Who Is the ABA YLD Speaker (And Why Affiliates Should Care)?
By Natalie Holder-Winfield
Natalie Holder-Winfield is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and is a diversity consultant for QUEST Educational Initiatives, a consulting firm that provides diversity and skills development training to law firms, bar associations, and law schools.
Since 2001, Danny Van Horn has been an active member of the ABA YLD. As with most of us, he was hooked after attending a Division meeting. From his first appointment as an assistant editor of The Affiliate, to eventually being elected Assembly Clerk in 2005, Van Horn has moved up the ranks of YLD leadership and now serves as Assembly Speaker. A dedicated husband, the father of two young children, and a partner of Tennessee’s prestigious law firm of Butler Snow, I caught up with Van Horn to discuss his position as Speaker. For those who have a hazy understanding of the Speaker’s responsibilities (admittedly, I was in this group before the interview), Van Horn laid out a firm foundation for explaining his role, his goals as Speaker, and his relationship with ABA YLD affiliates.
The Assembly, which is the ABA YLD’s policymaking body (much like Congress or a state legislature), is held twice a year at the ABA Midyear and Annual Meetings. The Assembly gives young lawyers and their affiliates the opportunity to propose and discuss pressing issues in the legal profession and society. “We have on average about 200 delegates for each one of the Assemblies,” Van Horn explained. “As a result, each and every delegate who attends the Assembly represents between 7,000 to 8,000 other young lawyers across the country. A delegate’s role at the Assembly is to be the eyes, the ears, and the mouth of those other young lawyers across the country whom they represent. So, for example, if a resolution comes before the Assembly, the delegates job is to listen and then to speak for those who can’t be there to speak. If there is a presentation from one of the leaders of the Young Lawyers Division or a leader of the ABA, or anyone else, the delegate’s job is to see and to hear that presentation and to hopefully go back to their affiliates and report on what’s going on. Two kinds of resolutions are presented at the Assembly—resolutions that come from other entities within the ABA and then resolutions that come from young lawyers.”
As a hands-on leader, Danny spends only 10 percent of his time actually running the Assembly; the majority of his time is devoted to planning the Assembly’s program content. His vision as Speaker is to be a megaphone for young lawyers. “My goal for this year is to increase the number of resolutions that come from young lawyers, and, obviously, what we’re trying to do is to give young lawyer’s a voice on national issues and on issues that pertain to our profession and our society. What kind of society do we want to see and what kind of actions do we want to urge others to take? That’s where the resolution process comes into play. When someone has an idea for a change, one of my jobs is to help him or her draft a resolution for the Young Lawyers Division Assembly to consider. Affiliates should look to the Assembly as a voice for their affiliate. When they raise a resolution, their voice is being heard. While there is no guarantee that the resolution will pass, at least the affiliate knows that its voice was heard.”
Ultimately, Van Horn wants the Division’s affiliates to view the ABA YLD as a resource center. “The YLD exists to serve its members, meaning its individual members, of course, but also its affiliate members. The YLD acts as a national clearinghouse for best practices among young lawyer bar organizations, whether they are city bar associations, regional bar organizations, state affiliates, or national affiliates like the National Bar Association or the Hispanic National Bar Association. Because of our contacts with every bar association across the country, we have a good idea of what affiliates are doing. When we see a state affiliate that is doing something really spectacular, we’re not shy about taking that idea and applying it on a national scale. And the same happens in reverse. Affiliates across the country are free to look at what the ABA YLD is doing and then bring it home to their state or city or their affiliate. We learn from affiliates and affiliates learn from us. For example, the year that I was Tennessee Young Lawyers’ president, I’m not sure that anything we did didn’t liberally borrow from the ABA YLD, and we had an award winning year.”