Folks asked me to discuss a concrete benefit I received from ABA participation. I have been a member since 2013, and have been a licensed attorney since 2018. My first ABA event was a Young Lawyers Division (YLD) meeting in 2016.
I considered writing this article about the fact that, by this summer, across four ABA entities (Law Student Division; YLD; Section of Taxation; and Section of Real Property, Trust & Estate Law), I will already have had occasion to write multiple blog posts, three magazine articles, part of a book, and co-teach seven CLEs and webinars.
Or I could write about how I have been able to rapidly become competent and current in my substantive areas of practice by learning from subject matter experts who are the best in the business through their CLEs, articles, meetings, mentorship, and informal conversations. Or how, through YLD programs, I have improved my professionalism. Or how I get to bring this expertise and best practices back to my local legal community. Or how what I have learned in the YLD has made me a better local bar leader.
Or how my active participation in the ABA has revealed opportunities that I hadn’t even known existed. Like getting to serve in the House of Delegates (in which control and administration of the ABA is vested, and which is the policy-making body of the ABA), receiving board appointments by ABA Presidents, and selection as a fellow of RPTE.
Or how I have been able to travel to Puerto Rico, Boca Raton, Chicago, Miami, New York City, and other locales. Or how I now have lawyer mentors at every level of the profession. Or how I have been blessed with countless opportunities to mentor and encourage others, especially in my role as Law Student Outreach Director of the YLD. Or how I have received opportunities to improve our imperfect profession and to serve, like on the Executive Board of the Center for Human Rights, HOD, YLD, and more.
Or how I now have scores of lawyer buddies beyond my local community and my school. Or how in the YLD I have made a few good friends for life. Or how my YLD friends provide a safe space to make mistakes, bounce ridiculous and brilliant ideas, and have solidarity.
Or that, through my ABA network, I am now routinely contacted with potential client leads, and how I get to build political capital by passing along those referrals, as appropriate.
But no. Since I evidently had such difficulty thinking of one benefit, I will share with you one thing that I have learned since I have been an ABA member: Quite little in our profession is linear, if we engage with the bar community. Rather, the connections are like elastic boomerangs.
Four illustrations follow.
- The Law Student Division elected me as one of its representatives to the HOD. Consequently, I became part of my state delegation. Those relationships that started in the HOD have benefited me in several ways back within my state.
- Being named a RPTE Fellow enhanced professional relationships with senior RPTE attorneys in my own city. Those relationships resulted in opportunities to present CLEs for our local bar and for our state bar.
- The Center for Human Rights created a powerful textbook and traveling exhibit called Lawyers Without Rights about now the Nazis persecuted Jewish lawyers. To my knowledge, it is the first project devoted to the subject. When the exhibit made its Missouri debut, it was I who got to represent the ABA and the Center in a public ceremony at my state courthouse, alongside one of our most esteemed judges.
- The relationships I have formed in the National Bar Association, Hispanic Bar, and ABA are constantly intersecting in ways that benefit me.
As a member of the ABA, I have learned that the worst thing about the legal profession is that we lawyers are clueless about what we don’t know. As a member of the ABA, one of the best things I have learned is that we lawyers get to keep learning.