ABA YLD to Celebrate 75th Anniversary This August
Mercedes Pino is the Editor of The Affiliate and the Director of Career Services at the St. Thomas University School of Law in Miami Gardens, Florida.
This August the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division will attain a significant milestone—it will celebrate its 75th Anniversary. To mark the event Past ABA YLD Chair Jay Ray has dedicated the last year to researching the rich history of the ABA YLD. In addition to serving as one of five ABA YLD Delegates to the ABA House of Delegates, Jay is a commercial litigator and appellate attorney with the Dallas office of Glast, Phillips & Murray, P.C.
Recently, The Affiliate had the opportunity to speak with Jay. He gave us some highlights of the last seventy-five years, what is planned for the anniversary celebration at the ABA Annual Meeting in Chicago, and what we can look forward to in the next seventy-five years.
The Affiliate : How have you been involved in the plans for the 75th Anniversary celebration?
Ray : As Chair of the Division in 2006-2007, I initiated our efforts to celebrate the 75th Anniversary by pointing out its significance and offered to begin work gathering our historical information. Since then, I have spent significant time collecting and reviewing the ABA YLD’s historical documents, publications, and directories. I have interviewed former ABA YLD leaders, prepared a summary of the individuals who have served on the ABA YLD’s Council, and tracked those ABA YLD Council members who went on to leadership positions within the greater ABA.
The Affiliate : What is planned for the 75th?
Ray : ONLINE: We currently have a Facebook Group Page that allows individuals to (1) watch related videos, which include forty-seven interviews with former ABA YLD leaders, including Chairs from the 1950s and 1960s, and (2) review hundreds of photographs taken from our publications or submitted by former YLD’ers.
IN PRINT: We have hired an author to publish an official 75th Anniversary book, which will be finished by the year’s end.
IN PERSON: We hope everyone interested will celebrate our anniversary with us in person during the Fellows Annual Gala at the Annual Meeting in Chicago on July 31, 2009. We plan to display memorabilia from our history during that time as well.
The Affiliate : How can affiliates participate?
Ray : Any information and records that affiliates (or former affiliate leaders) have regarding the ABA YLD can be submitted for use in our book and celebration. In particular, we are looking for pictures from ABA YLD conferences and events. The more fun and unique the picture, the more likely it will get included. People interested in contributing should contact me at email@example.com .
The Affiliate : What do you think have been the three greatest achievements of the ABA YLD to date?
Ray : This is a very challenging question because the ABA YLD (and its predecessors) has done so much over the past seventy-four years, and I only have a limited knowledge of its activities. If limited to three, I would personally say our establishment and development of the young lawyer affiliate network; our successful efforts to make the ABA a more diverse association; and our successful efforts to develop and train leaders in the profession, the ABA, and local and state bar associations.
Although the ABA Junior Bar Conference (JBC) was not the first young lawyer organization in the United States, it played a substantial role in the creation and development of hundreds of local and state young lawyer organizations. In fact, this was one of the JBC’s primary goals in the 1930s through the 1960s. The ABA YLD greatly expanded its affiliate efforts in the mid-1970s under the leadership of Bill Ide when it created the Affiliate Outreach Project (AOP). The AOP has been one of the most successful and enduring projects ever started by the ABA YLD. From this project, The Affiliate was started, two new national conferences were created for affiliate leaders, as well as regional conferences, and a new effort was made to train local and state young lawyer leaders at our conferences and through site visits to ABA YLD affiliates. The AOP also greatly expanded the way local and state young lawyer organizations create and share projects, as well as allowing these organizations to be recognized yearly for their outstanding service to their members and the public.
For anyone who started in the ABA YLD around the same time as I did, it is very difficult to envision an ABA YLD that was predominantly white and male, but that is how it was from the 1930s through the late 1970s. The ABA YLD was the principal driving force in opening the ABA up to racial minorities, disabled attorneys, women, and lesbians and gays. The JBC had a woman, Rosemary Scott, serve on its Council in the early 1950s. Ms. Scott, a former Chair of the Michigan State Bar Junior Bar Conference, even ran for an officer position in the JBC, but lost. The ABA YLD also was the first entity within the ABA to create a women’s rights committee.
In 1978, Jane Barrett was the first woman ever elected to an ABA YLD office. She went on to be our first female Chair in 1980–1981. This was before women became officers of the ABA or even made it onto the ABA Board of Governors. In fact, Jane Barrett later became the first female to ever serve on the ABA Board of Governors when she was nominated by the ABA YLD to serve in one of the two Young Lawyer seats on the Board. Since the late 1970s, the ABA YLD has continued to support new opportunities for women within the ABA and has filled its seats on the Board of Governors, House of Delegates, and Nominating Committee with a significant number of women.
The ABA YLD also led the charge to create a more diverse ABA. In 1981, under the leadership of Jane Barrett, the ABA YLD sponsored the first minority conference held by the ABA, which included minority bar leaders from around the country. Because of this conference, and the ABA YLD’s other diversity activities, the ABA created its first minority task force. The ABA careers of hundreds, if not thousands, of attorneys of color serving in ABA leadership roles can be traced back to the ABA YLD, including the two African-Americans who have served as ABA President: Dennis Archer and Robert Grey. The ABA YLD also was the leader in changing ABA policy to prohibit the ABA’s use of facilities that discriminated based on race or gender, a policy that has subsequently been expanded to include other groups.
The ABA YLD also was ahead of the game when it came to ensuring opportunities within the ABA for attorney’s with disabilities, including appointing such attorneys to active leadership roles. In addition, the ABA YLD played an active role in ensuring that the ABA accommodated individuals with disabilities at its conferences.
The ABA YLD has also been instrumental in developing leaders for the profession, the ABA, and local and state bar associations. Our past leaders include individuals who went on to become U.S. Supreme Court Justices, such as Justice Lewis Powell, state court judges, governors, ambassadors, leaders of executive agencies, managing partners of some of the country’s largest law firms, and numerous other positions. In addition, of the ABA YLD’s former Council members, twelve, soon to be fourteen, have gone on to serve as ABA President, eight have served as Chair of the House of Delegates, seven have served as ABA Secretary, and three have served as Treasurer. In addition, six former ABA YLD Council members have been awarded the ABA Medal, the ABA’s highest honor. Numerous individuals active in the ABA YLD also have served as ABA officers and chaired ABA sections, divisions, commissions, committees, and task forces. Without their participation in the ABA YLD, many of these individuals would have likely never become involved in the ABA.
These are a few of the ABA YLD’s accomplishments, but the list goes on and on.
The Affiliate : What do you think is the next big step for the ABA YLD?
Ray : The ABA YLD will continue to expand its membership retention and development tools and will look for ways to continue its devotion to public service and assistance to local, state, and national young lawyer organizations during financially challenging times.
The Affiliate : How long have you been involved in the ABA YLD?
Ray : I attended my first ABA YLD conference in February 2001, which was the Midyear Meeting in San Diego. I was appointed to the Bar Leadership Team and was elected to serve as a District Representative beginning in August 2001. I have only missed one national conference since that time.
The Affiliate : Since then, what is your fondest ABA YLD memory?
Ray : It almost seems a crime to limit my fondest ABA YLD memory to one because I have been truly blessed with having so many wonderful memories with some of the best people on this planet. If pushed though, I would have to say the joint conference we hosted my year as Chair in Montreal with the Young Bar of Montreal. I worked a solid two-and-a-half years to build a relationship with the Young Bar of Montreal and when it was all said and done, they helped raise more money than I believe has ever been raised for an ABA YLD conference and we put it to great use in selecting our venues. We hosted a black tie event at the Chalet on top of Mont Royal, a historic building in a park overlooking the city, that included cirque performers and a great band.
I later learned that the City of Montreal passed a resolution shortly thereafter prohibiting similar events from being held at the Chalet, so it must have been a great event. In a lot of ways, that conference was the culmination of my year as Chair and many years of hard work and dedication to the Division. It was fun to go out in style, to finally be able to relax again, and to do so with some amazing friends within the ABA YLD, but also from Montreal and Europe. I attended another event in Montreal about two years later and happened to be eating on a patio overlooking the location where we held the Council Dinner and Welcome Reception. I kept looking over at that building and caught myself thinking, “I wish I could do that weekend again.”