Welcoming Young Lawyers: Nebraska Lawyers Appreciate Tradition of Cornhusker Country
By Lindsey R. Buchheit
Lindsey R. Buchheit is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and an associate with the Sioux City, Iowa, firm of Corbett, Anderson, Corbett & Vellinga, L.L.P.
The state of Nebraska may be best known for the devoted loyalty of its University of Nebraska “Cornhusker” football fans. Beer and foam fingers aside, perhaps the most noteworthy characteristic of Nebraska’s fans is the rich tradition that unifies both young and old. To be sure, many Husker fans, such as myself, are born into families that teach their children the sacredness of Saturday football, the symbolism of the “red and white,” and the importance of remaining loyal to your team, regardless of its record. As such, the old nurture and influence the young, making it almost certain that Memorial Stadium will remain sold out for yet another 297 consecutive games.
Nurturing Young Lawyer Involvement
Given the loyal blood of its fans, its no wonder that the legal community in Nebraska is reaching out to its young lawyers in much the same way that fellow-Husker fans nurture their young. For instance, the Nebraska State Bar Association Young Lawyers Section (NSBA YLS), in an effort to increase young lawyer involvement in the NSBA, recently developed an Outstanding Young Lawyer Award. “It is our hope that the Award will gain prestige as the years go on and will encourage young lawyers to increase their involvement, as well,” commented Brandie Fowler, last year’s co-chair of the Outstanding Young Lawyer Award subcommittee. According to Fowler, the Award was modeled after similar awards given by affiliate state bar associations in Oregon, Washington, Virginia, New Jersey, and Kentucky. “In addition to receiving the Award at the NSBA annual meeting, the recipient receives a plaque and the YLS makes a financial contribution to the charity or cause of the recipient’s choice,” Fowler stated.
The Award is an honor bestowed on a young lawyer “whose personal and professional achievements merit special recognition and who has made unique community and public service contributions, actively participated in the organized bar and has stood out in the areas of professional knowledge, skill, integrity, and courtesy.” The recipient of last year’s first annual Award was Sherman P. Willis, an associate attorney of Fraser Stryker in Omaha, Nebraska. According to Fowler, “ [Willis] was the natural choice for the award, as he is very involved in local and state bar associations and is extremely ‘civic minded.’”
Since obtaining his J.D. from the University of Iowa in 2004, Willis has become a member of the American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, the Eighth Circuit Bar Association, the State Bar of Texas, the NSBA, the Midlands Bar Association, and the Omaha Bar Association. In addition, Willis is currently a member of the NSBA YLS Executive Committee, the YLS Leadership Steering Academy, and the Minority Justice Committee. He is also the Treasurer of the Midlands Bar Association.
CLEs, Public Service, Membership Support
In addition to the Outstanding Young Lawyer Award, the NSBA YLS offers several other opportunities to encourage young lawyers to participate in the NSBA. According to Willis, “ [the NSBA YLS] puts on several events each year to make sure that young attorneys receive the additional information they need to be good practitioners.” For instance, on September 26, 2008, the NSBA YLS partnered with the University of Nebraska College of Law to host the annual “Institute on the Survey of Nebraska Law,” a program designed to keep lawyers aware of new developments in Nebraska law. Each spring, the NSBA YLS hosts an annual “YLS Practice Seminar,” a program designed to give “practical” advice to lawyers, particularly those with less than five years experience.
In an effort to promote public service among its young attorneys, the NSBA YLS sponsors “Law Day for the Clergy” every two years. This program is “intended to give clergy and other professional church workers an overview of legal issues with particular relevance to their day-to-day activities.” Kurth A. Brashear, Young Lawyers Section (YLS) , The Nebraska Lawyer, (Mar. 2002). Finally, the NSBA YLS sponsors an annual golf outing and numerous after-work social functions throughout Nebraska. “Both events serve a simple purpose, namely, to enable young lawyers to meet other young lawyers, allowing them to get to know their peers better and, possibly, establish professional relationships that benefit all parties involved.” Id.
Women and the Law Section
Aside from the many efforts of the YLS, it should be noted that the NSBA Women and the Law Section is establishing both a Mentoring Program and a Resource Referral Network. The purpose of these programs is “to facilitate the transfer of valuable information and insight into the practice of law between experienced and less-experienced Section members.” Executive Summary, The NSBA Women in the Law Section Mentoring Program and Resource Referral Network, www.nebar.com/pdfs/sections/WomenintheLaw/ExecutiveSummary.pdf.
In light of the many efforts of the NSBA to nurture and encourage involvement among the state’s young attorneys, one thing is certain: Whether or not a Husker fan, Nebraska’s young attorneys are sure to appreciate the loyalty of the state’s legal community.