Claire will be a Senior at Bentley University next fall, and is beginning to feel the pressure of “the real world”, and all that this represents. Is graduate school in her immediate future? Or does she start working first, and then build in graduate school on a part-time basis? And then of course, there is the harsh reality of school loans. As the mom of three, I have always been a firm believer that the kids need to go into their college educations with some skin in the game, and therefore, they all have some loans, and held jobs down while in school. And I have a commitment to each of them to help them at some level as they graduate. But as a parent, I would be lying if I did not admit some level of anxiety for Claire as she graduates in May of 2015 into a world of unknowns. Fortunately Bentley has a placement rate of 97%, and Claire is bright and capable, so I am confident she will land a position.
Brian almost chose law school 3 years ago, and instead opted for PGA School and life as a club & teaching golf pro, where he is gainfully employed at a wonderful course in Nashville, paying his bills and is happy in his life. And I am happy that he did not opt for law school, and that I am not the mother of a young, new law school graduate competing with thousands of other lawyers for so few jobs.
According to the ABA, in 2011-12 the number of 1L law school students across 201 law schools was 48,697. That’s a lot of graduates hitting the job search pavement.
So as Executive Director of the MCBA, I cannot help but wear my “Mom hat” sometimes in the presence of our young attorneys that are job hunting, or hanging their shingle as a solo, and worrying about them as well. On a daily basis now this group of members is on my mind. Just last week the Membership Committee approved two waivers for dues to young attorneys. And just yesterday in the Academy of Law meeting, I heard a report that request for CLE fee waivers is on the increase more now than ever before. What was alarming here is that the waivers were not only for new lawyers, but also for some experienced lawyers, that are obviously struggling.
This population of members is frequently on my mind of late. I am talking with the MCBA’s Strategic Planning Committee about the situation, and seeking their input. Last night I had a brief conversation with President Diane Cecero on this topic as well. And as a mom of a new young lawyer, she understands this issue. Her son, Stephen Whelan, is a hardworking young attorney at a firm in Washington, D.C. However, in our brief conversation Diane understood the point I was raising, and agreed that some reflection and dialogue on this topic would be useful in order that we can better respond to MCBA can respond to our members, and future members.
Here is what we are currently doing:
- Robust and active Solo & Small Firm Committee — whether or not you are running a solo practice, this is a great place to network and learn from others.
- Plus 7 other substantive sections and more than 30 engaged committees — all doing great work.
- Active Solo & Small Firm Listserv — great information shared with many learning opportunities as well. Not to mention, potential for client referrals. Contact Liz Novak at firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to be added.
- Robust and active Young Lawyers Section — a wonderful opportunity for new lawyers to get involved. The section is hosting a new admittee welcome reception at an Amerks game on Wednesday, March 12. Click here for more details.
- Use of Conference Rooms — just ask Ryan Woodworth, a young attorney that is busy growing his practice, and since his office is in his home, he is making use of his member benefit of using conference rooms in the MCBA to meet clients. Now, if this demand becomes so great, we may have to expand to conference rooms throughout the Telesca Center for Justice, but there are plenty.
- Access to an MCBA work station — due to damage to the 10th floor from water damage through the roof, the MCBA has recently, thanks to insurance, replaced carpet on the 10th floor, resulting in the reconfiguration of some spaces. From that exercise, we are in the process of creating two member work stations, complete with phone and a computer. These are not up and running yet, but we hope to have these functional in the next 30 days. (If anyone or any firms have two healthy desk top computers they would be willing to donate to this cause, please let me know. We don’t need the software, just the hardware. Please contact me directly at email@example.com, I would be most grateful.)
- Mentor for a Moment — The Mentor for a Moment program is a members only program (you will need your username and password to log in) that list attorneys mentors with 10-plus years in specific practice areas that have volunteered to be available for a phone call or email for new or young attorneys. Please feel free to reach out to anyone on the list in a practice area relevant to you. We are still looking for mentors. Please check out the Mentor Application for the application with the various practice areas.
- Networking & Fun at the BarSTOP — the creation of the BarSTOP was intended to create a monthly gathering place for members to come to both network and socialize. These are a great time, and the attendees are of all generations from Wende Knapp, YLS Chair, and Laura Myers and Penny Dentinger and other young attorneys, to Paul MacAulay, Bruce Lawrence, Andrew Brown, Phil Hurwitz, Eileen Buholtz, Judge Frank Geraci, Judge Paul Warren, Connie Walker, Diane Cecero, Steve Modica and Justin Vigdor — and I know I am leaving folks out…please don’t be upset with me!
So the question is — what more should we do? What more can we do? My Strategic Planning Committee will challenge me, maybe even fuss at me, for writing this blog on this particular topic, but first and foremost we are a membership association. In my mind, that translates to supporting our members in their profession of the practice of law. In my mind, this is our primary mission. What do you think? Should we be doing more? If so, what does that mean? Can we find a way to introduce these new attorneys to contract work to at least build some experience while giving you some breathing room? If so, how do we do that? Are you willing to be part of the dialogue? Are you willing to help your young colleagues, or your peers that may be struggling with unemployment?
As Liz mentioned in last week’s blog, the Membership Committee is working on a series of surveys targeted to different groups as we understand that different groups have different needs. Please watch for these surveys, and take the time to respond. We all can work together for the bigger picture — a better bar that is responsive and indispensable to the needs of our members no matter what stage of their life they are in.
Thanks for checking in….