Making the Case for Getting Involved in the American Bar Association and the Young Lawyers Division

Vol. 17 No. 3


Christopher A. Rogers is an associate with Haynes & Boone, LLP, in Dallas, TX. Mr. Rogers is the chair of the ABA Young Lawyers Division.


Learning to practice law in the age of constant Internet connectivity and social networking can be an oddly isolating experience. Whether hanging a shingle, joining a large firm, or clerking, new lawyers are expected to train themselves in the practice of law and build a network of professional contacts in relative seclusion.

Technology can solve some of these challenges, but online professional development programs and social networking are poor substitutes for experiences that prior generations gained at courthouses, bar associations, and regional or national conferences.

Despite increasing reliance on technology, some experiences are only available offline:

  • Real interactions leading to mentorship.
  • Genuine, long-term relationships that could become future business opportunities.
  • Leadership experience heading a large team or organization.

These types of experiences are not easy to find on a website, in a chat room, or on a social network. For this reason, for forward-looking new lawyers, bar associations still play a critical role. Building a legal practice requires time, effort, and persistence in developing a reputation as a strong leader, a legal expert, and a member of the legal profession. The bar association offers an ideal forum in which young lawyers can pursue those objectives.


What can you do to start improving your skills and reputation as a lawyer? There are countless ways to get involved in the American Bar Association Young Lawyer Division (ABA YLD).

Do you want to publish on legal topics or on practice-of-law issues and increase your reputation as a legal commentator? Volunteer to write for an ABA YLD committee or to write for The Young Lawyer or The Affiliate.

Are you looking to develop substantive expertise in a particular field or knowledge about a particular practice setting (e.g., government/military, solo, small firm, etc)? Consider ABA YLD committee leadership or an ABA YLD liaison role to another ABA section.

Are you active in bar and community service in your state or local community? Develop your bar leadership skills at an ABA YLD national conference featuring bar leadership training. Or join the Affiliate Assistance Team or ABA YLD Council as a District Representative.

Are you interested in policy debates, examining how the ethics rules should accommodate today’s fast-paced and increasingly mobile legal workforce, or how law schools should be structured or marketed to students in today’s economy? Serve as a delegate in the ABA YLD Assembly and/or the ABA House of Delegates.


There are many different ways to get involved.


  • Sign up for an ABA YLD Committee (free for ABA members), contact the committee chair(s), and offer to speak during a teleconference or write an article for the newsletter or website.
  • Contact the editorial board of The Young Lawyer or The Affiliate and volunteer to write an article or submit topic ideas for consideration.
  • Attend an ABA YLD conference, find a team or board doing work in which you are interested, and volunteer to help with their initiatives.
  • Apply The ABA YLD makes more than 300 appointments every year for the teams, boards, committees, and other groups described above. Applications will be available on beginning December 1, 2012.
  • The ABA President also makes hundreds of appointments each year. Information will be available on on December 1, 2012.
  • Many ABA Sections, Divisions, and Forums offer leadership programs, fellowships, or other opportunities for young lawyers, with application deadlines falling throughout the year. Information about those programs is compiled in the ABA YLD’s Young Lawyers Roadmap, available at



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