Plan to Include Yourself
The theme for the 2008-2009 Bar Year is “Bar None: Inclusivity of People and Ideas.” On the surface, the motto promotes diversity of people and thought. This goal runs deeper than that, however. It also emphasizes that none of you taking the time to read this column should passively sit on the sideline of community or bar association life. You must actively include yourself in those worlds. You should not shy away from the responsibility of being the best lawyer- citizen possible.
For law students and new lawyers, I urge you to take the time now to invest in yourselves. This requires some planning. Planning at the front end of a career eliminates later frustration and helps avoid many of the bumps in the road.
Make the effort now to survey the community around you and the career ahead of you. Grades, résumé preparation, and student loans are nightmares come alive, but they are not forever. Take the time now to sample bar and community activities. They are positive resources. Refresh yourself in real life.
For example, do not passively read this article, this magazine, or the publication of any American Bar Association entity and then just set it aside. Wonder a moment how and why the publications were created. Who were the authors? What are their backgrounds? How can they mentor me, the gentle reader, for my career ahead?
Admire the list of ABA and GP|Solo Division tangible member benefits. Consider why discounts for specific products and services will be important for you, the lawyer running a business and earning a living. Try to understand why the ABA has so much community service built into it. Think upon its many achievements that benefit the public.
Go online with SoloSez and “listen” to the conversations of practicing lawyers. Learn their everyday challenges and triumphs. Ask them questions about their experiences and your own future. As I write this column, the ABA is in beta test mode for a wholly new and exciting website, one that will be both comprehensive and understandable. It is slated to roll out first to law students, then young lawyers, and then solos. Plan to look for it, use it, and include yourself in its electronic community.
Inclusivity also requires the personal, human touch. Go to an ABA meeting on a topic that is of interest to you. The ABA website lists many meetings on numerous topics across the country. Law students usually may attend for free. If you are a new lawyer or have personal budget concerns, ask for a discounted registration fee. I predict that once you interact in person with ABA members and programs, you will incorporate the ABA in your future career plans. The ABA is all about people. It is all about lawyers serving people and lawyers helping lawyers.
As your career blossoms, plan to share some of your good fortune. Plan to include yourself as an author, CLE presenter, or mentor through the ABA. Plan to participate in community service programs designed by the Young Lawyers Division or other ABA entities. Many of these programs can be implemented locally, directly by you, gentle reader. Including your ideas and efforts in the legal and public community works the magic of breaking down dismal barriers that hold us all back. The reward is positive for you and your outlook of your world.
Planning and inclusivity should never end. The goal of retirement is perceived as crossing an imaginary finish line complete with medal awards and cheers. And not much else is included in that mental image except perhaps golf and woodworking in the basement. In your new environment of retirement, plan to apply the inclusivity skills you have perfected over a lifetime. Pass those skills on and around to others. Turn to the lawyers and people about you and include them in your thinking and positive actions. The
Robert A. Zupkus, the guest author of this issue’s column, is Chair-Elect of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Division. He may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.