Forward Movement: An Interview with Justin Goldstein
Mercedes Pino is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and the director of Career Services at the St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami Gardens, Florida.
At the conclusion of the 2007 Annual Meeting in San Francisco, Justin Goldstein will assume the office of Chair of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (ABA YLD). Prior to the meeting, Goldstein agreed to speak with The Affiliate about his experiences and vision for the ABA YLD. During this conversation, two things stood out. The first was his commitment to making the YLD better than when he started. The second was that, at one point, he was the drummer for a band called The Pro Bonos!
Goldstein graduated from the State University of New York at Albany with a bachelor’s degree in Political Science and a minor in Spanish. He later earned his juris doctor from the University of Pittsburgh School of Law. Following graduation, Goldstein went to work for a small general practice firm where he focused on plaintiff’s personal injury and criminal defense. He currently works as the senior fiduciary officer in the Trust Department of National City Bank. As a proud father, Goldstein credits his success thus far to the support his family provides. He stated, “My wife, Maribel, and our daughters, Ruby and Jennifer, are my true inspiration. I truly could not do this without their love, support, and patience.”
Shortly after passing the bar, Goldstein joined the Allegheny County Bar Association (ACBA). His hard work and dedication have earned him various leadership positions in his local and state bars, as well as in the ABA. His first bar leadership position was as chair of the Public Service Committee for the ACBA. Through his work with the ACBA, Goldstein met two people who helped guide him. “In bar association activities, the people who have had the biggest impact on me are David Blaner, executive director of the ACBA, and Dorie Schnippert, the YLD staff liaison for the ACBA,” Goldstein said. “They provided me the opportunity to progress through the various positions and were always willing to point me in the right direction and introduce me to the people who could help me achieve my goals.” One of those opportunities came in 2001, when, as chair-elect of the ACBA YLD, Justin attended his first ABA YLD Assembly during the ABA Annual Meeting.
Since then, he has continued as an active member of the ACBA and served as treasurer and Board of Governors representative for the Pennsylvania Bar Association. In addition, he has excelled in a variety of leadership roles in the ABA YLD. These roles include serving as vice-chair of the National Conferences Team, as an assistant editor of The Affiliate, as a member of the Affiliate Assistance Team, and as an Awards of Achievement judge. In 2005, Goldstein began his path to serving as Chair by winning a contested election for the position of Secretary-Treasurer.
When asked why he decided he wanted to serve as Chair, Goldstein answered, “The ABA YLD has great potential as the national voice of young lawyers. I want to see the Division move toward fulfilling this potential for pooling resources and providing members with access to the best information, speakers, and representation of their profession as ABA members.” He added, “While the Division is the public service arm of the Association, I also feel that if we do not focus on member benefits, positive publicity for lawyers, and affiliate support, we are not fulfilling our duties and the expectations of our constituents. I did not believe that the other declared candidate would focus enough on these important issues for the Division, so I decided that I would enter the race to focus on them.”
Preparing for his term as Chair, Goldstein has focused on his goals for the upcoming year. “My ultimate goal for the year is to make sure that the perspective of young lawyers is heard and considered by the policymakers, managing partners, and others in positions of influence in our profession.” Focusing on the specifics, he continued, “The way we will do this is by a series of summits at the Division’s various conferences that focus on the young lawyer’s perspective of specific areas. The goal is to create an online toolkit to serve as a continuing resource to young lawyers and to also create white papers and formulate resolutions to bring before the Division’s Assembly and the ABA’s House of Delegates.”
Part of his vision for the ABA YLD is in direct response to his communications with affiliates. “My vision of the ABA YLD is a result of the many conversations I continue to have with our affiliates,” Goldstein acknowledged. “The Division is always improving as a result of these discussions. If there are ideas that you have or suggestions to make things better, please let us know. This is our Division, and it is my job to help guide it for a brief period of time, to make it a better place than when I started.”
In addition to expressing ideas and suggestions, Goldstein encourages affiliate leaders to attend national conferences. “The focus of the various summits makes this year in particular an important one for affiliate leaders (and members) to attend. At our Fall Conference in Charlotte, North Carolina (Oct. 4–6), we are holding our Young Bar Leader Summit . This is an excellent opportunity for affiliate leaders to meet, learn, and improve their own affiliates through the combined resources and knowledge of other affiliates and the ABA YLD. For the Midyear Meeting in Los Angeles (Feb. 7–9), we will hold a Young Lawyers Summit focusing on issues important to young lawyers. This is a chance to participate in framing the discussion and formulating the response on how to change the practice of law. In the spring, we will hold a Diversity Summit in Washington, D.C. (Apr. 16–19), focusing on issues relating to young minority attorneys. The Spring Conference will be held jointly with the ABA Litigation Section and in conjunction with ABA Day. This is an exciting opportunity for young lawyers to experience the power and benefit of being a member of this Association.”
In keeping with his mission to maintain open lines of communication, Goldstein has been responsive to concerns expressed by members. “One of the concerns I hear expressed by many members is the Division’s continuous creation and turnover of new public service projects each year. I was determined not to ‘create’ a new project from scratch, although many wonderful projects (such as this year’s Choose Law project) result. I was fortunate to be able to take advantage of the already existing Wills for Heroes project, which provides free simple wills, living wills, and powers of attorney for first responders.
“In addition, a foundation was recently created to help implement and support the program throughout the country—the Wills for Heroes Foundation ( www.willsforheroes.org
). The ABA YLD focus on the project will help jump start the foundation and will place lawyers in a positive light in the eyes of the public and also produce wonderful publicity for the ABA YLD and its affiliates. In addition, I hope to have a focus on www.lawforkids.org,
a wonderful website developed by the Arizona Bar Foundation that focuses on legal issues from a kid’s perspective.”
With all this work ahead of him, The Affiliate asked Goldstein what he liked to do in his spare time aside from spending time with his family and playing the drums. He responded, “I like to read. My favorite book is Super Self by Charles Givens. It’s a great book. And the last movie I saw was probably Blood Diamond . . . or was it Borat?”
Borat aside, speaking with Goldstein, his strong sense of commitment to the Division shines through. He certainly has a definite vision for his role, as part of a team, in making the YLD better. Taking into account the goals he has set for himself and the Division, The Affiliate asked Justin how he wanted to be remembered. After giving it serious consideration, Goldstein answered, “If anything, I want to be remembered for moving the Division forward. It’s not about me. I don’t want a Justin Goldstein Day. I just want to leave the world better than I found it. Personally, I want to be remembered as someone who didn’t take himself too seriously.”
This desire to make the world a better place is part of what led Goldstein to the practice of law. When asked what he liked most about the practice of law, he responded, “I like the ability to make a difference and the options you have. I like the different things you can do as a lawyer.”
Speaking of options, as we wrapped up the interview The Affiliate asked Goldstein what he would want to do if he were not a lawyer. His response? “If I weren’t a lawyer . . . A rock star! I play the drums. For a while I played with a band, The Pro Bonos. We played at different ABA YLD events.” On that note (pun intended), there can be no doubt that we are in for an interesting yet productive year.