Multnomah Bar Young Lawyers Accomplish Great Things: An Interview with MBA YLS President Andrew Schpak
By Amy Osteryoung
Amy Osteryoung is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and a principal in the St. Augustine, Florida, firm of Johnson & Osteryoung.
Created in 1980, the Multnomah Bar Association Young Lawyers Section (MBA YLS) has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception. Under the leadership of Andrew Schpak, current President, the YLS has created a multitude of projects aimed at providing leadership, networking, and professional development opportunities, as well as public service opportunities in and around the Portland, Oregon area.
The Affiliate had an opportunity to speak with Schpak and learn more about what the MBA YLS is working on this year.
When did you join the MBA YLS?
In the fall of 2004, I was still settling back in to Portland after finishing law school in New York. I passed the bar, started work, and realized that I didn’t know any other young lawyers. I got involved in the MBA YLS because I wanted to meet other young lawyers practicing in the Portland metro area and because I have always been a little bit of a student government nerd.
Where did you go to law school?
I went to Cornell Law School in Ithaca, New York. After growing up in Los Angeles and attending college in Portland, I decided I wanted to give the East Coast a shot. I saw the campus for the first time when I showed up for orientation! It was a small school with excellent teachers, and I really enjoyed my time there and met many great people. I did learn another important fact about myself while I was there: I can’t live somewhere that cold!
What are you doing professionally?
I practice employment law at Barran Liebman, a seventeen-attorney firm in Portland, Oregon. We provide advice to companies and represent management in employment law litigation. I have developed a specialty in discrimination and disability law and will be speaking at the ABA YLD Spring Conference about the legal issues surrounding domestic violence in the workplace.
I am president of the MBA YLS and the ABA YLD District Representative for Oregon and Washington. I have been a Vice-Chair of the ABA YLD Labor and Employment Law Committee for two years. I am a YLD Fellow to the ABA Labor and Employment Law Section’s Equal Employment Opportunity Committee.
When was the Multnomah Bar Association formed?
The MBA was formed in 1906 by fifty-seven attorneys. It is the oldest and largest voluntary bar association in Oregon with more than 4,500 members. The Young Lawyers Section was created in 1980. Approximately one-fourth of the MBA’s members are young lawyers (defined as members in practice less than six years or under the age of thirty-six).
Describe the work of the MBA YLS.
The MBA YLS has six standing committees:
The Professional Development Committee organizes all the CLE seminars presented by the YLS and assists young lawyers in developing their careers. Non-CLE topics include contract lawyering, client development, sustainability, and how to become a mediator. Last year’s Real Estate and Land Use CLE series won national recognition from the ABA YLD.
The Membership Committee plans and encourages members to participate in the MBA YLS through activities and services designed to increase the personal and professional interaction of MBA YLS members. The Committee sponsors the “New Admittee Social,” a social for law students, a meet-the-judges social, and at least one social each month. The Committee also publishes the New Admittee Survival Guide .
The Pro Bono Committee encourages lawyers to donate their legal skills and time to the poor by planning projects that provide pro bono participation. The Committee writes and publishes the Juvenile Rights Handbook and the Domestic Violence Handbook , coordinates volunteers for homeless youth programs, and sponsors a nonprofit project pairing volunteer attorneys with nonprofit organizations.
The Service to the Public Committee informs, educates, and serves the general public to improve the public image of lawyers. It plans and conducts Community Law Week, which coincides with and adopts the theme from Law Day. The Committee also coordinates the “Imprint Program” at local schools, presents a dropout prevention video to kids, and provides volunteer hearing officers to Multnomah County Animal Services. The Committee also schedules community service days that pair volunteer lawyers with local nonprofits for a day.
The YOUthFILM Project Committee plans, organizes, and implements the annual YOUthFILM Project. The project, a part of Community Law Week, is a student film-making contest that encourages local youth to express themselves creatively, while learning more about our government and justice system. Last year’s YOUthFILM Project won national recognition from the ABA YLD.
The Futures Committee is a new committee dedicated to identifying and studying issues surrounding the “Generation Gap.” The Committee writes articles, organizes events, and develops model policies to help the MBA, the YLS, and the local practice of law evolve smoothly and efficiently.
What projects are you working on currently?
I’ve spent a lot of time organizing the “Young Lawyers Summit” that took place on March 5. This event was free to attend, and attendees received one hour of Access to Justice CLE credit from a roundtable discussion on diversity. The Summit included discussions and brainstorming about the future of legal practice and pressing issues facing young lawyers and ended with a social event and a raffle to benefit the Campaign for Equal Justice. If that wasn’t enough to convince young lawyers to attend, all attendees received a free drink ticket! The Summit was sponsored in part by a subgrant from the ABA YLD.
I have also spent a lot of time getting the Futures Committee off the ground. It is new this year and has already done impressive things. The Committee has prepared articles on sustainability and contract lawyering, defined its purpose by drafting a committee charge, and coordinated efforts with the MBA Board. It is now turning its attention to finding new ways to make its webpage more interactive, through the potential use of blogs, podcasts, and discussion boards.
What makes the MBA YLS stand out from other bar associations across the country?
A couple of things:
One, we are self-funded; we receive no money from the MBA or the state bar association. Our operating budget comes entirely from money raised by CLEs that we organize.
Two, our good work is recognized on the local level. The MBA awarded the MBA YLS its Award of Merit last year for its programming and other efforts.
Three, our good work is recognized on the national level. The MBA YLS was recognized by the ABA YLD for its Real Estate and Land Use CLE Series, as well as for the YOUthFILM Project. Last year, the ABA YLD awarded the MBA YLS the first place award for Best Comprehensive Programming among voluntary bar associations of comparable size.
Four, we are always open to new programs and ideas. Although we do have goals that we attempt to accomplish on a yearly basis, we stay flexible and open to new ideas for programs from one year to the next. The “Young Lawyers Summit” and the creation of the Futures Committee are two such examples.
What are MBA YLS’s goals now and in the near future?
I have been very focused on inclusivity, which in my definition includes diversity but is broader than that. We need to increase our pro bono and community service activities that help minorities and people living below the poverty line, and I have tasked the Professional Development and Education Committee to put on programs that qualify for Access to Justice CLE credit. In addition, the Membership Committee has focused on making sure that it offers social events and networking opportunities for everyone, including young lawyers with families as well as young lawyers who are not still in their late twenties or early thirties. I have also tried to create as many opportunities for involvement in the YLS as there are people interested in volunteering.
Finally, we are working to increase the level of collaboration between the YLS and other organizations. On a national level, we worked with the ABA Young Lawyers Division to organize the “Young Lawyers Summit.” On the state level, the YLS hosted a joint board meeting with the Oregon New Lawyers Division, and this fall we will have a joint meeting and CLE program with the ONLD and Washington Young Lawyers Division. On the local level, each committee has been encouraged to think about opportunities for partnership with local arts organizations, businesses, and young professional groups.
We are lucky to belong to an organization in which the “big bar” has such dedication to seeing our two groups collaborate, and I am proud to serve as president alongside such a talented group of board members, committee members, and volunteers. My goal has always been to leave the YLS better than I found it, but that is no small task given the extraordinary work that has already been accomplished.