Affiliate Network Grows: Alaska New Lawyers and West Virginia Young Lawyers Welcomed by ABA YLD
By Amy Osteryoung
Amy Osteryoung is an assistant editor of The Affiliate and a principal in the St. Augustine, Florida, firm of Johnson & Osteryoung.
The American Bar Association Young Lawyers Division (ABA YLD) has joined forces with the Alaska Bar Association’s recently formed New Lawyers Section (NLS), the newest affiliate in the ABA YLD family. Coupled with the rising YLD of the West Virginia Bar Association (WVBA), the ABA YLD is growing and reaching out to young lawyers all across the nation.
Alaska New Lawyers Section
The new leaders of Alaska’s NLS held their first meeting last October. Since that meeting they have worked aggressively to increase their membership. Currently, the seventy-seven member affiliate is tackling a unique problem. According JoAnne Baker of the Alaska Bar Association, the NLS faces the unparalleled challenge of uniting its attorneys who are spread out over a fairly large geographic area that encompasses vastly different cultures. Many attorneys practice in urban centers such as Anchorage but many others practice in predominately Native American regions in the Arctic and the rural bush. Because of this, Alaska presents unique cultural and geographic diversity and offers experiences that a new attorney might not face in other states across the nation.
To help bring Alaskan young lawyers together, one focus of this new affiliate is to reach out to new Alaska Bar Association members through CLEs, receptions, and bar conventions. The New Lawyers Section’s prospects are exciting, and this new affiliate has much in store for us as its membership grows. For example, the New Lawyers Section sponsored its first CLE, “New Lawyers—Nuts & Bolts of Basic Pre-Trial Practice: Discovery & Motions,” at the state bar convention in Anchorage in May 2008.
The Alaska NLS is also focusing on professionalism, and to that end the New Lawyers’ leadership is getting assistance from local judges in both urban and rural areas to help young lawyers understand and practice civility. “In such a small bar, navigating the lines of zealous advocacy and civility in the profession can be challenging,” Alaska New Lawyers Co-Chairs Beth Trimmer and Teresa Buelow agree. “Helping new lawyers address this issue early in their Alaska careers is beneficial to both the bench and the bar.”
Although the Alaska Bar Association has a mandatory course on professionalism that all new lawyers must take, the bar recently added a mandatory ethics CLE requirement. To help new lawyers, the new section is also developing CLEs that address ethical concerns or dilemmas faced by new lawyers.
In addition to professionalism, the new section also places a high priority on educating the community about the legal system. Each year, attorneys, judges, and other legal professionals volunteer their time in classrooms and other forums to make learning about the law fun and engaging. Also under development is a “Bill of Rights” program, aimed at students in Alaskan high schools. The program focuses on taking a specific constitutional amendment and using volunteer lawyers to teach interactively that constitutional right to the students. The program will be geared toward not only helping students understand the Constitution but also getting them interested in the law.
West Virginia Young Lawyers Division
When looking at affiliates new to the ABA YLD, Alaska had a great mentor. Since last year the WVBA YLD has grown by leaps and bounds. On March 19, it hosted its annual “Bench and Bar Reception. “This year’s Bench and Bar Reception saw the greatest turnout and even attracted local media,” said current YLD President Courtney Kirtley.
Now in its ninth year, the Reception allows attorneys and the judiciary to come together for an educational and social evening focused on a topic of particular interest to attorneys in West Virginia. Because two seats on the West Virginia Supreme Court are up for election in 2008, the YLD invited all five supreme court candidates to participate in a Supreme Court of Appeals Candidates Forum at this year’s Reception. Each candidate was given ten-to-fifteen minutes to make remarks regarding his or her candidacy, followed by an informal question and answer session. A reception followed the Candidates’ Forum, giving the candidates and attendees the opportunity to meet and socialize with members of the local bar and judiciary.
The WVBA YLD’s next event was a post-bar exam celebration on July 30, immediately following the last day of the West Virginia bar exam. The YLD hosted the event in the same building in which the bar exam was given and provided free food and beverages to examinees as they emerged from the exam. Attorneys from throughout the state gathered at the reception to congratulate and celebrate with friends and future colleagues. This event is one of the YLD’s most successful tools for recruiting new members according to Kirtley. All examinees who joined the WVBA YLD at the reception were given one year’s free membership in the WVBA.
The ABA YLD and all of its affiliates are dedicated to improving the profession that defines all its members. The ABA YLD’s newest affiliates are no exception. Young bar leaders in all practice settings are optimistic about what can be achieved. The ABA YLD and all of its affiliates are proactive in reaching out to and maintaining communication among young lawyers across the country for professional growth and public service. The ABA YLD affiliate family stands for a clear message of progress, and Alaska and West Virginia are proof that progress is being made.