ABA YLD Scholarship Program Cultivates ABA YLD Leaders

Vol. 39 No. 3

By

Raul Chacon, Jr., is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate , a 2013 ABA YLD Scholar, and an Associate with the Greenwood Village, Colorado, firm of Burns, Figa & Will, P.C.

As the TSA agent waved his hand to keep the line moving, I made my way through airport security, grabbed my briefcase, and found my way to my gate at Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport. I was on my way home to Denver, happy to return to my job and family, but I could not help but feel sad that the 2013 ABA YLD Fall Conference was over. I shuffled through the handful of business cards I had collected and scrolled through the new connections I had made on my LinkedIn account. I never imagined that my time at the Fall Conference would be so productive, that I would meet so many new people, or that I would feel so welcomed. I had been to conferences before, but I always felt that I was operating as a free agent. This time was different—I was an ABA YLD Scholar.

Participation

The ABA YLD Scholarship Program encourages the participation of minority, solo/small firm, government, public sector, and military attorneys in the ABA Young Lawyers Division. According to ABA YLD Diversity Director Kenya Jenkins-Wright, “The reason we have the Scholarship Program is to get people involved who might not otherwise be involved in the ABA YLD. We knew we were missing out on top-quality people that we wanted to be a part of the Division.”

For many young lawyers, active involvement in the ABA YLD can be intimidating, which is why the Scholarship Program is designed to provide a structured introduction to the Division and foster continued participation. Scholars receive partial funding to attend the Division’s Fall and Spring Conferences and the ABA Midyear Meeting. Apart from providing financial assistance, the Scholarship Program encourages active participation by appointing Scholars to one of the ABA YLD boards or teams and requires Scholars to assist on projects assigned throughout the bar year.

Meaningful Experience

From the outset, the Scholarship Program builds a sense of community among Scholars, and the ABA YLD takes active steps to integrate Scholars into leadership positions within the Division. At the beginning of the Fall Conference, the Scholars’ first activity is to meet face-to-face with other Scholars, as well as with ABA YLD leadership. The Division hosts a dinner for the Scholars, at which the Scholars are encouraged to get to know each other.

Camaraderie among Scholars is designed to help foster a productive and meaningful conference experience. Jenkins-Wright points out, “If you were to come to a conference on your own, you would have to reach out to people and hope that they would connect. We set up the Scholars Program in a way that encourages friendship among the Scholars.”

“It’s like a class,” ABA YLD Program Associate Renee Lugo added, “so you are not just thrown into it all by yourself.”

Network and Leadership

The support structure provided to the Scholars encourages participants to network with other members of the ABA YLD and the ABA. For instance, the ABA YLD 2013 Fall Conference in Phoenix was a joint conference with the ABA Law Practice Division and featured several opportunities for members of the two Divisions to network and socialize. During joint activities, Scholars networked with senior lawyers outside the ABA YLD. As Lugo noted, “The Scholars Program is really a great opportunity to meet people, network, and see what the ABA and YLD have to offer.”

The institutional support given to Scholars also creates a path to leadership positions within the ABA YLD. “One of our primary goals is to expose Scholars to the ABA YLD and all its components and to help Scholars find out where they believe they fit in best, and apply for leadership positions,” says Jenkins-Wright. Indeed, past Scholars have gone on to fill notable leadership positions in the ABA YLD. Lugo estimates that historically, about one-half of the Scholars continue to actively participate in the ABA YLD, and of those, many accept appointments to leadership positions. For instance, current ABA YLD Secretary-Treasurer Lacy Durham was a Scholar.

Selection and Application Process

The selection process for the Scholarship Program is competitive and typically the selection committee considers 60 to 70 well-qualified applicants. Although the selection process is confidential, Jenkins-Wright notes, “One of the goals of the Selection Committee is to look at all the applicants and determine which applicants can bring the most to the ABA YLD.” Sixteen individuals are ultimately selected as Scholars. Of those, 10 are selected as Minorities in the Profession, three are selected as General Practice, Solo & Small Firm Practitioners, and three are selected as Government, Military and Public Sector Lawyers. Because not all well-qualified applicants can be selected, individuals who apply and are not selected are still encouraged to apply again or seek leadership appointments in the ABA YLD.

The application process for the 2014–2015 Scholarship Program opens on February1, 2014. For more information about the scholarship program, click here. The 2013–2014 Scholar profiles can be found by clicking here, and be sure to introduce yourself if you run into a Scholar at the Midyear Meeting on February 6–8, or during any other ABA YLD function.

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