Like most plaintiff lawyers, David Henson of Raleigh, North Carolina, has had clients whose stories struck close to home. He and his brother Thomas—who is also a trial lawyer—are avid cyclists, and just over two years ago, their firm represented the estate of a woman who was killed by a car while bicycling.
“We felt a personal connection to her husband,” Henson said, “and we wanted to do something to commemorate her.”
Henson’s firm decided to donate its fee from the case to create a public service announcement (PSA) reminding cyclists and drivers to follow safety guidelines and to watch out for each other. To recruit the right talent to create the PSA, the firm started an annual contest called “My PSA,” inviting high school students throughout the state to design, direct, and submit their own 30-second messages on bicycle safety.
“The response was amazing,” Henson said. “The schools were really enthusiastic. And we were just astonished by the production quality we see on these videos, which are often made with inexpensive and secondhand equipment. The talent is really impressive.”
All the students’ videos are uploaded to the firm’s Web site, where voting is open to the firm’s clients, staff, and the general public. “Our goal is to get the word out,” Henson said, “so we let anyone look at them and vote on them.”
The winner receives a free Apple MacBook loaded with editing software or a cash prize of $1,500. The winner’s school gets a $500 donation.
Henson said that beyond bicycle safety, a goal of My PSA is to encourage high school students to become comfortable with new technology. Noting that the contestants come from a wide variety of socioeconomic backgrounds, he said, “One of our hopes is that these young people will go above and beyond the contest, learning important technical skills. Who knows? We may even see some future Hollywood directors and producers come through the ranks.”
This year’s winner, Terrell Grice of Fayetteville, plans to use his new MacBook to produce other PSAs on safety, aimed at high-risk teenagers. Last year’s winner, Clay Allsopp of Raleigh, used his prize money to develop two iPhone applications.
Henson’s firm includes the winning PSAs in its television advertising lineup.
“The kids really get a big kick out of seeing their PSA on regular TV,” he said. “That seems to excite them a lot more than winning the prizes, even.”
To see videos from the My PSA contest, go to www.lawmed.com/contest/vote.php.