Francine Bailey is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and an Associate in the Chicago, Illinois firm of Bellows & Bellows P.C.
The Bar Association of Baltimore City Young Lawyer’s Division (BABC YLD) is part of one of the oldest bar associations in the country. According to its website, the Bar Association of Baltimore City was the first bar association to be incorporated in Maryland, in 1880. The mission of the BABC at that time was “to aid in maintaining the honor and dignity of the profession, to promote legal science, and further the administration of justice.” Today, just as it did over 100 years ago, the BABC adheres to that mission.
As an integral part of the organization, the Young Lawyer’s Division focuses on the needs of young lawyers. In the BABC YLD, a young lawyer is defined as an attorney under the age of thirty-seven, or those attorneys who have been practicing for less than five years. The BABC YLD’s purpose is to provide opportunities for young lawyers to volunteer and become leaders within the profession. The Young Lawyers sponsor many programs, including social and networking events and a ceremony and reception for newly admitted attorneys to the Maryland Bar.
BABC YLD Chair Gregory Kirby has made it his mission to encourage more of the Division’s approximately 675 members to become “active members.” Kirby first became a member of the BABC YLD in 2005, shortly after graduating from law school. He so enjoyed his experiences with the Division that he became progressively more involved—eventually becoming Chair-Elect and then Chair. When Kirby first became a member, the BABC YLD suffered from a condition to which many affiliate leaders will probably be able to relate. Many members were enrolled, but only a small group were active. When he first joined, a group of core members served as both the Executive Council and chairs of the various committees. Kirby set out to change all that. Today, the BABC YLD is thriving with an active membership.
The BABC YLD uses a unique recruitment tool to encourage membership. The Division created a PowerPoint presentation that highlights the advantages of membership. The presentation is shown to new associates at major law firms throughout the city. The presentations have been most effective when the managing partner is a supporter of the bar association and attends the informational session.
Having an active membership not only allows members more opportunities, but it also spreads the work among many people. This way, more young lawyers are given leadership opportunities and the membership is able to continue without the risk of burn-out. The Membership Committee is charged with member recruitment and services. The Committee also sponsors happy hour social events and speed networking.
When The Affiliate asked Kirby how YLD members are kept involved, he didn’t hesitate to mention the educational programs sponsored and offered by the BABC YLD. The Division’s Continuing Legal Education Committee is charged with putting on these programs. One such event is the “Breakfast with the Bench” series. Once a month, the BABC YLD hosts a breakfast session with a speaker. Speakers range from judges discussing courtroom demeanor to managing partners describing law practice management. Earlier this year, the Chief Justice of the Maryland Court of Appeals was a guest at the series. These sessions give members an opportunity to learn as well as network in an intimate setting.
The Public Education/Service Committee is another Division committee. Each year, the BABC YLD puts on two hallmark projects. One is a holiday party for children and families living in homeless shelters. Held at the Maryland Science Center, the party offers a little bit of Christmas cheer to children in need. Many of the children return to the party year after year. The Division arranges for buses to pick up the children and family members at a local shelter and take them to the Maryland Science Center, where the children are able to explore the interactive exhibits and have their photos taken with Santa Claus. After the party, each child takes home a gift bag. After attending, Kirby realized that “a lot of these kids wouldn’t have experienced Christmas if it wasn’t for the holiday party.” The holiday party is an excellent community outreach program that allows the YLD to give back to the local community.
The Public Education/Service Committee also worked with local schools to implement the “Junior Judges” program. This program asked volunteer lawyers to go into local schools one day a week for seven weeks. Two lawyers were sent into each school to speak with children with behavioral problems. The children were specifically selected by the school as those who would benefit most from the program. The lawyers discussed various areas of the law and brought the children a real-life perspective of how the law can affect their lives. Topics revolved around the legal consequences of various illegal activities, including drug and alcohol use, bullying, and stealing. The program led to a mentoring relationship with one of the elementary schools, which began last spring. This program differs from the earlier program in that it gives the opportunity for one-on-one relationships to develop. One of the last meetings is a field day event.
The BABC YLD Events Committee hosts a holiday party that has become another hallmark project of the YLD. This party is a yearly gathering open to the entire membership of the BABC, not just the YLD. The YLD takes on the event planning, finds the location, caterers, and sends the invitations. In addition, the event includes a silent auction to raise money for the Children of Baltimore City.
Each year, the YLD also hosts a wine tasting event for members in the spring. Attendees are able to sample six different wines. Held at a local wine company, members are given the opportunity to network in a social and festive environment.
The YLD is also active with local law schools to varying degrees. Although the state of Maryland only has two law schools, there are several in the nearby Washington, D.C., metropolitan area. The advantage to courting law students is in preparing future members and leaders of the BABC YLD. For law students, the advantage is the inherent networking opportunities offered by the YLD.
The future of the Young Lawyers’ Division in Baltimore City looks bright. Ideas are already in the works for programs to implement in the future. The Affiliate wishes them a successful year!