I was listening to my favorite morning radio show recently and the discussion turned to people’s favorite all-time television shows. Being from Massachusetts and listening to a local radio program, one of the shows that came up, as expected, was Cheers. Talking about Cheers of course led me to think about its theme song, Where Everybody Knows Your Name. The basic message behind the song is about going to a place where you know everybody and can be part of a tightknit community. That is a perfect description of the Health Law Section to me.
I gravitate towards organizations and institutions that have a good sense of community. This was reflected by going to a small high school and then to a college where the community was a paramount focus, which extends not only to current students but also alums. I continued this path in my professional career; currently working at a firm where everyone, from top to bottom, works well together and you rarely find a closed door. The Health Law Section mirrors these qualities.
I have not been in practice for many years yet, but I have encountered only acceptance, encouragement, and support from the members of the Section. A few years ago, after figuring out that I enjoy practicing in the health law field, I began reaching out to members of the Section to learn more about the Section and health law generally. Part of my outreach included attending my first Emerging Issues Conference (“EMI”) in New Orleans. There, I experienced first-hand, just what the Section means to its members. At that first EMI, I was welcomed and invited by the Section’s leadership to just talk and learn. That openness and willingness to encourage involvement from everybody drew me into the Section.
I continued talking with the leaders of the Section. I was lucky enough to be appointed by David Johnson to the Web and Technology Committee as a Vice-Chair. To me, this showed that the Section values the input and work of each and every member. No distinctions are drawn as to level of experience. The real factor is whether you will follow through on the commitments that you make. If you raise your hand and demonstrate that you will produce the results that you have promised, then more responsibility and opportunities will be directed your way.
In fact, I have found that each time I propose to do something; I am given the opportunity to pursue it and see if the idea will succeed. While the Section might offer suggestions and assistance in meeting the goals, I have never been told that I cannot do something. It will be my responsibility to do the work, but if an idea may help the Section, then it will be given the chance and supported. For example, upon learning about the new “What is . . .” publication series, I proposed writing one of the books. Instead of being told I did not have enough experience, it was instead suggested that I work with another more experienced Section member as a co-author in order to take advantage of what both of us could offer.
My involvement with the Section has also included aiding in the development and roll-out of the Section’s social media activities. This included creating the Section’s Twitter accounts, refining its use of LinkedIn and Facebook, and drafting the guidelines for use of social media. I am a proponent of social media use because I see it as an extension of the Section’s other activities and sense of community. Social media offers a fast and efficient way to spread information about the Section and developments in our chosen area of practice, in addition to offering opportunities for direct interaction with the other members of the Section. Through my use of social media, I have been able to create relationships with others that I might not otherwise have found. I even first met another Section member through Twitter, subsequently met her at an EMI, and then recruited her to join me on one of the Section’s committees. These interactions just reinforce to me the importance and benefit of using social media and show its promise.
In addition to being appointed to serve on various committees, I have also been fortunate enough to serve as the liaison to the Section from the Young Lawyers Division for the past two years. As the liaison, I am on the Section’s governing Council. I have been accepted as an equal and a peer by the other Council members even though I do not have the length of experience with the Section that they do. I have been allowed to voice my opinions and offer my suggestions on proposals and issues. At no point have I been dissuaded from participating or been made to feel like I was overstepping my bounds. At all levels, as I said above, the Section is a place where all are made to feel welcome and all are encouraged to contribute in their own way.
Lastly, at least for purposes of this article, to me the Section is a place where I have been able to not just expand my professional network of contacts, but also to develop friendships. For example, while in New Orleans for EMI I met a peer who actually lives within an hour of me. Since first meeting at EMI, we have become good friends, including getting together with our spouses, and have collaborated on various projects for the Section. The Section has enabled me to meet and interact with people from across the country. I can now pick up the phone and call these people at any time with the resulting conversation focusing more on what is going on in each of our lives as opposed to any substantive issue that I may have initially called about.
I am looking forward to continuing my involvement with the Section in the coming years and hope others will join me in working with the Section. To the friends I have made already hello and thank you and for the rest of you, I hope to meet you in the future.
As the theme to Cheers goes: “Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name/And they’re always glad you came/You wanna go where you can see our troubles are all the same/You wanna be where everybody knows your name.” The Section is that place where everybody knows your name.
If you are interested in volunteering or getting involved with the Section, do not hesitate to contact any member of the leadership or staff of the Section. There is also a membership engagement page that can be useful in identifying opportunities for involvement and engagement.
*Mr. Fisher is the Young Lawyers Division Liasion to the ABA Health Law Section's Governing Council.