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The Bar Bulletin
Jax Daily Record Monday, Aug. 6, 201805:20 AM EST

Commentary: Voluntary Bar service helping build community

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It also helps lawyers feel more connected to their profession.

By Jamie Karpman  Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association president

There are more than 4,000 lawyers in the 4th Judicial Circuit, but many of us are not engaged in voluntary Bar service, or are members in name only.

If you are one of those lawyers, now is the time to consider getting more involved in an organization like the Jacksonville Bar Association.

In addition to educational programming and referral networks, many lawyers find Bar service to be personally fulfilling because it provides them an opportunity to find support and friendship, and to give back through community service. 

“While I have never seen a formal statistic that supports this, I have no doubt that lawyers who are involved in Bar activities would report higher job satisfaction,” said Michelle

Bedoya Barnett, partner at Alexander DeGance Barnett and treasurer of the Jacksonville Bar Association.

In alignment with The Florida Bar’s focus on health and wellness, Barnett also said that having a community of lawyers to learn from, work with and exchange ideas is important at a time when so many lawyers feel disconnected from their profession and report high levels of stress.

In a profession that is high-pressure and often adversarial, voluntary Bar service provides attorneys the opportunity to connect and build community. Personal relationships also encourage civility in the practice of law in our community. 

Colleen White, of the Law Office of Colleen A. White and president of the Jacksonville Beaches Bar Association, agreed that voluntary Bar service is rewarding on many levels.

“The opportunity of elevating oneself though voluntary work in your own profession is very rewarding along with friendship, the experience of working together, networking, getting to know others in your profession, having others get to know you and most of all, feeling the gratefulness that fills you for the experiences,” she said.

Voluntary Bar service also brings value to our community.  “One of the best parts of voluntary Bar service is facilitating change within the organization itself and the community as a whole. Having the opportunity to contribute and participate in a voluntary Bar allows me to share ideas, help the less fortunate, and give back to the community,” said Kimberly Jones Woods, an associate at Baumann, Gant & Keeley P.A. and a leader in the Jacksonville Bar Association, Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association and the D.W. Perkins Bar Association.

Using our skills as lawyers to improve our communities through pro bono work and community service is an important aspect of voluntary Bar service for many.

Carrington “Rusty” Mead, of Carrington Madison Mead P.A. and an active member of the Jacksonville Bar Association, Jacksonville Women Lawyers Association and the D.W. Perkins Bar Association, similarly focuses on the importance of the impact of voluntary Bar work on the community. 

“Providing assistance to those in need, as a voluntary Bar, allows you to make a difference in a community that you aren’t able to do alone. It helps to make changes the members of the community will benefit from in the future that they may be unable to do themselves,” Mead said.

Engaging with other lawyers and our community through voluntary Bar participation enables lawyers to enjoy their chosen career while making an impact on others, whether through mentoring, professional relationships or community service.

“As I look back at the lawyers who have found their legal careers most fulfilling, they have been involved in service, either Bar or community service,” said Michael Tanner, partner at Tanner Bishop and a member of The Florida Bar board of governors.

There are many reasons to get involved in a voluntary Bar association, and it is never too late or too early in your career.  To learn more about the local voluntary Bars in our area and how you can get involved, visit The Florida Bar Voluntary Bar Center at floridabar.org/about/volbars.

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