The incoming Chair of the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (ABA YLD) is Chris Rogers, an attorney with Haynes and Boone, LLP in Dallas, Texas.
Chris will assume the role of ABA YLD Chair at the ABA Annual Meeting, which will take place from August 2–4, 2012 in Chicago, Illinois.
He brings to the position years of experience and leadership within the ABA YLD and with his local affiliates, the Texas Young Lawyers Association and the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers. The Affiliate recently had an opportunity to speak with Chris about his involvement with the ABA YLD and what he has planned for the upcoming year as Chair of the Division.
The Affiliate : How did you first become involved with the ABA YLD?
Chris Rogers : My involvement with the ABA YLD began after a Division leader from my state, Texas, invited me to the ABA YLD Spring Conference in Portland, Oregon, in 2006. My experience is just one example of something I have seen to be the case in every volunteer organization I’ve been a part of—that the best way to increase involvement in any group, board, or service project remains the personal invitation.
The Affiliate : What positions have you held in the ABA YLD?
Rogers : Over the years, I have served in several different parts of the ABA YLD, including the National Conferences Team (as a Team member and eventually as the National Conferences Coordinator), the Member Service Project, and on Council as the District Representative for the 14 affiliate organizations in District 26 North/West Texas. To my role as Chair, I also bring my experience on the boards of the Texas Young Lawyers Association and the Dallas Association of Young Lawyers—two very active affiliates from whom I have learned a lot about what it means to serve.
Although meeting ABA members from around the world on the National Conference Team (NCT) was always an educational experience, I learned the most during Council meetings, where I realized the impact we have on the public through our service and on our profession through the advocacy we perform on our members’ behalf.
The Affiliate : Why should a young lawyer become involved with the ABA YLD?
Rogers : There are so many reasons to get involved with the ABA YLD, or any professional organization. In particular, getting involved with the ABA YLD is an incomparable opportunity to
- become a better lawyer by accessing the best continuing legal education and professional development programs;
- develop your skills as a speaker, a writer, a manager, or a servant of the public or profession;
- make an impact on issues confronting our profession on a national level;
- build a nationwide or worldwide network to last a lifetime;
- connect with other young lawyer leaders around the country to share bar service “lessons learned” and improve all of our young lawyers associations; and
- develop a reputation as an expert on substantive legal issues through our committees and launch a career in an ABA section, division, or forum relevant to your practice.
The Affiliate : What will the public service project be during your term as ABA YLD Chair?
Rogers : Next year, it will be A Year of Service for the ABA YLD. We plan to depart from our usual, single public service project in hopes of better serving the public through our incredible affiliates. For our affiliates, there are two key developments to be on the lookout for.
Our Year of Service will have a headliner. In the summer and fall, we are premiering a new public service project, American Voter, which brings the Internet, video, and social media to bear to educate high-school seniors about the history of voting rights in our country and encourages them to exercise their right to vote.
Second, throughout the year we will feature successful national, state, and local projects through a new ABA YLD Affiliate Project Database, archiving many years of recent ABA YLD and affiliate public service projects. Featuring both ABA YLD projects and Award of Achievement-winning state and local affiliates’ projects, we hope this resource will inspire great public service from our affiliates for years to come.
The Affiliate : What will be the focus of your term as ABA YLD Chair?
Rogers : The ABA YLD will participate in A Year of Service benefitting each of our major constituencies—the public, the profession, our affiliates, and our wide-ranging and diverse individual members.
Increasing the quality and frequency of our members’ interaction with the greater ABA is a growing focus for the ABA YLD, as it is for many of our affiliates.
Next year we will renew our focus on the ABA through Section Connect, a program designed to identify and interact with other parts of the ABA for two reasons: (1) to bring excellent resources to and to connect with ABA YLD members and (2) to introduce those ABA YLD members to ABA groups in which they may be interested in joining or participating. In general, we have found that these partnerships offer excellent resources for our members and can lead those members to groups that deal with substantive legal topics or special interests of particular concern to them. The more of these connections we can make, the more our members will benefit.
We also intend to continue to focus on diversity in the legal profession—an issue that the ABA YLD and its affiliates have played a major role in emphasizing. The Next Steps Challenge received a tremendous response this year, and so next year, the ABA YLD will conduct the contest again. The Next Steps Challenge is a contest for young lawyer organizations to encourage diversity in the pipeline to the legal profession. By submitting a new or existing project targeted at increasing diversity in the pipeline to our profession, our affiliates can win the opportunity to feature their pipeline programs at the 2013 Spring Conference and receive a subgrant to support their future efforts in support of diversity.
The Affiliate : How has the economic downturn impacted the ABA YLD?
Rogers : The ABA YLD, just like our affiliates, has been significantly impacted by the financial crisis and continuing economic challenges. Budget concerns internally present even greater challenges considering the growing need for public service by lawyers, support for our affiliate organizations, and the need to provide professional development activities for our individual members who face a continuing, difficult job market.
Our affiliates face the same issues, which is why it continues to be important for the ABA YLD to support our affiliates’ public service and member service projects with ABA YLD subgrants. Through the Affiliate Project Database, we will continue to identify no-cost or low-cost public service projects that affiliates can borrow to provide valuable services to those most affected by the struggling economy. And to our individual members, our member service project will focus on those individuals in need of advice, counseling, or assistance in their search for a legal job that will fulfill their financial and professional goals.
The Affiliate : What are some of the challenges facing the ABA YLD?
Rogers : The ABA YLD, like its affiliates, faces a continuing struggle to maintain its relevance to young lawyers. Young lawyers increasingly use the Internet, specialty groups, and resources provided by their firms or organizations for professional development. In any city, a wide range of charitable and service organizations compete for young lawyers’ increasingly limited time. To be relevant to our members, the ABA YLD must continue to provide our members with the best opportunities for leadership, networking, professional development, and service to attract the best young lawyers who want to become better lawyers and serve others. We must also equip our affiliates with tools to do the same.
The Affiliate : What advice would you give to a current ABA YLD member who aspires to be ABA YLD Chair some day?
Rogers : I would encourage any member who aspires to chair the ABA YLD or plans to chair a state or local affiliate to set personal priorities. The run up to leadership is a busy time, and I find I must continually refocus on that primary motivation for getting involved in the first place—for me, to continue the tradition of young lawyers as servants of the public, their profession, and their communities.
In short—dream big, make plans early and often, and reshape them in light of the wonderful feedback you will receive from leaders in the ABA YLD and our affiliates. Once the plans are laid, focus on good works and the rest will flow from there.
The Affiliate : Who is your mentor and what advice has he or she given you that has helped you reach this position in life?
Rogers : My grandfather, who owned a shoe store in East Texas, gave me the advice I try to live by every day—treat every person you come across with respect and as a friend and try to find an opportunity to learn or to serve every day. It’s advice that has always served me well.
The Affiliate : How have past ABA YLD Chairs influenced you?
Rogers : Every ABA YLD Chair has brought some unique characteristic to the table that I will try to emulate—in some small measure—during my year as Chair. I may never be as hard-working as a Ray, as free-thinking as a Goldstein, as poised as an Acee, as spirited as a Clarke, as astute as a Wolfe, or as dedicated as a Bergmann. But with any luck, I hope I will earn my own adjective by the end of my term in August 2013.