After a long day of meeting with clients, researching issues, drafting pleadings and keeping up with endless emails, you may feel that your busy day was successful and full of accomplishment.
On the other hand, after that long day, you might also find yourself remembering that you’re part of a bigger world of lawyers, judges and academics who share a responsibility for advancing the overall profession. You read in the pages of this Bar Bulletin each month about the thousands of lawyers and judicial officers and educators volunteering at KCBA’s pro bono clinics, serving on bar committees and attending events. You begin to wonder how these folks started getting involved, but then the phone rings and you come back to the realities of your current commitments.
However, if you could let that call go to voicemail and continue thinking for a few more minutes about the broader professional community, I’d invite you to ask any of those colleagues about why they participate in bar activities. My prediction: You’ll hear a similar theme in their responses. It’s reaffirming, rewarding and renewing to connect with professional peers, including so many of them who become friends and valued colleagues.
Sure, you might work in a firm, corporate or government environment where you’re surrounded by colleagues all day (and you might need to close your door occasionally to escape the noise level!). Lots of connecting happening, right? Or you might be a solo practitioner who thrives on being able to focus uninterrupted by distractions to advocate for your client. Connecting is overrated, right?
But do you have to be limited to just those two extremes?
Your colleagues who volunteer and participate in bar activities have found a “sweet spot” between those extremes. They give a little (or a lot) of their time knowing that what they get back is invaluable to that sense of daily accomplishment and satisfaction.
Please know I appreciate that for many of us the idea of finding an extra hour or two in a week to spend on “extracurricular” activities is a luxury that is hard to justify. We already cut into our sleep time, family time or personal health time. That smartphone doesn’t seem to stop delivering more and more messages requiring faster and faster response times.
Yet I know for me personally, and for the hundreds of you I get a chance to talk with each year, that the payoff for carving out that extra hour or two is, in the word/style of Donald Trump, “huuuge” (thought I’d throw in a current events reference!).
There are ways to get involved in your bar association that are manageable for a busy professional. Here are just three for your consideration:
1. Attend the Breakfast With Champions on March 29. You can come by yourself or bring a colleague or two. Many people come solo and we’ll seat you at a table where you can get to know your fellow tablemates. We have an amazing lawyer as our keynote speaker, Morris Dees, the co-founder of the Southern Poverty Law Center. For a one-hour commitment, you can learn about how one lawyer used his profession to protect the civil rights of millions. Inspiring. Details at www.kcbf.org/bwc (and pages 16 and 20 of this issue).
2. “Audit” a bar committee meeting that sounds interesting. You can find a list at www.kcba.org/committees. No need to RSVP, just check the weekly KCBA calendar on our homepage to confirm a meeting is happening. Most convene over the lunch hour, and we even throw in a free sandwich when you attend.
Listen to the issues being discussed, ask a question perhaps, volunteer some feedback about a topic, and decide if it felt like something you’d like to do again. If so, the committee chair would be delighted to add you to the member roster. There are lots of choices and I can tell you that the Membership, Public Policy, Diversity, CLE and Judicial Evaluation committees are among our groups with the biggest need for more participants.
3. Volunteer for one of our pro bono programs. We know that more than 85 percent of Washington low-income residents deal with legal issues without the assistance of counsel. The demand is astronomical. But KCBA members meet the challenge by collectively providing more than 30,000 hours of free legal services each year to more than 10,000 clients.
The time commitment can be as little as two hours a month or much greater if you are willing to assist with a longer-term case. We offer a monthly overview of the opportunities on first Wednesdays. Why not attend the one-hour overview and get a better sense of whether this way of participating appeals to you? More information is online at www.kcba.org/probono.
Do any of these ideas spark some interest? If not, I have many more! Send me an email or give me a call and I’d be happy to visit with you about some limited-time-commitment activities or some more involved opportunities where your help would be welcomed and appreciated.
I truly believe you’d feel an even greater sense of daily accomplishment by participating in the King County Bar Association.
Andrew Prazuch is KCBA’s executive director. He can be reached by email (email@example.com) or phone (206-267-7061).
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