ABA YLD Leader Spotlight—Chris Fortier

Vol. 39 No. 3


Adena Liebman is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and a Special Assistant with Ocean Conservancy in Portland, Oregon.

Some things are just ubiquitous facts of life—everyone knows that the sky is blue and the ocean is salty. If you’re involved in the ABA YLD or the Virginia State Bar Young Lawyers Conference (VSB YLC), you also know that Chris Fortier is a stellar example of leadership. Both the ABA YLD and VSB YLC have benefited greatly from Chris’s leadership and dedication.

Chris was recently recognized as VSB YLC’s 2013 R. Edwin Burnette Jr. Young Lawyer of the Year at a ceremony this past June. But Chris doesn’t maintain his impressive level of involvement for the accolades. He brings a genuine interest in improving the legal profession and providing useful services to the nation’s young lawyers in everything he does.

Chris first became involved with the ABA in law school. He was offered an opportunity to attend the Law Student Division’s Fall Roundtable in Memphis and was immediately hooked. After passing the Virginia bar in 2005, he submitted his name to serve as the Chair of the ABA YLD’s Public Utility, Communications, and Transportation Committee and as the Liaison to the Section of Public Utility, Communications, and Transportation Law as soon as applications became available.

Though he initially joined the ABA YLD as a way to network and find employment, Chris found much more than that through his time with the Division. He gives the ABA YLD credit for increasing his knowledge of the profession, understanding of the structure and management of a large organization, and the countless friendships he’s made. Chris has particularly enjoyed meeting a wide array of people from all over the country practicing in a variety of areas of law. It’s those friendships that keep him coming back each year.

From his initial positions, Chris rose to become a member of the ABA YLD Cabinet and Membership Board. He currently serves as liaison to the Administrative Law Section and on the Standing Committee on Continuing Legal Education. As a member of the Cabinet and liaison to substantive ABA sections, he has traveled all across the country, averaging a trip every six weeks. Though his travelling has quieted recently, he remains well-entrenched in the happenings of the ABA YLD.

Chris has been particularly active in developing and sharing professional development programming with both the ABA YLD and VSB YLC. He started VSB YLC’s Professional Development Series, hosted on its own YouTube channel, and has served as chair of VBA YLC’s annual Professional Development Conference for the past two years. Under his guidance, the conference has expanded from its original home in Richmond to the Washington, D.C., and Hampton Roads (Norfolk–Virginia Beach) regions.

Chris is always willing to help out whenever extra hands are needed. Aside from his work on broadening both the ABA and VSB’s professional development programming, he is also committed to enhancing VSB YLC’s social media presence. He remains eager to assist ABA YLD leadership in their objectives and is constantly looking for ways to enhance coordination and provide better resources for young lawyers.

When asked how he manages to balance his numerous bar responsibilities and career, he is quick to point out that he has been very fortunate to find a work environment that is understanding of his other commitments. As an attorney-adviser in the federal government, Chris has benefitted from supervisors who are very supportive of their employees taking time outside of work to be with their families and pursue their own interests.

For young lawyers who have answered the leadership call, or for others looking to become more involved, Chris says that leadership is really about relationship building. Chris made it a point to call each of his team members individually to check in on their progress and build personal relationships that have lasted long beyond their committee assignments. Especially in a volunteer-based organization, such as the ABA YLD, it is imperative to be respectful of the people with whom you work, since a volunteer could walk away at any time without consequence.

Although Chris is busy with increased involvement in the Administrative Law Section and continuing his work on the new lawyer education effort, he still finds time to play flute with his local church and join the Maine State Society for its events in D.C. But he is still keen to remind everyone, especially actively engaged leaders, that aside from work and bar responsibilities, family and friends still need your attention, too.

Congratulations Chris Fortier, on all of your success—you deserve it!


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