My involvement with the Jacksonville Bar Association began when I was a young attorney.
The excitement of being a newly licensed lawyer along with my commitment to serve sparked my interest in joining the association.
However, my initial impressions were not the most positive.
When I walked into the luncheons or events, there was a sea of people to talk to, but I felt invisible and displaced.
The representation of women and people of color were limited, and I did not sense that there was a place for me in the JBA.
Instead of giving up, I got involved. I made the JBA smaller by joining a committee.
Let’s be honest, attending a luncheon with hundreds of people that you do not know is overwhelming.
However, attending a committee meeting with 15 people or so, well that’s manageable.
The Diversity and Inclusion Committee allowed me to get to know members of the organization and work on projects that I valued.
Eventually, I led projects, and I served for two years as the vice-chair of the committee.
Through my work there, I built solid relationships. I observed former members ascend to the bench, become exceptional leaders and develop into people who make a tremendous difference.
I know I am not alone in the sentiments I expressed from the onset of this article, so I am writing to let you know that there is a place for you in the JBA.
Your gifts, talents and perspectives are desperately needed. You are a necessary part of creating a Bar association where all people are included, valued and considered.
We need you to help the organization grow and improve. If you are not willing to fill in the gaps to make the organization better, then who will?
It is easy to complain and discuss what the JBA is not, but it is more productive to roll up our sleeves to do the work alongside other members. Take your rightful place, and don’t be afraid to take up space.
Amber Donley is the owner of Donley Law Firm, P.L.L.C. in Orange Park.