As a rising 3L – which still feels weird to type – I had a moment in August after many of my friends and colleagues sat for the bar exam. My class and I were next up.
I didn’t immediately start studying (shameless plug: with my ABA Premium-discounted Barbri materials), but I did want to shoot some of my friends a quick text congratulating them for making it through, and earning a well-deserved break. The thing that I found notable about this seemingly insignificant experience was that I texted as many law students from other schools as I did my own. I reached out to fellow ABA Law Student Division leaders who have become good friends, from Washington, Georgia, D.C., California, and Alabama, members of my circuit schools from Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky, and former SBA Presidents and ABA representatives from Florida and Mississippi. I am not sure why, but I was taken aback from the network that I had developed through the ABA in two short years.
Now, I look at the term “network” differently now than I did when I entered law school. I may have tended to think of a network as more of a rolodex (linked image for those younger than me!) of business cards and faceless names at one point, but I realized that it is a network of friends, a group with shared experiences and fun memories, with whom I rolled up my sleeves and worked over the years.
That was not what I expected when beginning my tenure as an ABA Law Student Division leader.
All of that led me to another radical thought – I will be working with these people throughout my entire career, and beyond. I’ve always understood this point, generally, and it’s one of the reasons I always try to treat my colleagues right. When I’ve run for ABA positions I’ve always made an effort to be friendly with the students running against me – gracious in defeat and humble in victory. Each of the candidates I’ve run against are impressive people and I am confident that we would be great friends if (and when) we had the chance to meet.
Importantly, we must remember that we are all in this together. We represent hundreds of thousands of law students, lawyers, judges, and members of the legal profession across the country doing important work to make our world a better place. Our paths will cross again, early and often, and collaboration is far better than competition in the grand scheme of ABA service.
Many of my friends have transitioned into the Young Lawyers Division, where I will join them next year. While it can be easy to get tunnel vision and only see the opportunities presented by the Law Student Division right now this has helped me focus more on the ABA as a whole. It is not a student organization. It is a vast, diverse, group that I can remain involved with for the next 60 years (if I can hold up as well as some of my mentors)!
So, now I prepare to embark on yet another ABA trip, along with thousands of other legal practitioners. I think I better understand my role, and the significance of the opportunities afforded to me by my school and the ABA.
I am excited to meet new people and learn from them – including those in law school, in my city and state, and within my areas of professional interest. I look forward to exploring different programs, and opportunities at the job recruiting tables. I will be more aware of the relationships that I develop, and realize that this is only the beginning of a lifetime of shared experiences, celebrations and failures, and meaningful work done side-by-side. I’ll consider that one day I may look back at this trip fondly with old friends, as I have for those of years past.
Ultimately, I am curious as to who I will reach out to following my own bar exam next year to congratulate them for completing it… fully realizing that the bar exam, too, represents the closing of one important chapter of my life and the opening of the next. And I, for one, can’t wait to see what that future holds!