bucks” — colored paper imprinted with a picture of Wolf’s face. Before they started the game, the children had to pay taxes and were given the opportunity to buy health insurance. Once playing the game, each space on the floor could either bring them more money — by winning the lottery, for example — or cost them money, such as by having to go to the hospital for an allergic reaction to a bug bite.

The teams loudly argued about what to buy and not to buy. One team had to pay for a broken garage door. Another saved up its cash, refusing to buy a new game system.

“I love it,” said Rachel Cherry, 9, Cynthia’s daughter. “It teaches you about money. It teaches you you should get health insurance. You probably need that. You should spend money on not only expensive stuff, but stuff that’s important.”

The visitors had lunch with their parents or hosts, then played a Pictionary game focusing on law firm terms and facts until about 3 p.m. After that, they had one-on-one time with their hosts, watching them work until the end of the day.

“This is great for the kids, but the side effect is that it’s great for the firm’s morale,” Cherry said. “People are really invested in this.”



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