- Bar association involvement pays dividends to your personal and professional development. Membership allows you to make valuable connections in the legal field, hone skill sets, and develop relationships.
As a young lawyer, you may ask, “Why should I spend my free time at a bar association?” The simple answer: it pays dividends to your personal and professional development. It allows you an avenue to develop a support system in the legal community. As a law student, I joined a local bar association in my city. I am a first-generation lawyer, and bar associations allowed me to make valuable connections in the legal field and to find opportunities to develop relationships. Below are five things you can gain by plugging into the American Bar Association or your local bar association.
The word “networking” can create anxiety-inducing images of entering a room full of strangers. However, networking is really about developing friendships and making new contacts. Networking is not just about making contacts for job opportunities but building relationships. Because we naturally share a commonality in our profession, we have an easy conversation starter. It is a way to learn about new practice areas and build a network that could lead to referrals in the future. The legal profession is better by having more viewpoints and perspectives, so we need your voice in the conversations. Building a circle of support is critical for our success.
We always need volunteers to help with programming or continuing legal education courses. It is a way to get your name out there and make valuable connections and mentors. It only takes stepping up to plan a lunch meeting, publication, or event. Bar associations have a variety of committees over a host of interests, including practice-specific, community service, or judicial clerks. There is a group in your area of interest where you can meet other lawyers who are in the same stage of practice or field as you. Finding those connections is critical as a new lawyer (even more so if you are a first-generation lawyer).
Bar Associations allow you to hone skill sets like organization, publication, and public speaking. Investing your time in planning programs allows you to showcase your skills to your peers, colleagues, and employers. Organizing events that will benefit your legal career is a valuable skill. Other people see your work in these activities, and you never know who will attend your program or read your article.
The legal profession is one in which we help people through legal problems in stressful times. As lawyers, we have a duty to provide pro bono services to assist with access to justice. It is a privilege to be an attorney, and understanding the legal system is one that we should not take lightly. The American Bar Association and your local bar association remind us that we are not alone and have a community of supporters surrounding us. Take the opportunity to participate and add to the community; it will make inroads in your legal career.
As a first-generation lawyer, bar association involvement has been critical for my career. I urge those interested in pursuing bar leadership to reach out to your current bar leaders for the Young Lawyers Division (YLD) or section. After my swearing-in to join the Georgia bar, I began attending events with the YLD of the State Bar of Georgia. One of the first events I attended was a luncheon with the then-YLD president. She shared that it only took a simple invitation from a YLD member to get her started in the organization, leading to her ultimate officer role. That luncheon sparked the idea for me. My journey for bar leadership began with the question, “Why not me?” On my path to bar leadership, I had people in my circle suggesting that I seek an officer role and telling me about the qualities they saw in me. Sometimes we need that support to push us to step out of our comfort zones.
Bar association participation and leadership really are for all of us because we are investing in our legal community and committed to improving the legal profession. A leadership role offers a platform to make new connections, get recognition around your state or even the country, and better the legal profession. Bar organizations always need articles for monthly newsletters or blogs, which allows you to share your expertise and tips. Speaking on panels is a way to develop your personal brand while gaining credibility and exposure in the legal community. Even if you are not interested in serving as an officer of your organization, you can always get involved on individual committees or subgroups. Getting started is as easy as showing up to an event and expressing your interest.