Confused, Concerned, or Just Curious? Ask an Experienced Lawyer

Vol. 39 No. 3

By

Andrew J. Hoag is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and an Associate in the Los Angeles office of Fisher & Phillips LLP.

Oscar Wilde once famously quipped: “Experience is one thing you can’t get for nothing.” Aside from the double negative, the ABA YLD is set to challenge the veracity of Wilde’s aphorism. Aiming to assist young lawyers navigate the many minefields of the tumultuous legal profession, the ABA YLD is preparing to launch a new member service project: “Ask an Experienced Lawyer.”

ABA YLD Member Service Projects

Each year the ABA YLD launches a member service project to aid in the professional development of young lawyers. This bar year, the ABA YLD will launch a number of member service projects, including “Ask an Experienced Lawyer” and “Starting Points.” More information on the latter program will be featured in an upcoming issue of The Affiliate.

Member service projects are implemented by an appointed Member Service Project Team, consisting of a coordinator, three vice-coordinators, and six team members. Member Service Team Coordinator Michael DePetrillo, Business & Commercial Litigation Associate at Jones Walker in New Orleans, Louisiana, heads up this year’s Member Service Project Team and Tyronia (“Ty”) M. Smith, managing partner at Chester Jennings & Smith in Atlanta, Georgia, is tasked with spearheading implementation of the “Ask an Experienced Lawyer” project.

The project is designed to develop a one-on-one program in which young attorneys can reach out to experienced lawyers for advice on advocacy, career challenges, or questions on substantive legal issues. Through the project, ABA YLD members will have the opportunity to pose practice-related questions to experienced lawyers considered subject-matter experts in given substantive areas of law.

According to ABA YLD Chair Mario Sullivan: “The goal of this program is to establish a resource directory of experienced lawyers in every state and from a broad spectrum of practice areas who are willing to provide one-time advice to a young lawyer in need of some assistance.”

Differentiating itself from traditional mentorship programs, the “Ask an Experienced Lawyer” project affords young lawyers the opportunity to seek advice outside of the organizations in which they work. The project has the unique advantage of offering valuable assistance without ongoing or long-term commitment. Without having to sign up for monthly lunches or even step outside of the office, interested ABA YLD members will be able to quickly pose questions to experienced lawyers.

Two-Step Implementation

The project has a two-step implementation process. In the first phase, members of the Member Service Team sent out surveys to the ABA’s divisions, forums, and sections soliciting “experienced lawyers” interested in volunteering for the project. The interested lawyers comprise the databank of the “experienced lawyers” of whom ABA YLD members will soon be able to ask questions. The names and contact information of the experienced lawyers are being organized by area of practice, geographic location, and by other attributes so that interested young lawyers can easily locate experienced lawyers who will be competent to respond to questions on specific topics. Ensuring a vibrant database of experienced lawyers, the Member Services Team will promote the project via the ABA’s divisions, forums, and sections, encouraging experienced lawyers to sign up for the project.

Logistical organization of the database and the numerous experienced lawyers who have volunteered for the program is currently underway. While the logistics of organization are still being worked out, one thing is clear, the willingness of ABA members to serve as “experienced lawyers” foreshadows a successful project. According to DePetrillo, the response from experienced lawyers has been substantial.

The second phase of the project is the formal roll out of the project when young lawyers interested in asking an experienced lawyer a question (or two or three) will be able to access the database and select from hundreds of experienced lawyers.

Project Rollout

Accessing the program will be as simple as logging into the ABA’s website and browsing the directory of practice-area experts. For those attending the ABA Midyear Meeting in Chicago, February 5–11, 2014, expect to see project promotions and materials. The project also will be promoted through the ABA YLD’s social media efforts, including Facebook and Twitter.

While membership in a given state’s bar is a prerequisite to practicing law in a given state, membership in the ABA is voluntary. Young lawyers looking to make the most of their voluntary membership have many options to get involved. The “Ask an Experienced Lawyer” project is another way for members to take advantage of the association. And it may just be one way to garner experience, perhaps not for nothing, but included in the cost of ABA membership.

For more information about the project, visit the “Ask an Experienced Lawyer” website.

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