ABA YLD’s Public Service Projects—Where Are They Now?
By Timothy R. White
Timothy R. White is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and practices in Austin, Texas.
Each year, the Chair of the ABA Young Lawyers Division (ABA YLD) selects a public service project to implement throughout his or her bar year. The goal behind the project is to engage young lawyers in community service through a coordinated nationwide effort and provide them with the tools to eventually perform similar services with their local affiliate organizations. Recent bar years have featured immensely popular projects that continue to grow and reach new communities even after their sponsoring Chair has concluded his or her bar year.
Wills for Heroes
In August 2007, the ABA YLD kicked off its 2007–2008 Public Service Project, “Wills for Heroes,” at the Annual Meeting in San Francisco. “Wills for Heroes” was created in the wake of September 11 to address a growing need for free, basic estate planning services for emergency first responders. The success of the program depends largely on the collaboration between state and local bar organizations and the contribution of volunteer attorney time. In turn, the program allows attorneys to apply their legal skills and give back to their communities.
The Wills for Heroes Foundation initially developed the program in three states: Arizona, South Carolina, and Virginia. Through the support of lawyers across the country, however, “Wills for Heroes” is now established in twenty-two states and the District of Columbia. According to ABA YLD Chair Justin Goldstein, “Streamlining the implementation process and providing publicity and support for the program” contributed to the rapid growth of the project.
Indeed, the ABA YLD began its partnership with the Wills for Heroes Foundation almost a year ago, and requests for implementation of the program continue to come in—even from as far away as Australia. The media coverage in response to “Wills for Heroes” has likewise increased through local television stations, newspapers, and blogs. A comprehensive list of the Foundation’s coverage can be found at www.abanet.org/yld/wills .
Although research shows that more than half of all first responders still do not have estate plans, the ABA YLD, through the support of its affiliates and local implementations, is gradually reducing this number. Statistics from the ABA YLD’s 2007–2008 bar year are indications of the program’s demonstrated success:
  • In August 2007, the ABA YLD and the State Bar of California, partnered to provide thirty-nine estate plans to first responders in San Francisco at the ABA YLD Annual Meeting.
  • In October 2007, the ABA YLD and the North Carolina Bar Association partnered to provide 202 estate plans to first responders at the ABA YLD’s Fall Conference.
  • In February 2008, the ABA YLD and the Beverly Hills Bar Association partnered to provide more than sixty estate plans to first responders.
  • In April 2008, the ABA YLD partnered with the Maryland State Bar Association YLS and the Virginia Bar Association YLD to provide over fifty estate plans to the Washington Park Police.
  • In May 2008, the Utah State Bar implemented “Wills for Heroes” at its State Bar Conference. More than 200 appointments were scheduled.
And, our efforts are not finished yet. In August 2008, the ABA YLD will partner with the bar associations of New York, New Jersey, Connecticut, and Pennsylvania to host a “Wills for Heroes” event for emergency first responders in New York City. Details are being finalized, but check the ABA YLD Annual Meeting homepage at www.abanet.org/yld/annual08 for updates and information about volunteering. In addition, the ABA YLD continues to “encourage our network of affiliated state, local, and specialty young lawyer groups to implement the program in their areas,” Goldstein says.
“Wills for Heroes” volunteers are always needed. Many states have already implemented the program, so it’s easy to avail yourself of the resources within your affiliate’s local geographic area. Even if the program hasn’t been implemented in your state or area, however, the ABA YLD offers the tools for you to get started. For more details, visit www.abanet.org/yld/wills/home.html .
We can’t protect first responders from the perils of their everyday jobs, but by volunteering through “Wills for Heroes,” we can all help protect the families of these brave men and women.
Choose Law
Of course if you’re reading this, you’ve already chosen law. But many haven’t made that choice and those people are the focus of Choose Law: A Profession for All .
The brainchild of former ABA YLD Chair Jay Ray and his team, Choose Law was developed and implemented during the 2005–2006 bar year. According to Keathan Frink, ABA YLD 2007–2008 Minorities in the Profession Committee Chair, “Through the program, students learn about the importance of the legal profession and how the law affects all aspects of their lives . . . the project also teaches students that minority attorneys have played a crucial role in the development of this honored profession.”
Choose Law is supported entirely by attorney volunteers across the country, and these attorney volunteers are able to rely on the vast resources available on the ABA YLD’s website to implement the program in schools nationwide. The tools available on the website include a video, a written guide, information on diversity in the legal profession, testimonials from individuals of color who have succeeded as attorneys, and history and little-known facts about well-known legal figures from minority backgrounds. Visit the Choose Law website at www.abanet.org/yld/chooselaw/home.shtml .
In addition, Choose Law has been implemented on a large scale at ABA meetings and conferences and on a smaller scale through local affiliates. “Attorney volunteers from the Young Lawyers Division of the American Bar Association have held the program in various major cities including Baltimore, Chicago and Miami,” Frink explains.
Although the program may be implemented at large conferences, it is through the hard work of state bar associations and local affiliates that keeps the program successful. For example, Frink notes that the efficacy and impact of the program can also be seen in smaller cities like Memphis, Tennessee. The implementation of Choose Law in Memphis has inspired young students to think about their futures in a new way and concentrate on how best to navigate the road to becoming a lawyer. To read more about the Memphis Choose Law program, visit www.bizjournals.com/memphis/stories/2007/12/10/focus4.html.
Although Choose Law first began three years ago, it is still inspiring future young lawyers. According to Frink, “Most recently, the Minorities in the Profession Committee of the ABA YLD implemented the Choose Law program at Dorsey High School during the Midyear Meeting in Los Angeles, California.” The program was a huge success and established a strong professional foundation for students at the high school.
Choose Law