ctober is Legal Professionalism month. For me, it is a time when I not only scramble to ensure my CLE credits are in order, but it is also an opportunity to reflect on what it means to be a “legal professional.”
Early in practice, I was fortunate to have strong, thoughtful, patient mentors. They taught me how to work up a case and how to think like a lawyer. They taught me how to learn, understand and advocate for the best interests of my client. And they pushed me to get involved in the community, legal and otherwise, and to give back.
It is fitting — and likely not coincidental — that many bar associations celebrate Pro Bono Week within Legal Professionalism month. Beyond simply being embedded in the Colorado Rules of Professional Conduct, serving those in need is a critical component of what it means to truly be a legal professional.
I cut my teeth in the courtroom on pro bono cases and saw first-hand the phenomenal impact a competent, prepared counsel can have on the outcome of a case. Many of my most rewarding professional moments have been in the service of pro bono clients. I continue to turn to pro bono work to help keep me grounded, motivated and excited about practicing law. Through various access to justice initiatives at the DBA, I can always find a way to connect to deserving and thankful clients who help remind me that it is a privilege to practice law.
As lawyers, we find ourselves at the unique intersection of being a subject matter resource, confidant, and problem solver. We have the ability to lift disputes beyond futile, hostile exchanges and, hopefully, to meaningful resolutions. Our clients, paying or not, look to us to help navigate a course through a challenge or threat or trying time. Often, our friends and family turn to us for similar guidance and support because the skills we have honed in our professional lives bleed over into our personal lives. Our work can be daunting and unrelenting, but I, at least, draw strength and comfort in the idea that I serve as one of many working to make our community stronger and fairer. That, in the face of disagreement or discord, we can still foster civil discourse, articulate our way toward amicable resolution, and, eventually, move the arc of the universe toward justice. To me, these unique opportunities and obligations define what it means to be a member of this profession.
Once we are sworn in, we have each earned the right to practice law; to work to constantly refine our professional skills; to grow, to be challenged, and to persevere. This fall, I encourage you to join me in refreshing your commitment to honing these skills by taking some time to embrace what it means to you to be a professional. Perhaps this means reengaging with your peers or prior mentors. Perhaps it means finding a new mentee to share some wisdom with over coffee. It might mean brushing up on some new substantive developments with a CLE course or attending a bench-bar relations event to broaden your reach. Or maybe, it means finding some time to squeeze in some pro bono work with MVL or many of the other DBA initiatives (see page 37 for a few ideas!). Whatever it is, I hope you can take a moment this month to reflect on what being a professional means to you. D