Directing with Vision and Grace: Spotlight on Robin Rone

Vol. 39 No. 5


Andrew J. Hoag is an Assistant Editor of The Affiliate and an Associate in the Los Angeles office of Fisher & Phillips LLP.

Directing the largest young lawyer organization in the world requires aptitude, foresight, and vision. Combining these traits and others, Robin Rone effectively leads the 130,000-member ABA Young Lawyers Division with enthusiasm and humility. And she does so while balancing her personal life: married and raising a teenager attending Walter Payton College Preparatory High School.

Rone’s official title is Director of the ABA YLD. In that capacity, she oversees all staff and Division activities, provides guidance and support to the ABA YLD Council, and handles ABA Board of Governors, House of Delegates, and overall ABA relations. The interdisciplinary nature of her work is typified by her professional background. As she describes it, her path is not a straight line. I am no Euclidean geometrician, but Rone’s curving career path is assuredly impressive: she started at the ABA a dozen or so years ago in the Division for Communications and Media Relations. Before that, her first career was in publishing, where she was a book editor. During her editorial career she worked at Howard University Press, the National Security Archive, the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of the American Indian, and later relocated to Chicago as an editor for the prestigious University of Chicago Press. Who better to direct the ABA YLD as the revamped TYL publication rolls out?

When a communications position opened up at the ABA, Rone enthusiastically joined the Association. She started off as the strategic communications manager for a number of ABA entities, working in communications for about four years (later as the associate director for writing services). She then worked in the Office of the President as a special assistant to two ABA officers. From there, she became Director of the Council for Racial and Ethnic Diversity in the Educational Pipeline and the Director of the Commission on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, a dual responsibility she held until joining the ABA YLD. Speaking with Robin, a number of themes come to the forefront: diversity, inclusion, access, and equality. Using this wealth of experience in the Association, she recently took on a new challenge, Director of the ABA YLD.

Recommendations for Affiliates or Affiliate Leaders

The Division has a number of resources for new and young attorneys, including initiatives, tools for career advancement, organization, and community involvement, networking opportunities, publication opportunities, and MCLE programming. But when asked for recommendations for Affiliates or Affiliate leaders, Rone encourages, to whatever degree possible, attending an ABA YLD conference, noting that it is a great way to meet colleagues from across the country. “In-person conferences are unique and wonderful ways to connect with colleagues, in formal and informal settings.” She recommends the Spring Conference in Pittsburgh (May 15–17, 2014), which focuses on international law and diversity. There is an oratory competition and leadership training for Affiliate leaders. Programming topics include the business of law, diversity and inclusion, ending the bullying epidemic, ethics and professionalism, and trial skills and dispute resolution.

ABA Changes and Trends

“The ABA YLD is focused on how best to meet the needs of young attorneys. We are in the midst of a real paradigm shift on how to reach this vital group. Traditional models were less fluid. Newer technological advancements and the realities of the job market and practice present new challenges. The Division is focusing on portability and elasticity, making sure that what persons want early on in their professional careers is available and accessible. We want to stay current. We want to stay relevant. And we want meaningful mechanisms of engagement.” Such vision brings value to the organization and its membership.

Refusing to stay static, Rone speaks about the ABA YLD’s flagship publication TYL (formerly The Young Lawyer), which aims at “helping young lawyers take command of their careers and develop their professional identities.” Recently, the ABA YLD rebranded and remained TYL. “We wanted a 360 publication: web presence, social media, a hard copy publication, it all comes together under the rubric of an immersive experience for the TYL consumer.” The Division has worked with ABA Publishing to produce something new and dynamic. Indeed, TYL is a “community of young lawyers.”

ABA YLD Leadership Positions

When asked about leadership positions within the ABA YLD, Rone enthusiastically encourages young lawyers to get involved. The first step to involvement is learning about the many leadership opportunities available to ABA YLD members. In that regard, the website has a wealth of information and the Division is much attuned with social media: Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, even YouTube. A nice entry into leadership, Rone notes, is to get active in a committee or two. Committees are great introductions to the Division and a fantastic way to accomplish substantive work as an ABA YLD member. There are a number of committees, divided into diversity and outreach, practice management, practice settings, and practice areas. Signing up for a committee takes a few minutes and has a number of benefits, including publication opportunities.

Members also can pursue leadership appointments. The appointments process typically opens in December and closes in February. Generally, the process mirrors the appointment process throughout the ABA. There is an application period, during which prospective appointees fill out an online application and can submit up to three letters of recommendation. Once the information is compiled, the Chair-Elect puts together an advisory appointments committee, which meets to evaluate possible matches of candidates with open positions. The committee looks for the best possible fit for each open position, considering applicants’ experiences and interests while maintaining the Division’s commitment to diversity and inclusion to reflect different genders and gender identities, races, ethnicities, sexual orientations and disabilities, as well as diversity in geographical locations and practice areas.

“One of the things I like the best is working with our members. They come from all facets, and the young lawyers whom I meet are full of enthusiasm and energy. The members I work with are dedicated not only to their practices but to their communities as well. For a professional association, our Division members have a level of engagement that is truly unique. This is true on the staff side too. The ABA YLD staff is committed, focused, and full of great ideas. I am fortunate to work with such charismatic and dedicated people.” And the ABA YLD is fortunate to have such a visionary director. To contact Robin Rone, email her at, or call her at 312/988-5614.


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