The following posting is made with permission from the State Bar of Wisconsin who originally printed it as an article with the same name included in Fresh Perspectives, State Bar of Wisconsin, October 2015, Vol. No. 18, Issue No. 4:
This past Sept. 24 and 25 I attended the State Bar Joint Leadership Orientation in Elkhart Lake on behalf of the YLD. The orientation brought together the leaders from all the sections, committees, and divisions of the State Bar plus the entire State Bar Board of Governors. The meeting is a chance to learn more about the bar and the strategic planning process.
This year there is a strong focus on collaboration between the various entities of the bar and, it seems, an equally powerful goal of involving more young lawyers in the work of the bar. Being the resident “young lawyer,” I met plenty of people and had the attention of the crowd aimed in my direction numerous times during the event. I must say, I should have started getting involved in the bar when I was young.
Sept. 24 was also my 35th birthday. What I was most looking forward to was a good night sleep. My 4-year-old son, 9-month-old daughter, and wife decided to stay back in Michigan this time. Free drinks curbed that plan. But I digress. Turning 35 means the next time I send my dues statement back to the bar will be the last time the Young Lawyers Division box will be checked. I’m close to aging out. One of the key reasons I decided to get involved with the bar was to network with other lawyers. I am, I imagine, not alone in this regard. Thankfully, I chose the YLD because one of my best friends, Lee Turonie, was already involved. I figured he would show me the ropes and ensure that I was never left wondering who to talk to.
I wish I could say that in 2012 when I decided to get involved with the YLD I knew what I was doing, but it was more luck than anything. I had just moved home – literally in with mom – for my sixth job after being out of school for seven years. The job was promising and at a firm that I had been trying to get into for a long time. I now remind my partners that it took them 10 years to offer me a job. My first interview was in 2002 during my first year of law school. Anyway, I had taken a significant pay cut because I could not find work in Green Bay, and my boss there was dying of brain cancer. I remember thinking that I had to start doing things so I would have more say in what opportunities are available to me. Thankfully, even though I had already been out of law school for seven years, I did not have the “I’m not young” mindset I have seen from others in our division.
In our division, you’re a “young lawyer” for your first five years of practice or until you are 36 years old. You might be “young” for even longer in your local bar. Don’t run from it. Embrace it. Right now it seems most, if not all, of the sections, divisions, and committees of the bar are asking themselves how can we help young lawyers? How can we get them involved? What programs or articles would they be interested in? If you remind people that you are a young lawyer it might occur to them that you can help them out.
In 2012 I decided to get involved. Now I am on a first name basis with the last three presidents of our bar, the current president and the president-elect, as is most of the board of the YLD. Why? Because I never shut up? No, well not entirely. I know them because they wanted to know young lawyers and I’ve been on the YLD board. Get involved, and act your age!
© October 2015 Brandon J. Evans