Seizing the Opportunity to Advance Justice

The Duty of a Young Lawyer

Tamara P. Nash
While our profession is diverse and comprised of many differing perspectives, the common thread that connects us all is the duty to pursue justice.

While our profession is diverse and comprised of many differing perspectives, the common thread that connects us all is the duty to pursue justice.

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In response to tragedies, including the murders of George Floyd, Ahmaud Arbery, Rayshard Brooks, and Breonna Taylor, Americans have experienced unprecedented civil unrest. These events lay bare the nation’s shortcomings, while the response reminds us of the promise of a better America. The conversation is fueled by the demand to acknowledge and end systemic racism, eliminate police brutality, and elevate anti-racism and allyship. Now, more than ever, Americans are standing in a shared commitment for justice, equity, and inclusion.

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As both public citizens and officers of the court, lawyers carry a unique and critical responsibility to ensure justice and fairness for all. The ABA Model Rules of Professional Conduct highlight this dual duty. As public citizens, lawyers are charged to “seek improvement of the law, access to the legal system, the administration of justice, and the quality of service rendered by the legal profession.” Further, as members of the profession, lawyers are charged to “further the public’s understanding of and confidence in the rule of law and the justice system because legal institutions in a constitutional democracy depend on popular participation and support to maintain their authority.”

The American Bar Association (ABA) and its Young Lawyers Division (YLD) are the national representative of the profession and young lawyers, respectively. Each pledged to lead our profession in the fulfillment of critical duties and obligation to pursue justice for all. The YLD has sharpened its focus to lend its voice and create resources to support members, leaders, and staff. In July, the YLD launched a five-part programmatic series entitled, “Redefining Justice: A Path Forward.” The series kicked-off with a candid fireside chat, “Liberty and Justice . . . for All? Confronting Systemic Racism and Addressing Civil Unrest—A Call to Action for Young Lawyers.” The inaugural program featured thought leaders Lonita Baker and Robert Grey Jr. They challenged young lawyers across the nation to find their authentic voice, mobilize, and take action.

The July program was an introduction to a long conversation in which the YLD and this Association, as leaders in our profession, must continue to engage. To that end, YLD leaders have collaborated across the Division to implement critical programming, which will extend into the 2020–2021 bar year. These programs include:

Further, the YLD continues to champion the Men of Color Project, a critical resource for men of color during law school and the pivotal first years of practice. Past Chair Tommy Preston (2018–2019) designed the initiative to empower men of color to become leaders in the legal profession, establish an intergenerational support system, and encourage opportunities for community service and civic engagement. Now, if not more than ever, the Men of Color Project proves to be an invaluable component of the YLD’s efforts.

The YLD’s efforts and programming in this sphere will inevitably demand development, humility, an attitude of learning, and a willingness for growth. However, we are committed to putting in the work. These efforts demonstrate the YLD’s effort to put action to words and collectively advocate for our members, leaders, and communities.

We invite you to join the YLD in this critical work. Collectively, we can lift the communities we serve, lend our voices to the marginalized, and bring together those devoted to achieving equal justice under the law.

While lawyers play a “vital role in the preservation of society,” young lawyers have the opportunity to fulfill this role uniquely. We are the future of the profession and the communities we serve. As such, we can build a bridge between historical institutions and meaningful reform.

Seize this opportunity to educate yourself, get plugged in, and get engaged. While our profession is diverse and comprised of many differing perspectives, the common thread that connects us all is the duty to pursue justice.

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Tamara P. Nash is the 2020–2021 administrative director for the American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division.