Take advantage of the opportunities for professional development.
In Florida, there are approximately 28,000 young lawyers practicing law, including nearly 2,000 who entered the profession last year.
Many attorneys who are under 35 or have been practicing less than five years are in the 4th Judicial Circuit.
While the number of young lawyers is growing, so are their needs.
In the first few years of practice, attorneys should be growing at an exponential rate to become more well-rounded, knowledgeable and professional attorneys.
This is not always the case. Many young attorneys find themselves isolated, without a mentor and without an idea of where to go or how to ask for advice.
To make the transition to practice less stressful, Bar associations provide resources to young lawyers, such as continuing legal education credits, facilitating connections with judges, mentors or other young lawyers in the community and giving back to local charities.
Being involved in state and local Bar associations also helps to improve a young attorney’s skills to communicate, lead, solve problems or make decisions – skills that attorneys might not otherwise gain in the first few years of practice.
The Jacksonville Bar Association Young Lawyers Section organizes events to benefit local charities through which young lawyers work together on committees alongside the representatives of the charity.
The young lawyers on each committee don’t just collaborate with one another but work with judges, law firms and vendors to ensure each event’s success.
In this way, young lawyers gain an understanding of attention to detail and hard work, both of which are crucial to the practice of law.
This year, due to the work of committees, the Young Lawyers Section has donated more than $50,000 to local charities and it’s just March.
Another example of the benefits a Bar association can provide is mentoring.
Some young lawyers graduate from law school without a mentor. A mentor can be a formal mentor assigned by your employer to assist you on the substantive practice of law or an informal mentor that you can trust in the community. Both types of mentorships can be beneficial for young lawyers.
Bar associations provide networking and other events that introduce young lawyers to experienced practitioners.
These relationships are important when there is a need for guidance on dilemmas that occasionally arise in the mind of a young lawyer.
The continued involvement of young lawyers in a Bar association help to foster those relationships in the community. If a young lawyer is lucky, she or he can make lifelong relationships that will shape their career in ways they may not have imagined.
In this regard, last year The Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division launched the “Legal Accelerator” website.
It’s a virtual mentor resource, accessible through a member’s Florida Bar account.
The website is meant to serve as a one-stop hub for obtaining advice on issues often faced by young lawyers. More than 1,000 short instructional videos featuring judges, practitioners and Bar leaders are available on the site.
If you are a young lawyer that has not been able to establish a relationship with a mentor, the website provides answers to questions commonly asked.
Aside from learning practical skills and gaining experience through mentorships, Bar associations advocate for the mental health and wellness of young lawyers.
As a young lawyer starting your practice, you are expected to balance many things: your workload and learning your substantive area of the law, not to mention eating, sleeping and your personal life.
It’s easy for a young lawyer to become overwhelmed and develop unhealthy coping mechanisms or mental health issues. As a result, Bar associations are stepping up to the task of helping young lawyers prioritize healthy living within the practice of law.
The YLD has made it a priority to remove the stigma from the subject of mental health and to promote mental wellness throughout the profession.
As a part of its #StigmaFreeYLD initiative, affiliates statewide are encouraged to host a health and wellness challenge in May.
The JBA YLS will be hosting its health and wellness challenge for young lawyers. The challenge will include tracking your wellness activities throughout the month.
Participants get points for a variety of wellness-related activities, such as getting a physical examination from a medical provider, healthy eating, engaging in physical activity or practicing mindfulness.
At the end of the month, the three young attorneys who have tracked the most wellness hours will be recognized and each will receive a prize.
Generally, Bar associations are seeking new ideas to benefit their young lawyer members.
Whether it is learned skills, new professional relationships or access to resources, young lawyers can benefit from their involvement in Bar associations.
I challenge young lawyers to get involved. Make a difference in your community and don’t be afraid to take advantage of the resources provided to you in order to continue to grow as an attorney.