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January 27, 2023

Empowering the Next Generation of ABA YLD Leaders

Charlyn Stanberry and Collins Saint, Authors | Darryl Wilson, Editor
Collins Saint

Collins Saint

Charlyn Stanberry

Charlyn Stanberry

For the last 28 years, the American Bar Association’s Young Lawyers Division has trained and developed the next generation of bar leaders through its Leadership Academy (formerly known as the “Scholars Program”), and this year is no different. During the Academy, participants from diverse and underrepresented backgrounds (“Scholars”), have been able to receive hands-on training and network with bar leaders to ensure success in their bar service and the legal profession. The goals of the Academy are simple: develop impactful new and young lawyer leaders; 2) invest in the advancement of individuals historically marginalized and underrepresented in the legal profession; 3) create meaningful appointments within the Association and the Division for Scholars who successfully complete their requirements; and 4) empower Scholars to navigate the Association and Division. 

The program has measurably advanced diversity, equity, and inclusion within the YLD and in the greater ABA in both overt and less visible ways. First, since its establishment, the Leadership Academy has impacted hundreds of young and new lawyers. To date, 428 young and new lawyers have been selected to serve as Scholars and have successfully completed the program. 

Under the leadership of 2022-2023 ABA YLD Chair Jo Bahn and ABA YLD Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Director, Collins Saint, the Academy has grown into a curriculum-based two-year leadership training program, in which Scholars are refining their skill set with a tailored set of requirements to guarantee their bar service growth and ascension in the leadership pipeline.

Each year, Second Year Scholars are placed on two YLD teams, boards, or committees and become intricately involved in the YLD. In addition, the following program components are also evidence of the tangible work being accomplished, and skills learned, by the Scholars:

  1. Conference Participation: Each Scholar is required to attend the Fall YLD conference, ABA Midyear Meeting, and Spring YLD Conference. At those conferences, they contribute to programs, attend and contribute to meetings (including the YLD Council Meeting) where they become ingrained in the fabric of the YLD, and develop organic relationships with Division and Association leaders through targeted networking events. 
  2. Assembly Participation: The YLD Assembly is the principal policy-making body of the YLD. During Assembly, resolutions are debated and voted on. Scholars serve as delegates during Assembly and hold voting privileges. Scholars are encouraged to get involved beyond the voting process, including submitting resolutions ideas for Assembly, debating resolutions, and assisting with the Assembly process. All Scholars contribute in meaningful ways at Assembly every year by being a member of the drafting team for resolutions and reports. In doing so, Scholars gain experience in the policy arm of the Division and advance important issues to the forefront of the YLD’s agenda.
  3. What Do Lawyers Do (WDLD)?: Scholars are required to organize and host local WDLD programs. This national program is aimed at providing information to students, especially those who come from historically marginalized and underrepresented backgrounds, regarding the path to and practice of law. Through asking Scholars to implement a WDLD locally, they are paying it forward and ensuring that individuals from traditionally marginalized groups have access to information and similarly situated legal professionals who can share about their experience and path to the practice of law. This serves the Division’s and Association’s goal of increasing diversity in the pipeline to the legal field while giving Scholars the opportunity and experience in developing programming for the YLD.
  4. EMBRACING Diversity Challenge: Scholars coordinate a submission to the YLD EMBRACING Diversity Challenge in conjunction with their local or state affiliate or a minority bar association. The Challenge provides grants for local, state, or minority bar associations who plan and implement diversity pipeline programs, again ensuring that legal professionals from underrepresented and marginalized populations are represented in the legal profession going forward. The YLD values its affiliates and hopes Scholars continue to grow in their leadership in the ABA and across its affiliated bar associations.
  5. Writing Opportunity: Scholars are required to draft and publish an article. The type of article is up to the Scholar. It could be in one of the YLD publications (for example, After the Bar blog or TYL magazine) or drafting a White Paper for the YLD’s Annual Diversity Dialogue Program. Through their work in drafting and publishing articles, the Scholars continue to raise awareness surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion within the profession and raise awareness of the work of the YLD in this diversity, equity, and inclusion space. 
  6. Mentorship Program: Each year, Scholars are assigned mentors from within the Association and Second Year Scholars are also assigned a First Year Scholar to mentor.
  7. Substantive Meetings: Scholars attend two virtual meetings a month where they meet ABA and YLD leaders to learn about their path to leadership as well as gain substantive leadership skills, such as balancing bar service with work obligations, celebrating and marketing your successes, finding a foothold in a broader ABA entity while still being a new lawyer, planning programs, engaging in the resolution process, and successfully networking at in-person conferences.

These components together advance diversity, equity, and inclusion within the profession and ensure continued representation among underrepresented    groups within the profession.

The Leadership Academy has also produced many leaders who have gone on to advance their service within the YLD and the broader Association. You will often hear the program proudly called, “the springboard to leadership.” In fact, numerous past scholars have gone on to serve in the highest capacities within the YLD. Including four past chairs, two past Speakers of the YLD Assembly, and many other officers, constitutional representatives, and senior leaders. Four of the five current YLD officers are alumni Scholars. 

For more information on the Academy and to meet the current scholars, please visit the YLD Leadership Academy page.

If you are interested or know someone who is interested in joining the ABA YLD leadership pipeline, 2023-2024 applications will be due in April 2023 and the application can be completed via the website.

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