From a Scholar’s Point of View: ABA YLD Spring Conference, New Orleans, Louisiana
By Maha Jweied
Maha Jweied is a 2008–2009 ABA YLD Scholar and a civil rights attorney with the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights in Potomac, Maryland.
Although I have been practicing law for over five years, my active involvement in the ABA at large, and the ABA Young Lawyers Division (ABA YLD) in particular, did not start until I received a Government, Public Sector, and Military Scholarship this year. As a federal employee at a small agency, my office is unable to provide me with funds to travel to ABA YLD meetings during the year. The three meetings I attended this year have enabled me to meet very interesting lawyers from all over the country and attend great educational panels (many with CLE credit!).
In addition to both of these benefits, I have also had the opportunity to help this year’s Public Service Project Team with the Voices Against Violence public service project. This project aspires to bring together young lawyers from around the country to help end domestic violence. During each of the three conferences this year, the project team organized a roundtable discussion with local domestic violence practitioners. I had the privilege of attending these roundtables at the Boston and New Orleans conferences, which enabled me to compare each cities’ approach to combating domestic violence. Although differences certainly exist between these two communities, it was quickly apparent how much remains the same—especially as it relates to funding issues and the desperate need for local attorneys willing to take on domestic violence cases to help protect women, men, and children from their batterers.
Attending these roundtables it became clear that the ABA Young Lawyers Division can provide much assistance to the domestic violence community on the national scene. As most young lawyers know, pro bono work can be very fulfilling. But it can also provide experience not usually available to junior attorneys. Participants at both the Boston and New Orleans domestic violence roundtables indicated that they could provide free and comprehensive training to young lawyers willing to take on representation of domestic violence victims. With such training and a true desire to help domestic violence victims, young lawyers can gain invaluable trial court experience at a stage in their careers when such experience is not necessarily available to them from their employers. Moreover, with the unfortunate realities of the legal market these days, with associate layoffs and delayed start dates for graduating law students, young lawyers can fill “holes” in their resumes with fellowships at domestic violence organizations. Although these fellowships are typically unpaid, organizations providing such opportunities are ready and eager to accept lawyers willing to help with their case loads. Moreover, in many instances, such unpaid opportunities can qualify as acceptable reasons to defer student loan payments until permanent employment can be found.
The New Orleans conference helped me to better understand the full extent of what the Young Lawyers Division can offer young lawyers and the community-at-large by fulfilling basic legal needs. Although New Orleans is undoubtedly a fun city to visit, by choosing to meet in this city, young lawyers were able to partner with domestic violence practitioners from across the state to explore ways to combat domestic violence. It was my involvement with the public service project this year that led me to seek an appointment to next year’s public service project team and continue my involvement in the Young Lawyers Division’s efforts to help the greater community.
By Ireneo A. Reus III
Ireneo A. Reus III is a 2008–2009 ABA YLD Scholar and is principal in The Law Offices of Ireneo A. Reus III in Long Beach, California.
My experiences at the ABA YLD Spring Conference in New Orleans from May 14–16, 2009, strengthened my commitment to be involved in the ABA YLD throughout my career, or at least until I am “aged out” on my thirty-sixth birthday. As an ABA YLD General Practice Solo Small Firm Division Scholar for 2008–2009, I had the opportunity to attend previous ABA YLD meetings in San Diego, California (ABA YLD Fall Conference in October 2008), and Boston, Massachusetts (ABA YLD Midyear Meeting in February 2009). At every ABA YLD meeting for the 2008–2009 bar year, I had the privilege to get to know and learn from amazing attorneys throughout the country about leadership, professional development, and networking skills, opportunities for involvement in the ABA YLD public service and member service projects, and substantive legal matters via outstanding ABA YLD programs, social events, and continuing legal education (CLE) seminars.
I learned a great deal from the CLE, professional development, and bar leadership programming in New Orleans. First, the CLE on “Domestic Violence in the Workplace” was one of the best CLEs that I have attended. All of the presenters were on-point with legal insights about employment law and how domestic violence can affect everyone in the workplace. I appreciated how this CLE also fit in with the ABA YLD’s “Voices Against Violence” public service project for 2008–2009.
Second, as an attorney who practices employment law, I also enjoyed the timely CLE on “Social Networking in the Workplace,” which discussed how websites such as Facebook and MySpace can trigger a host of legal issues for employers and employees.
Third, the CLE on “Strategies for Effective Oral Communication: Making Your Best Case to the Jury, Your Client, Your Boss and Your Audience” also provided practical insights on how all of us can prepare to speak to various audiences in a variety of settings. The CLE was presented by Christina Plum, a former ABA YLD Chair, who I will always remember for delivering a phenomenal performance in the “Fellows Debate” at the Boston Midyear Meeting earlier this year.
Finally, the program on “Mentoring Programs from Across the Country” was enlightening because I learned about effective mentoring programs from cities such as San Antonio, Philadelphia, Sioux Falls, and Salt Lake City. This program was very relevant for me because I have always been committed to mentoring college students, law students, and attorneys back home in Southern California. This also prepared me to serve on the ABA YLD Member Service Project Team, one of the ABA YLD positions that I will assume for the 2009–2010 bar year. Under the leadership of Kelly-Ann Clarke and Chris Rogers, the Member Service Project Team will focus on the theme of “making lasting connections, personally and professionally” in which mentoring can play a significant role.
In conclusion, the New Orleans meeting reaffirmed what an outstanding experience an ABA YLD meeting can be, on many levels. I will always remember having our own ABA YLD parade in the French Quarter. I could name a host of other ABA YLD members and staff who have inspired me to contribute and stay involved in the ABA YLD. As a result of my attendance at ABA YLD meetings this bar year, I feel that I have increased my professional skills and now I am more prepared to effectively serve in the ABA YLD and other organizations.
By Maurice C. Ruffin
Maurice Ruffin is a 2008–2009 ABA YLD Scholar and an Associate in the New Orleans, Louisiana, office of Adams and Reese LLP.
This year’s ABA Young Lawyers Division Spring Conference in New Orleans was a great success. Attendees earned CLE credits, participated in networking sessions, and toured the city during breaks.
I had the pleasure of serving on the conference host committee, which gave me a chance to show why I enjoy practicing law in my home town. Where else could you catch a ninety-year old street car to work? Where else could you run into a random marching jazz band winding up the block just because it’s Friday? Where else could you exit the state supreme court building and find yourself in the historic French Quarter?
The conference ran from May 14 through May 16 in conjunction with the ABA Law Practice Management Section’s spring conference. Over 200 lawyers came to town to experience the Crescent City’s substantial charms.
On Thursday night, attendees were treated to a “Welcome Reception” in the heart of the French Quarter. The venue, the Krazy Korner, featured a live band and a balcony overlooking Bourbon Street. A good time was had by all and no embarrassing photos have surfaced . . . so far.
Bright and early the next morning, it was on to business with a full slate of programming. Retired Orleans Parish Criminal District Court Judge Calvin Johnson presided as the joint conference’s plenary speaker. Johnson, who was introduced by Louisiana State Bar Association President Kim Boyle, spoke about his experiences as chief judge of the court during Hurricane Katrina. He also played a dramatic video that demonstrated the difficulties the local justice system overcame. Other sessions that day included a presentation on domestic violence in the workplace and “Mind Your Own Business! Tips for Understanding What Your Law Firm Needs.”
The 123-year old family-owned Hotel Monteleone served as headquarters for the conference and on Friday evening the group lit out for Mardi Gras World just on the other side of the majestic Mississippi River. I’ll confess that I had never been to MGW before. As a local, I can see the floats in action every year. I had no reason to visit, right? Was I ever wrong. The facility was awe-inspiring and dinner–dance attendees were treated to a museum featuring beloved floats like the 139-foot locomotive shaped Leviathan. Before the awards presentations, a Mardi Gras parade sprang up spontaneously and circled the diners. Parade participants included ABA Young Lawyer Division officers, a high-school marching band, and a family of “Mardi Gras Indians.”
Highlights from the final day of the conference included “Mobile Technology: Practicing Law from Wherever You Want to Be” and the ABA Young Lawyers Division “Voices Against Violence: NOLA Service Project,” co-sponsored by the New Orleans Bar Association Young Lawyers Section.
This year’s Spring Conference was indeed a success and many of my colleagues told me they had an informative and fun experience. For my own part, so did I. I don’t know about you, but I wouldn’t object to holding the Spring Conference in New Orleans every year.