Important Issues: Stay Relevant and Improve Communications
By Timothy R. White
Timothy R. White is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and practices in Austin, Texas.
You didn’t have to be a NASCAR fan to appreciate the sights and sounds of Charlotte, North Carolina, home to the ABA YLD’s 2007 Fall Conference. You did have to be in attendance, however, to get all of the inside information discussed at the Young Bar Leader Summit held in Charlotte on October 6 . . . that is, until now.
According to Affiliates Director Ryan Reed of Bowling Green, Kentucky, representatives from at least thirty-eight different states attended the Young Bar Leader Summit, which focused on hot issues currently facing local and state young lawyer organizations and the young lawyers that lead these groups. At the Summit, attendees expressed an interest in two themes common to all young lawyer organizations: the importance of keeping your affiliate “relevant” to its big bar counterpart and the best way to improve communication between various affiliates in a given state. Improving communication among a state’s young lawyer organizations will help to cultivate more effective young lawyer leaders and demonstrate the organizations’ value to their senior bars.
Although not every young lawyer leader from every young lawyer organization was able to attend the Summit, the programming made clear how important it is for affiliates to discuss these pressing issues with their members. This can be done in a variety of ways, including holding mini-affiliate summits, working with the ABA YLD’s Affiliate Assistance Team, and using the resources on the ABA YLD’s website and archives.
The benefit of increasing communication among a state’s young lawyers has proven to be indisputable and immediate. Some states have been practicing this idea of increased internal communication for years, while others are just realizing its importance. To promote such communication, several ABA YLD affiliates across the country have begun to hold their own summit-type events to discuss issues facing their young lawyer members.
Texas young lawyer organizations hold an annual meeting of local and state affiliates called the “Bar Leaders Conference,” which takes place in a manner similar to the ABA YLD’s Young Bar Leader Summit. The purpose of this two-day event is to bring together local young lawyer leaders to interact and learn about the various member and public service projects happening all over the state. Davis Chapman of Fort Worth, Texas, a director of the Texas Young Lawyers Association (TYLA) and co-chair of TYLA’s Local Affiliate Committee, described the conference as a great opportunity for all local young lawyer leaders to get together and “see what is going on at the state bar level.” This year’s Bar Leaders Conference was held in Houston, Texas, from July 27–28, 2007, and according to Chapman it was a huge success with “participation from all of the active TYLA affiliates.” Throughout the conference, Texas young lawyer affiliates discussed exciting new projects, such as “Wills for Heroes,” the TYLA “Cancer Guide,” and They Had a Dream Too, and how affiliates across the state could implement them.
The State Bar of Nevada Young Lawyers Section plans to use its upcoming Midyear Meeting to continue discussing the issues addressed at the ABA YLD Young Bar Leader Summit in Charlotte. According to Jasmine Mehta of Reno, Nevada, Chair of the Nevada YLS, one of the objectives of the meeting will be to “train current members of the bar leadership on how to be more effective.” Mehta also stated that the meeting will be an opportunity to “encourage young lawyers to become more involved in bar leadership,” which she is confident will continue to increase communication within the Nevada Young Lawyers Section.
Affiliate Assistance Team
While meeting with other local young lawyer leaders is a great way to foster communication and make your local bar organization more active, it is not the only way. The ABA YLD’s Affiliate Assistance Team is a group of ten experts dedicated to training young leaders and prepared to assist affiliates with any project. The Affiliate Assistance Team is the Division’s primary tool for providing direct assistance to ABA YLD affiliates and supplying local young lawyer affiliates with the tools they need to become thriving executive leaders. The Team offers affiliates everything from broad appeal assistance to one-on-one advice that is specifically tailored to individual affiliates and their particular needs. Affiliates can receive advice through e-mail, written materials, or phone consultations with Team members, who will provide training materials, program information, and other assistance about the ABA, the ABA YLD, and all aspects of running a successful young lawyer organization.
Jasmine Mehta of Nevada has already contacted the Affiliate Assistance Team to help with preparation for the Nevada Young Lawyers Section Midyear Meeting. The Affiliate Assistance Team responded with planning strategies as well as ideas about speakers and topics. Mehta said, “We are really excited about the breadth and depth of experience that the Team can provide.”
The ABA YLD also provides affiliates with several other resources that all young lawyers can easily access from anywhere around the country. In fact, an entire section of the ABA YLD’s website is devoted to topics relevant to its affiliated young lawyer organizations ( www.abanet.org/yld/affiliate.shtml). You will find links to information that is particularly useful for local and state young lawyer leaders, including public and member service projects, affiliate reimbursement forms, a leadership handbook, details regarding conference funding for affiliates, the ABA YLD’s Year At A Glance 2007–2008, online versions of The Affiliate newsletter, and importantly, materials from the Young Bar Leader Summit held in Charlotte.
The website also contains contact information and resources provided by the Affiliate Assistance Team, essentials about the various awards and subgrants available to ABA YLD affiliates and their members, descriptions of the YLD’s affiliates and representatives, links to ABA YLD affiliates’ websites across the nation, lists of affiliate-specific programming at upcoming meetings and conferences, a form to update your affiliate leaders’ contact information, and countless other helpful materials. All of these materials are a great way to keep in touch with fellow affiliates and to get ideas for new projects.
In addition, one of the goals of the Young Bar Leader Summit at the Fall Conference was to generate discussions in local young lawyer organizations. During the Summit, YLD affiliates shared many exciting suggestions on how best to achieve this goal. These suggestions were documented on Action Sheets, which Affiliates Director Ryan Reed expects to consolidate and make available in an online toolkit in the next few months. Make sure to check the ABA YLD Affiliates webpage regularly for updated materials.
No matter how your affiliate chooses to obtain information on communicating with your young lawyer members, the most important thing to remember is to take advantage of all resources available to you as an ABA YLD affiliate. As long as you continue to communicate with your fellow affiliates and use the ABA YLD, your young lawyer organization should consistently remain one step ahead.