General Practice, Solo & Small Firm DivisionBest of ABA Sections
Young Lawyers Division
Thanks for Everything
Jeffrey M. Paskert
A key theme throughout the Division this year has been the term "balance." You’ve heard it used in the context of balancing professional careers and personal lives. You’ve heard it used in the context of balancing professional obligations and public service contributions. You’ve heard it used in the context of the Division’s obligation to provide you with meaningful member services and resources while simultaneously helping you to promote and implement public service programs. Based in large part on comments I received from many of you nationwide, and from my own observations and experiences within the Division, we developed a balanced offering of Division and Association products, services, opportunities, and information—to help ourselves become better lawyers while also helping others. Achieving balance in each of these contexts has not always been easy, but with your hard work we achieved this goal. Based on your review and comments, our efforts achieved appropriate balances through the hard work of countless young lawyer volunteers at the local, state, and national levels.
Membership Services. The Young Lawyer newsletter was "born" this year and now serves as the Division’s flagship publication. Its first eight issues generated comment from across the nation, the vast majority of which was extremely favorable. One young lawyer wrote, for example, that "[it is] useful, relevant and enjoyable to read." Another said ". . . I find the succinct articles and practice tips to be extremely valuable." An Idaho young lawyer shared that "[it] is my favorite bar publication." One of the most telling comments came from a current young lawyer who asked us to "[p]lease keep sending it to me when I cease to be considered ‘a young lawyer.’ " This member feedback helps us ensure that our flagship publication will continue to provide practical and useful information about better lawyering. In fact, The Young Lawyer has been so well received that we made it available to the world, on the Division’s Web site. Come visit us there if you haven’t already.
Quality substantive programming also helps ensure that we improve our practices and quality of life. Thanks to your help, and especially that of the Texas Young Lawyers Association, our Professional Development and Leadership Conference in San Antonio entitled "Lawyering into the 21st Century" provided to almost 300 young lawyers CLE credit in the areas of writing, professional projection, quality of life, computer technology, rainmaking, and business and practice development—all topics that are important and necessary elements for us to become better lawyers. This conference was so successful that we presented it on-line via the Internet during the month of May. In addition, our AOP national conferences in Vancouver, British Columbia, and Charleston, South Carolina, offered programs addressing various career issues, advocacy skills, financial planning, and technology.
Speaking of technology, as it grows at an increasing rate, so do the number of visitors to the YLD homepage. Currently, more than 100 visitors log on to the YLD Internet Web site each day. In addition to providing selected articles from The Young Lawyer and other Division and Association publications, the YLD Web site also provides direct links to numerous employment, career service assistance, and a myriad of member services information.
Given the importance of career issues to each of us, several of the Division’s publications addressed these issues, including the Changing Jobs Handbook and Life, Law, and the Pursuit of Balance, our joint publication with the Maricopa County Bar. In addition, the Division has reenergized The Affiliate newsletter, and produces a host of substantive committee newsletters and public service materials.
We also developed a twenty-five-point member services plan to enhance member benefits. Member benefits include items such as a practice area networking component in the upcoming YLD Directory, and an ABA/YLD Member Benefits brochure and packet for new members and those interested in becoming a part of the ABA. These and other benefits are intended to help young lawyers successfully negotiate and navigate the maze of practice- and career-related issues with which we are confronted.
Public Service Initiatives. Beyond member benefits, however, is an equally important Division goal: to promote and implement public service projects. Addressing youth violence and children’s issues was the primary target of this year’s public service initiatives, given increasing crime, drug use, and gang-related activity, which make "growing up" these days more difficult than ever. You can be proud, however, of the tremendous public service initiatives undertaken across the country with help from you and so many other young lawyers. Caring about youth and their well-being has been an integral part of many of this year’s public service initiatives.
One of the most highly publicized initiatives this year was the Aspiring Youth Program. Thanks to many hundreds of lawyers and other volunteers nationwide, the program has been implemented in twenty-two cities in eleven different states: California, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Massachusetts, Mississippi, Oklahoma, Oregon, Texas, Utah, and Washington. As a result, thousands of at-risk children have been exposed to athletic and educational activities, positive role models, and mentor relationships. We attracted partnerships with Gatorade Corporation, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Boston Celtics, Atlanta Hawks, Houston Rockets, Houston Oilers, Houston Astros, Portland Trailblazers, San Antonio Spurs, Dallas Cowboys, the University of Texas, and Texas Southern University. To appreciate the value and impact of these programs, one need only look at the thank-you letters received from the participants. One tenth-grader, for example, wrote that "I found out that many people I didn’t even know really cared about my education."
Our Project Out-Reach school mediation project trained young lawyer volunteers to help students set up and run their own school-based peer mediation project. Sponsored with the ABA Tort and Insurance Practice Section and Dispute Resolution Section, the project has been instituted in Atlanta, Chicago, Columbia, Denver, Hartford, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Philadelphia, Phoenix, Portland, St. Louis, and Tampa. As U.S. Attorney General Janet Reno said at the launching of the San Antonio program, "dispute resolution is not just a tool for lawyers," but ". . . when done properly, is a tool for each and every American." Plans and funding are already in place to expand Project Out-Reach into ten additional cities next year.
Another of the Division’s longstanding public service efforts has been the disaster legal services program operated under agreement with the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Unfortun-ately, the program has operated at full throttle this year, with young lawyers nationwide responding to more than twenty disasters in twenty different states since August 1996. Nowhere has the Division had a greater impact on more people’s lives. Through our disaster relief efforts, we help people most when they most need help.
Due in large part to the impact and success of our FEMA program, we were pleased to initiate an agreement with officials from the National Transportation Safety Board to serve victims of transportation disasters and their families. The ABA Board of Governors recently approved our proposal with NTSB, and the agreement is expected to become effective by the time of the annual meeting. We can all be proud of this new and much-needed service.
Finally, young lawyers will conduct a townhall meeting designed to educate children about violence, its far-reaching impact, and options and alternatives to violent situations. The program, "In the Zone and In Control," involves noted athletes and experts in the area of violence to engage youth in exploring and learning about the ravages of violence and what they can do to help prevent and avoid violence. The program will be professionally videotaped and distributed to our affiliates nationally. We hope each of you will distribute it to schools, boys and girls clubs, and other groups in your communities.
These are some of the national public service programs the ABA Young Lawyers Division has undertaken this year. You should be proud of what we have accomplished, but this is only the tip of the iceberg. There are also the many hundreds of programs you and your affiliates implemented throughout the country. We all recognize that the "public service" side of the equation is accomplished only when you make it happen, and proudly, you have done an outstanding job this year as affiliate leaders and dedicated volunteers. We have achieved our goal of providing member services and public service, and together we have done well and reached a balance.
Jeffrey M. Paskert was the 1996-97 Chair of the Young Lawyers Division.
This article is an abridged version of one that originally appeared in The Affiliate, July/August 1997 (22:6). Periodicals: The Young Lawyer, monthly newsletter.