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State Bar revises its guide for young adults

By Kristina Horton Flaherty
Staff Writer

When you turn 18Many young people are still in high school when they turn 18. Many still live with their parents. Many have never worked a full-time job. And many have no idea how dramatically their rights and responsibilities — in the eyes of the law — have just changed.

A special State Bar guide can give them a glimpse of what to expect in their transition to young adulthood.

The newly revised version of When You Turn 18: A Survival Guide for Teenagers — to be released this month with the start of the new school year — speaks directly to teenagers on a wide variety of topics and laws that impact their lives.

“Turning 18 is an exciting milestone for many young people, but it also means that they will face new — sometimes daunting — challenges, responsibilities and consequences,” said State Bar President Bill Hebert. “This guide can help demystify the legal system for them by providing relevant information on such topics as renting an apartment, forming a legal contract, serving on a jury and protecting one’s personal information from identity theft.”

Last printed in 2008, the guide has become a popular handout and teaching tool in some high school classrooms, special education programs, counseling sessions and workshops.

Fr. Michael Brady, the chaplain of Central Catholic High School in Modesto, uses the guide in one-on-one counseling sessions to help seniors in their transition to young adulthood. He has seen the look on their faces, he says, when they discover the different consequences for their actions. The guide is a “very valuable tool” that has made at least a few teens “make better choices,” he wrote recently. “I believe it gives them a road map on how to make better choices as their future is at stake.”

Some teachers and school administrators across the state have used the guide to create games, vocational day presentations, public speaking projects and even a “scavenger hunt.” At one high school, teams of graduating seniors compete in a power point game show based on the guide. In San Diego, a high school history teacher had her students create a board game using information pulled from the guide. In Garden Grove, teachers distribute the guide to high school seniors studying “juvenile justice.” And in Mountain View, Lakewood and Bakersfield, teams of high school students give class presentations on sections pulled from the guide.

“Oftentimes, students have a misconception about what it really means to turn 18,” said Sylvia Juslin, who provides the guide to students at an alternative school in Martinez. “For many students, it is a real eye opener.”

San Mateo special education vocational specialist Jim Friedman, who recently retired, says the guide has been “invaluable” in teaching his high school students with mild to moderate disabilities. And in presentations for the school district and at a special education state conference, Friedman has highlighted ways to use it. In a workshop for government teachers, for example, he had the participants create short plays that could be acted out by students and lead to student discussion.

Broken into 19 topic areas, the 16-page, newspaper-style guide provides basic legal information and answers to timely, relevant questions: Do I need my own car insurance? What could happen if police catch me drinking alcohol at a party? Is downloading information, pictures or music from the Internet ever against the law? Is it safe to give out personal information online? What is sexting? Can my boss legally monitor my emails and the websites that I visit while I’m at work?

Partially funded with a $50,000 grant from the California Bar Foundation, the guide is part of an ongoing three-part series published by the State Bar. The other two guides are Kids & and the Law: An A-to-Z Guide for Parents, last published in 2010, and Seniors & the Law: A Guide for Maturing Californians, which will be updated in 2012. Roughly 10 million guides in a variety of languages have been distributed since the series’ debut in 2001.

The revised English version of When You Turn 18 will be released in mid-September at the State Bar’s annual meeting in Long Beach. A Spanish version will be available later this year.

To order the guide free of charge, send an email to Please specify the number of guides desired and include a complete mailing address (p.o. boxes are not acceptable). There is no charge for the guide or for shipping, nor is there a limit on how many can be ordered. However, contributions are always welcome, especially for larger orders. If you do not have access to the Internet, call 1-888-875-LAWS for instructions on ordering the guide by mail.