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TCL > September 2012 Issue > The CBA Young Lawyers Division—Helping With Professional Transitions, Developing New Ideas, and Forming Lasting Relationships

The Colorado Lawyer
September 2012
Vol. 41, No. 9 [Page  5]

© 2012 The Colorado Lawyer and Colorado Bar Association. All Rights Reserved.

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In and Around the Bar
CBA President's Message to Members

The CBA Young Lawyers Division—Helping With Professional Transitions, Developing New Ideas, and Forming Lasting Relationships
by Mark A. Fogg

 
   

Much to my speech pathologist wife’s chagrin, I like to smoke a cigar about once a month. Usually it is after a day of fly fishing, to celebrate one of my kid’s milestones, or just because I am enjoying myself. This last circumstance applied when I met the incoming CBA Young Lawyers Division (YLD) Chair, Carlos Migoya, Jr., at an American Bar Association conference in Chicago in March. It was at the end of a day of interesting programs primarily on professionalism and access to justice. I met with the entire Colorado contingent, as well as with lawyers from around the country. Carlos and I hit it off over dinner and we spent much of the evening discussing issues affecting new Colorado lawyers.

Carlos has an interesting background. He is a first-generation Cuban and is part of a large extended family in Miami. He recently had returned from a 400-member family reunion. Although raised in Miami, he went to law school in Denver and practiced in the Colorado Public Defender’s Office for two years. He went back to Miami and practiced commercial litigation for a time. He told me, "The legal community there was really tough; everybody gave you a hard time about the smallest thing. I really missed Colorado. Colorado lawyers are more open-minded and more collegial."

He decided to return to Colorado and opened a solo practice emphasizing criminal defense. Times were tough at first. Immediate past YLD Chair Ben Currier invited Carlos to live in his basement while he got on his feet; Carlos took him up on it. "I really respect Ben for his leadership at the YLD and the service he was providing to the CBA, to the profession, and to new lawyers," Carlos said. "He is a big reason I got so involved in the YLD and ultimately became Chair."

Carlos is a big-hearted guy whom I liked immediately. Sometime around 10:00 p.m., after several hours of talking, I hankered for a cigar and asked the hotel concierge on Michigan Avenue whether there was a place I could get a good cigar at that time of night. "Of course," he said. "This is Chicago. There’s a place open until midnight about three blocks from here." I witnessed another of Carlos’s many talents that evening. At the store, he carried on one of the most sophisticated discussions about cigars I have ever heard, resulting in the purchase of a terrific cigar for $8.75. We enjoyed sitting on Michigan Avenue smoking our cigars and trying to resolve more of our profession’s problems.

So, when Carlos called me about two months ago and asked me to drive up to Keystone on a Saturday afternoon to attend a retreat of the YLD Executive Council, I was happy to do so. Shortly after becoming Chair on July 1, Carlos had hatched a plan to bring together all fifteen members of the Council (also called the "YLD Board"). The retreat would provide a chance for Council members to get to know one another and to discuss the YLD mission and how it may have changed over the last several years, given the seismic changes our profession has undergone. I believe a good way for a leader to define an organization is to reexamine governing documents, mission statements, and websites. So, when Carlos tasked me with discussing our profession’s core values (which happen to be the subject of my discussions with the local bar associations and specialty bar associations), I was on board.

The CBA YLD and Its Mission

The YLD is the only CBA membership contingent that has been designated a "Division." Many years ago—it is difficult to pinpoint exactly when—it was changed from a CBA Section to a Division, primarily because all CBA members under the age of 37 (or admitted to their first bar within three years) automatically are members. This differs from CBA Sections, which pertain to a substantive area of law or field of practice and in which CBA members enroll based on their practice specialty and interest. The consensus was—and is—that the YLD is the lifeblood of our association.

So I lucked out. Not only did I have an opportunity to witness a group of talented, diverse young lawyers getting to know one another better, I also was able to listen in on and observe discussions about the core values of the YLD and its mission. I immediately got the sense that lasting relationships were forming among YLD Board members. There even was talk of bonding in the Jacuzzi on Friday night and during a fishing expedition on Saturday morning. (The claims of 20-inch fish were not substantiated.)

The YLD Board comprises lawyers who hail from across the state and from all types of practice areas, including public service lawyers, small firm and solo practitioners, criminal defense attorneys, corporate counsel, and civil litigators. Approximately two-thirds of the Board are women and there is representation of different ethnicities.

Emphasis at the Board’s retreat was on the importance of helping lawyers with transitions—whether transitioning from law school into practice, from one practice area to another, or from associate to partner or shareholder. Chair-Elect Emma Garrison has an interesting story. She went to Berkeley School of Law, clerked for a Texas judge, and then practiced in Washington, DC. She moved to Denver on a fellowship with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). Then, in 2009, she found herself in Denver without a job.

"When I was in Texas, Washington, and in Denver at first, I did not have any bar association contact," she said. "I thought networking was ‘schmoozy.’"

A co-worker at her EPA job was the Chair of the CBA’s Environmental Law Section and invited her to become involved in some of the YLD activities. Emma found this to be a vital link to the profession, especially when times were tough.

"Unemployment can be very isolating, and searching for a job can be very frustrating," she said. "YLD events are particularly appealing because they are free or inexpensive."

Emma also emphasizes that any negative connotations you might have about networking disappear when you focus on its true value. "Networking is much easier when what you are hoping to gain is a new relationship, a new connection, a new idea, or a new friend." Emma makes a point of meeting with law students and new bar admittees to congratulate them on attending a YLD event and to let them know they are already light years ahead of where she was when she was starting out.

Tim Garvey said it is natural for him to take the same approach as when he managed a record store and was involved in the local music community. "[The YLD] isn’t about networking, but about friend-building and community-growing," he said.

Many events the YLD holds for its members are social gatherings, such as the new member mixer, the Mesa County Spring Fling with live music, college football and Colorado Rockies games, and mountain bike rides. A very successful program has been movie nights, the most recent being a showing of To Kill a Mockingbird that included a corresponding CLE program on representing unpopular clients. My personal favorite is the annual kickball tournament, where YLD members compete against the Colorado Society of Certified Public Accountants. Corporate counsel Chris Achatz said that participating in the YLD is a way for her to thank "the many judges and attorneys who gave me encouragement during morning coffee fixes, power lunches, and LoDo happy hours." Receiving such support and guidance, she said, is "truly humbling."

Equally important are programs to help new lawyers develop in their practice. For example, the YLD holds law school outreach programs called "Bridging the Gap." There also are CLE programs for young lawyers, given by young lawyers. "Practical Aspects of Practice and Hot Topics in the Law" was started last November. Upcoming programs will be held in Denver and at the law schools in Boulder and Denver; the cost is $10 for law students and $20 for CBA members. Board member Lance Timbreza from Grand Junction said that helping to develop this program is one of his proudest achievements. He emphasizes the importance of helping other young lawyers in his community and of instilling pride in being a lawyer.

"I was born and raised in Delta," he said. "My family has a long history of coal mining and my Dad was insistent from a young age that I would not follow in that family tradition. I always knew I wanted to go to law school and I knew I wanted to practice in the community where I was raised."

Nicoal Miller said that she is a first-generation Korean American who did not know any attorneys before going to law school. The YLD has been a way for her to meet other highly motivated lawyers and develop lasting relationships.

A Service Arm of the CBA

Concepts about service, such as mentoring, responsibility to the community, providing pro bono or modest means representation, and being ambassadors for the profession, kept coming up during the retreat discussions. Board member Arax Corn said that the emphasis on community service she experienced when she was a member of the voluntary Missouri Bar Association YLD is equally strong in Colorado. She believes that one of the primary goals of the YLD is to be "a service arm of the CBA."

Another Board member, Ruth Mackey, who also graduated from Berkeley law school, performed a public interest fellowship with the Native American Rights Fund and then practiced federal Indian law. She is now an employment lawyer. She thinks it is vitally important that the CBA YLD reach out to local bar association YLDs, and she especially wants to build a bridge with the Colorado Hispanic Bar Association YLD and get more Latino lawyers involved with the CBA.

Statewide Community Support

Each year, the YLD holds a silent auction and beer-tasting fundraiser, which raises thousands of dollars. The membership decides which charity to support. This past year, the funds went to the Byrne Urban Scholars, a program to assist at-risk youth by providing scholarships for education and future employment. The YLD also partners with WeeCycle to hold an annual children’s charity event during which baby gear is collected to distribute to low-income families. There also is a YLD school supplies donation drive for children on the Western Slope. As Board member Nicole Black puts it, "Practicing law is not just about being an attorney; it is about engaging in your community."

Board member Mackenzie Morgan agrees. "In my few years of practice, I learned that being an attorney carries both a great responsibility and great reward," she said. "As a YLD member, I am regularly engaged in active service to my colleagues, to the Colorado population, and to the profession itself."

The YLD is a galvanizing force in creating and implementing the Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans program, which kicked off in November 2011. Clinics to provide pro bono aid to discharged Colorado veterans are being set up throughout the state. A special training program for lawyers on issues affecting veterans—such as disability, landlord/tenant, consumer rights, and domestic relations—is available on the CBA website. Most issues can be handled at the clinic; however, because some veterans may need additional assistance, the YLD is compiling a list of lawyers willing to provide pro bono representation to vets. In addition, the YLD is making a push for its members to get certified with the Veterans Administration to assist vets with disability and compensation issues at no cost or at low-pay rates. Immediate past YLD Chair Ben Currier and longtime CBA member John Vaught co-chaired the Colorado Lawyers for Colorado Veterans program and devoted a lot of time to getting it off the ground. Contact Ben (benc@m-s-lawyers.com)or John (vaught@wtotrial.com) if you would like to help out.

Ben, who is the self-described "old man of the Board," has selflessly worked on many bar projects and has worked hard at streamlining and fostering YLD activities and Board functions. The result is a Board that is reflective of the membership—with geographic, practice, ethnic, and gender diversity—sharing a vision of what is important to new lawyers in the profession.

Colorado Bar Association Leadership Training program (or COBALT) grad Jaclyn Casey is excited about being on the YLD Board. She sees it as another way to express her leadership skills and help senior members of our legal community to realize the value of young lawyers.

Get Involved With the YLD

During the retreat discussion on YLD values, I did not say anything, which usually means that I am on medication or have dozed off. Neither was the case here. I was thoroughly enjoying the discussion and I wanted to make sure I did not disrupt the flow of it. When Carlos commented on my silence, I told him I am happy that the profession is in such good hands!

Whether you are a law student, a new lawyer, or an old hand (under age 37), please consider becoming active with the YLD. It is doing great things for the profession. Your participation is welcomed.

Many thanks to the current YLD Executive Council members—Carlos Migoya, Chris Achatz, Josh Berry, Nicole Black, Jaclyn Casey, Arax Corn, Ben Currier, Emma Garrison, Tim Garvey, Erica Longnecker, Ruth Mackey, Nicoal Miller, Mackenzie Morgan, Cassie Ta, and Lance Timbreza—for their service. Thanks, also, to the terrific Denise Lynch, the CBA YLD staff liaison.


Meet the President of the Colorado Bar Association

CBA President Mark Fogg is traveling the state
to visit local bar associations.
His upcoming visits are listed below.*

Bar Association Date Time Location
Heart of the Rockies September 6 Lunch Salida
Freemont–Custer Counties September 6 Dinner Cañon City
Douglas–Elbert Counties September 12 Dinner Castle Rock
Weld County September 18 Lunch Greeley
Arapahoe County October 24 Dinner Littleton
16th Judicial District October 30 Dinner Lamar
Southeastern Colorado October 30 Dinner Lamar
Adams County  November 5 Lunch Brighton
Aurora November13 Dinner Aurora
El Paso County November 20 Lunch Colorado Springs
Boulder County January 16 Lunch Boulder
Larimer County Spring (TB) Lunch Fort Collins

*Available at press time. For more information about these upcoming visits,
contact Jill Lafrenz at jlafrenz@cobar.org or (303) 824-5333.

© 2012 The Colorado Lawyer and Colorado Bar Association. All Rights Reserved. Material from The Colorado Lawyer provided via this World Wide Web server is protected by the copyright laws of the United States and may not be reproduced in any way or medium without permission. This material also is subject to the disclaimers at http://www.cobar.org/tcl/disclaimer.cfm?year=2012.


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