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January 17, 2013 Articles

You've Got Our Attention; Now Give Us Your Ideas

Today's young lawyers are tomorrow's leaders, and we need to hear more of their great ideas.

By William R. Bay

One of my proudest moments at the ABA Section of Litigation’s Fall Leadership Meeting in St. Louis in September was looking out into the crowd and seeing so many new faces. In planning this event, we made an extra effort to include more committee leaders, many of them talented young attorneys from around the country. I did this for one major reason: Young attorneys have great ideas, and we need to hear more from them.

These leaders are ambitious, energetic, and connected across the country via social media. At our all-day leadership workshop, they huddled at tables and brainstormed new ideas for leadership, which we live-blogged and projected onto four large screens. The ideas sprang from every corner. Longtime bar leaders described it as an innovative and energizing leadership workshop. And, I give the credit to the young attorneys who stepped up, collaborated, and let their ideas be heard.

The two distinguished subjects of this month’s newsletter share my enthusiastic appreciation for tomorrow’s leaders. Paulette Brown is a labor and employment partner at Edwards Wildman Palmer LLP in New Jersey, and she serves as the firm’s Chief Diversity Officer. Paulette moderated a panel at our Fall Leadership Meeting on “Leadership Lessons from the Civil Rights Movement.” In her interview with Young Advocate Committee (YAC) member Rachel DuFault, Paulette talks about her participation in the fight for civil rights. She also urges young lawyers to take up the mantle of leadership and use their boldness to help those in need and push change into our society.

YAC member Tiffany Colbert’s article on my colleague Don Bivens, the chair-elect of the Section of Litigation, also focuses on young leaders. Don urges young lawyers to extend respect and fairness to everyone around them. He rightly points out that showing respect inspires loyalty in others; that is how leaders are born.

Listening to Paulette lead the lively panel discussion on civil rights at the Fall Leadership Meeting, I was struck by a comment from Ted Shaw, a professor at Columbia Law School and a former president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. The panel had just discussed the “giants” from our civil rights history—people we read about in the history books. But, he stressed the fact that they were ordinary people who did the right thing under extraordinary circumstances. And, he reminded us that today’s young lawyer leaders can be just as inspiring and great as that generation. That’s a call to all of us, but especially a new generation of young lawyers. Now it’s up to you. Join a new committee. Take on a pro bono case. Support the legal services organizations in your community. You have so many great ideas that can benefit us all. All you need to do is stand up and let them be heard.

William R. Bay is chair of the ABA Section of Litigation. He is a partner at Thompson Coburn LLP in St. Louis.