I moved to Seattle last September after completing undergrad, law school and a clerkship in Nebraska. I grew up in Alaska, but my time in the Midwest meant I had little to no built-in network in town. The local lawyers I had managed to meet were the few with whom I shared a common school or connection or who were kind enough to respond to my request for advice without any connection at all.
In a new city with uncertain prospects, I found much-needed camaraderie my first week in town at a Young Lawyers Division monthly CLE/happy hour. Networking is tough for most young attorneys, but a number of YLD trustees and mentors (many of whom were able to relate to my situation) made a point to chat with newcomers and even followed up after the event. During my first year in town, I have found the YLD to be one of the best avenues for finding similarly positioned people and an excellent group for building a lasting, natural connection to the legal community.
The YLD exists to offer new attorneys (36 years old or younger or who have five years or less of practice experience) a gateway to involvement in the KCBA and local pro bono work, free educational events geared toward foundational legal skills, and an inviting built-in network. The YLD’s other main priority is to provide legal services to underserved populations, which it does quite successfully through a variety of programs that pair new attorneys — eager to help, but often unsure how to — with people with legal problems.
Impressed by the benefits and success of the YLD, I recently chose to run for the YLD Board of Trustees. Based on the YLD’s past year, these are some of the highlights that YLD members can expect to see in the coming year.
The YLD’s most regular events are its free, monthly CLEs, which are always followed by a happy hour. These are consistently well attended, and the CLE topics generally focus on foundational skills or general areas of practice useful to new attorneys. The happy hours are friendly and unassuming — an easy place to meet other new attorneys who are always more than happy to chat.
Partnering with other groups, such as the Federal Bar Association, the YLD also provides free access to other excellent programs. Most notable, in my experience, has been the “Tips from the Bench” series. These are extremely popular events in which state and federal judges give their thoughts on various areas of legal practice.
The monthly Brown-Bag Mentor Program is a new event in which the YLD finds experienced attorneys willing to talk about their areas of practice. With a handful or two of attendees, the setting is small and informal, offering a great opportunity for genuine conversation and candid answers.
The YLD also has a steady flow of volunteer opportunities — a great entrée into KCBA’s many pro bono programs. For example, YLD members recently provided walk-in legal services at the United Way’s Volunteer Resource Exchange (a massive event at the CenturyLink Event Center) for 30 homeless individuals. The YLD also offers the chance to volunteer with community service groups (such as the popular UGM Search & Rescue Van) and to work with aspiring attorneys (such as by judging mock trials).
The YLD’s annual Bridging the Gap event is an all-day, low-cost CLE program, which this year had 66 attendees. Geared toward newer attorneys, the Bridging the Gap presentations covered a range of topics, focusing on practical skills with everyday uses.
Popular annual social events include the YLD Trivia Night — a fun way to connect with peers — and the Winter Soiree, which honors outstanding mentors and includes a mix of young and established attorneys. Another popular event in the spring, the Fun Run, offers a more laid-back setting while also providing financial support to KCBA’s Pro Bono Services programs.
A legal community is vital to almost any attorney’s practice and more so for someone new to the trade and city. Whether wanting to network, hoping to volunteer or looking for familiar connections, the YLD is an excellent resource.
Erick Reitz is an associate at Song Mondress PLLC. This summer, he will begin a three-year term on the YLD’s Board of Trustees.
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