For Auld Lang Syne: The End of the Bar Association Year

Summer Auld Lang SyneEvery year in June, we witness a flurry of dinners, receptions, and of course, CLEs, as almost every bar association in Illinois concludes its bar year.

This year, I was privileged to be on the executive team of not one, but two bar associations. I just finished the first year of my two-year term as Associate Editor for the American Bar Association Young Lawyer magazine. I also completed by one-year term as Co-Chair of the Chicago Bar Association Young Lawyers’ Section Professional Responsibility Committee.

I’ve said this before: bar association membership is necessary for career growth and professional networking. Moreover they are great social and volunteer outlets. There are communities of lawyers out there doing interesting, meaningful work. Join them. You will never regret the time you spend volunteering with them.

As for our committee, I’m happy to report that we enjoyed a very successful bar year. Much of that success is owed to the incredible hard work of my Co-Chair, Jennifer Weed. Our primary job as Committee Chairs was to find volunteer speakers for CLE programs. Jen worked tirelessly to find speakers who could speak to cutting edge issues of modern professionalism.

Jen and I had a plan at the beginning of the year to showcase the numerous ways professional responsibility imbues the daily practice of every Illinois attorney. We therefore reached out to various YLS committees to gauge their interest in co-sponsoring a professional responsibility lunchtime program in each of their substantive areas. Every committee was more than happy to work with us to bring experts in their field to talk about issues of professional responsibility, including ethics, professionalism and civility. In fact, we were only forced to cancel one Committee meeting this year due to the truly unfortunate, and hopefully never-to-be-repeated, Arctic freeze that prevented our speaker’s arrival in Chicago.

Our programs all featured one or several lawyers, experts in their field, speaking of issues of professional responsibility. Not only did our speakers provide insight and advice to those attending the program, they provoked in-depth discussion among attendees about the right and wrong approaches to ethics and professionalism. Jen and I remain incredibly grateful to these speakers for using their hard-earned time to prepare and facilitate these presentations.

Some of our more memorable collaborations include:

  1. In September, we held a joint meeting with the Estate Planning Committee as Lauren Wolven of Horwood Marcus & Berck presented Common Mistakes Attorneys Make in Drafting Estate Plans. Her practical advice focused on how to successfully draft estate plans without committing ethical and professional missteps.
  2. In April, we joined with the Bankruptcy Committee to present Issues of Professional Ethics in Bankruptcy Law. In this well-attended program, James Sowka, a senior associate at Seyfarth Shaw, presented on the ethics of representing a bankruptcy estate.
  3. In May, we had our most successful joint program of the year. We jointly hosted, with the Education Law Committee (co-chaired by Spotlight Lawyer Maryam Brotine), a panel presentation and networking reception focused on Succeeding in the Field of Education Law. Maryam’s law firm, Robbins Schwarz, sponsored the reception where practitioners and students mingled with each other, sharing the ins and outs of an education practice.

Finally, I would be remiss if I did not mention our December showcase program. In keeping with YLS Chair Mary Curry’s focus on the future of our profession, Jen and I created a seminar titled The First and Next Levels of Success: How to Think Like a Future Lawyer.  The first hour of the program featured Melissa Smart and Tracy Kepler of the ARDC discussing the lessons we all learned in kindergarten and how they can help attorneys avoid disciplinary exposure. The second hour featured Arin Reeves of Nextions speaking on implicit bias and its effect on young attorneys. All three speakers engaged the audience with personal stories and interactive exercises. It was my dream CLE come true, entirely due to our terrific speakers.

I enjoyed a great CBA year. It was a true honor and privilege to serve on the YLS Executive Board. I’m moving aside this year to make space for another Chair of the Professional Responsibility Committee. I know that she will do a magnificent job highlighting professionalism in our daily lives. If you’d like to get involved in the YLS, send me an email or just go to the Chicago Bar Association website and find out the myriad of ways you can work with the bar association. It’s a tremendously rewarding experience and I’m glad I was able to be a part of it. Happy end of bar year, everyone.


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