District Representatives--YLD Affiliates' ABA Connection
By Timothy R. White
Timothy R. White is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and practices in Austin, Texas.
Fifty-inch plasma screen televisions? A shiny new Rolex? A sweet vacation to Bora Bora? Well, these are not exactly the kinds of things your ABA YLD district representative can do for you, but a district representative can do much more than you may expect.
The ABA YLD has thirty-four district representatives and four national representatives. Each state’s affiliated young lawyers organizations are usually represented by one ABA YLD district representative (or one representative might cover two less-populated states) or two district representatives for larger states. One district representative also represents the Federal and Military Bar Association, and four national representatives serve the four distinct national bar associations: the Hispanic National Bar Association, the National Asian Pacific American Bar Association, the National Bar Association, and the National Gay and Lesbian Law Association. Despite the district representatives’ various titles, their roles are essentially the same.
Affiliate Liaison
Possibly the most important role of a district representative is to function as a liaison between the state/local bar associations and the ABA YLD. District representatives provide the most direct contact for affiliates. According to the ABA YLD Administrative Director Kelly-Ann Clarke, “District representatives supply affiliates with all the happenings of the ABA YLD—from public service programs to benefits available for their members.” District representatives also keep affiliated young lawyer bar presidents updated with information about conferences, CLEs, and teleconferences, and assist young lawyer bar leaders in understanding all of the elements of the ABA YLD.
Not only do district representatives bring information from the ABA to the state and local bar associations, they also bring information to the ABA YLD about what the affiliates are doing. Whenever young lawyers organizations around the country are doing great things, it is the duty of the district representative to inform the ABA YLD. According to Clarke, “Many of the best national programs come directly from a state or local bar organization.”
One such program that was brought to the attention of the ABA YLD by a district representative is the “They Had a Dream Too: Young Leaders of the Civil Rights Movement” project that originated in Texas. This project was the brainchild of Texas Young Lawyers Association Immediate Past President Karin Crump, Kelly-Ann Clarke, Jennifer Morris, C.E. Rhodes, Chad Ellis, and Clint Harbour. The project includes They Had a Dream Too, a twenty-eight-minute film aimed at educating young high school students about the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s while emphasizing the prominent role young leaders had during the movement. They Had a Dream Too challenges young adults to change the world by recognizing inequality and voicing their opinion, despite their age.
Since its debut in September 2006 at high schools in Texas’s five largest cities, the program has been incorporated in countless cities, in more than thirty-eight states, and even presented in Germany and Canada. The short video is also available online at www.theyhadadreamtoo.org. They Had a Dream Too is a perfect example of how a small program in one state can blossom into a nationwide tool after being introduced to the ABA YLD by one of its young lawyers affiliates.
Disaster Legal Services Representative
Another important function of a district representative is to handle Disaster Legal Services under the ABA YLD’s contract with the Federal Emergency Management Agency or FEMA. District representatives are required to set up an 800 number hotline and supply volunteer attorneys to respond to the legal needs of disaster victims.
Since August 2006 when Kimberly Burke took over her position as the ABA YLD district representative for District 25 ( South/Central Texas), two disasters have struck her district alone. The most recent of these disasters occurred earlier this year when flood waters ravaged North and Central Texas. Burke is “currently working with FEMA and the State Bar of Texas to operate a hotline for victims of the floods.” She is also working on securing “more volunteers and anyone who is interested may contact me directly or signup online at www.texasbar.com.” According to Burke, disaster relief and ABA YLD programs are two areas in which every attorney should be involved.
Council Delegate
A final job that district representatives have is to represent their affiliate on the ABA YLD governing body known as the Council. The ABA YLD acts through two entities, the Council and the Assembly. The Assembly is a body that functions much like a political convention, with delegates from around the country and representation based on membership. But the Assembly only meets twice a year at the ABA Midyear and Annual Meetings. The Council, on the other hand, meets four times a year at the ABA’s Midyear and Annual Meetings, as well as at the ABA YLD’s Spring and Fall Conferences. When the Assembly is not in session, the Council stands in for the Assembly and is able to pass resolutions on behalf of the entire YLD organization. This is where a district representative speaks on behalf of the district with his or her vote and opinion.
Most importantly, district representatives are the voice of their affiliates. Invite them to your meetings or call them up and tell them about exciting projects you have. You can also e-mail them and ask them what other states are doing to get ideas about different programs to implement and service projects to conduct. The Fall Conference on October 4–6 in Charlotte, North Carolina, is rapidly approaching. Don’t let your district representative attend uninformed!