January 2021 Bar Bulletin
Last month marked the passing of the KCBA Young Lawyers Division and creation of the “New Lawyers Division.” Henceforth (and forthwith as the Bard might also have said), this rose by any other name will now apply to all lawyers practicing 10 years or less.
“New Lawyers” will continue to be the heart and soul of KCBA’s pro bono and equal justice work without being mistaken as merely “young.” Because in truth, many new lawyers attend law school to seek a second or third career as lawyers, after raising children, or moving here as newly admitted to the bar. They may not be “young,” but seek a professional home for skills training, professional development and collegiality.1
Providing service opportunities, quality CLEs with practical training and social events are hallmarks of the new New Lawyers Division. They will carry on the proud tradition of the YLD — not just for service, but to remind us to avoid the mistakes old lawyers make.
KCBA owes a debt of gratitude to the New Lawyers Division and its board. Since 2018 they have looked at whether their prior name unintentionally excluded those older than 36 years (the previous cut-off for membership) from its programs. They surveyed other bar associations and their membership. The verdict was clear. Last month the KCBA Board voted unanimously to rename the New Lawyers Division. We thank current leader Nate Benjamin, as well as current and past YLD boards, for examining their mission and for being sensitive to the needs of all of our newer lawyers.
Way back (way, way back) in the 1980s while serving as president of the WSBA Young Lawyers, I wrote a few incendiary columns in the YLD newsletter, De Novo. Unfairly, but humorously, one of my colleagues claimed that the publication was so bad he wouldn’t make his parrot read it between its legs while lining the birdcage. Still, I felt it was my duty to point out the errors of the bar’s Board of Governors — a mostly white, mostly male, exceedingly old board (well they were all over 50, for God’s sake).
On one occasion my monthly column, “Goodbye, Joey,” spoke about the death from AIDS of a neighborhood kid I grew up with. In this terrible time before anti-retroviral drugs, families hid the illness and few in society spoke or wrote of it, including many bar associations. So, I wrote to commend the work of a small, but mighty young lawyers committee working to prepare HIV/AIDS toolkits for lawyers — sadly, consisting mostly of estate planning and family law resources.
I was told by one old bar association governor that I had “a big mouth” for writing about the need for lawyers to prepare families for sons returning to communities and small towns to die. As a young lawyer leader, I never regretted the enmity I earned for writing the truth about an epidemic most preferred not to speak about. And I was proud of the work of young lawyers to contribute in a small way to the enormous suffering that knew no class, political, religious or geographic boundaries.
Today, with COVID-19, we see some of the same societal stigma. Families don’t want to say their loved ones died of COVID, perhaps in fear of trivializing their lives, perhaps in fear of the same fears engendered by all pandemics throughout human history.
My law partner Warren Rheaume and his extended family know too well and painfully the cost of COVID. Last month they lost their beautiful mother, Dolores, to the pandemic. They did all the right things, but at 86, she succumbed to COVID-19 after a mercifully short stay in Yakima’s Virginia Mason Memorial Hospital. Her family, demonstrating the courage that Dolores herself showed in life, wrote an obituary that proudly captured her spirit and why she was loved by so many. And right up front, they told of her COVID-related death.
They also gave us all an important warning in these dark months before a vaccine becomes widely available.
Stay socially distanced.
Support each other, especially small businesses trying to make it in spite of closures and reduced access. Remember that a phone call, a note, or a socially distanced cup of coffee can go a long way to tell of our love for one another. Care for yourself too, as this may well be our generation’s great challenge.
Lawyers, including our New Lawyers Division, must continue to provide support to our communities and serve as voices of reason to those who irresponsibly deny science and refuse to take necessary measures to prevent the spread of this cruel disease.
If we can save more cherished loved ones like Dolores, we can make these sacrifices. Though too late for the Rheaume family and far too many others, the vaccines and our patience in the face of inconvenience and suffering will save many more families from this heartache.
But not before we lose more of our beloved.
John McKay is the President of the King County Bar Association and a partner at Davis Wright Tremaine. He can be reached at email@example.com.
1 Editor’s Note: The editor entered the University of Washington School of Law at the ripe age of 37 and graduated when 40.