The sky is by no means falling.
Nonetheless, it is a challenge to make the bar association constantly relevant to new lawyers.
The employment market for young lawyers has been changing since at least—if not before—2008. Student enrollment is declining, even at major law schools. Research houses like LegalZoom compete for billable time. More graduates struggle with crushing debt and career issues—law firms have simply found they can get by with a little less. More young lawyers are turning to sole proprietorships or non-traditional employment as a means to develop a career. As a result, the bar’s message of relevance to young lawyers needs to improve—both in substance and in form.
I have previously written about an innovative bar program called “15 x 15”. The initiative is intended to grow DBA young lawyer membership by 15 percent by July 2015, addressing new enrollment and the retention of young lawyers. However, improving our substantive programming is equally important.
During 2014–15, the DBA will develop a “Bar Ambassador” program to improve communication with the YLD community and the bar community as a whole. Our Board of Trustees, with the assistance of bar staff, will contact approximately 35 of the largest law firms in Denver. We will ask the Managing Partner to appoint one or more Bar Ambassadors, whose responsibility will be to serve as a role model and mentor to young lawyers regarding DBA matters, communicate with them about the benefits of the bar, and encourage membership and participation in YLD activities. Our responsibility will be to keep your Bar Ambassadors informed about events and opportunities specifically available to those relatively new to the practice of law.
We are simultaneously developing a marketing program named “iBelong,” which emphasizes the benefits of DBA membership to those who want to join, but question whether they will not materially benefit.
The goals of the 15 x 15 initiative are to enhance the benefits of membership to firms, by way of better communication with members. We will gain new members and adapt our message to be more relevant to those entering the practice of law. Firms also will benefit by having their youngest members serve the DBA through leadership and bar activities. More young lawyers, when better informed, will serve their communities through pro bono programs and leadership opportunities. Finally, young lawyers will begin to connect with our 9,000 members—connections and personal relationships that will ensure their success in the practice of law and directly benefit their law firms.
We plan to kick off the Bar Ambassador program with a reception Thursday, Nov. 13, starting at 5:30 p.m. at the newly renovated Union Station. Everyone is invited to attend, members and nonmembers alike. Contact Heather Clark at the Bar Association for more details, or RSVP by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 303-860-1115, ext. 727.
Whether you are employed by the 35 largest law firms or not—grab your portfolio and become a Bar Ambassador. Not only will each Bar Ambassador be recognized at our annual meeting, but you will make a huge difference in someone’s life.
Now that’s a portfolio we all need to carry.
By John M. Vaught
President, Denver Bar Association