Volume 20, Number 6
September 2003

Return to table of contents


A Tribute to Young Lawyers, Students, and Grandma Hageman's Meatloaf Sandwiches

By Patrick G. Goetzinger

What in blazes does meatloaf-let alone Grandma Hageman's meatloaf sandwiches-have to do with young lawyers and law students? Nothing. And everything. Subject to your tolerance quotient in reading this, my last column as special issue editor of the Best of ABA Sections, you will judge whether meatloaf is nothing or everything.

Staying in touch with the attitudes and trends of young lawyers and law students is a primary theme of the General Practice, Solo and Small Firm Section (GPSSFS) and the Young Lawyers Division (YLD). Recent arrivals to the profession are coveted as new members by all Sections within the ABA. The competition for their affection is intense-for good reason.

Young lawyers and law students are a powerful group. Although they represent the future of the profession, at present they are an active membership pool, volunteering thousands of hours to advance projects and causes that would otherwise wither on the idea vine. To vendors, they represent millions in consumer dollars because their professional brand loyalties and product preferences will be formed during their years as young lawyers and law students. Yes, indeed, it is a very good time to be a young lawyer or law student.

Offsetting the power young lawyers and law students hold as a group, the individual pressures of balancing work with family, building a practice, and becoming an effective lawyer present unique challenges. The YLD and GPSSFS specifically have made a conscious, concerted effort to meet the individual challenges facing young lawyers as they begin their journey in the profession.

Evidence of GPSSFS success in meeting these needs is the unprecedented growth in Section membership. The GPSSFS is among the fastest-growing sections in the ABA by percentage. This membership explosion is fueled by young lawyers and law students. The reason for our growth is not elusive. Young lawyers and law students have discovered what seasoned members already know-our Section meets more of their personal and professional needs than any other section. This is not an accident but a well-planned implementation of a curriculum that is appealing to both young and seasoned lawyers.

The tangible benefits of membership are evident in every publication, product, program, and project offered by GPSSFS. The intangible benefits from service to the profession by participation within the Section offer young lawyers career-enhancing leadership opportunities. Young lawyers with energy easily distinguish themselves by becoming active within the GPSSFS committee structure.

As a 1988 graduate of the University of South Dakota (USD) School of Law, I am no longer regarded as a young lawyer. They say I have "aged out," a brutal way to label an event controlled by an arbitrary number set with no regard to spirit or attitude. I do concede that it is a more polite standard than "worn out" or "rusted out."

Though I may have aged out, I get an annual shot of youthful exuberance by participating in the fall ritual of intern and associate interviews at USD. The interview process and attendant social events expose us alumni to refreshing perspectives and personalities.

A grand tradition that began shortly after my senior partner Cris Palmer and I began our sojourns to USD for interviews was the annual feast of Grandma Hageman's meatloaf sandwiches with Professor John Hageman. Cris and I both had John as a professor. And the good professor also taught the students we interviewed. However, contrary to the speculation of students who see us gather in John's office for sandwiches, we talk about everything but law students-except to pay tribute to them for giving us the opportunity to enjoy good conversation and Grandma Hageman's meatloaf sandwiches. John's tradition has come to symbolize all that is good about reconnecting with the contagious enthusiasm of law students and young lawyers.

Grandma Hageman's meatloaf sandwiches are the best evidence that meatloaf is gourmet when served the next day. And the Best of ABA Sections is the best evidence that the best articles appearing in ABA publications should be collected, digested, and republished. To the board that selects the best articles and a great staff that digests the articles, I give my heartfelt thanks. To the readers of this magazine, I give more great articles to peruse in this issue. The red pen and assignment grid have been transitioned to my successor, Laura Embleton, and a new board of editors who, along with a very talented staff of digesters and editors in the ABA, will continue the simple formula that makes the Best of ABA Sections so effective and easy to use.

To young lawyers and students, welcome to GPSSFS. We look forward to the enthusiasm you bring to Section activities. To all, farewell, for now, and pass the mustard.

Back to Top