Take the Initiative and Reach Out!

At four separate events in February and early March 2018, I had the opportunity to chat with some of the newest members of our association.

While each event was unique, two were more “social” than the others:  a happy hour gathering at Telerific Barcelona; the first annual Lunar New Year Dinner; an address/presentation at the “Bridging the Gap” program; and a presentation/Q&A with new law students at John F. Kennedy University School College of Law.

I was encouraged to see many of our county’s newest attorneys and law students at these events.  They took the initiative to step out of their comfort zones, and into less-familiar arenas.  I’m glad they did, and I hope they continue to do so.  Speaking with these groups, I’ve learned something which is obvious:  many law students and new attorneys want to get involved in the legal community, however, they may not know how best to do so.  To all of them, I say, there is no right or wrong way to get involved.

Social events like the happy hour gatherings, Lunar New Year Dinner, and upcoming events like the Food From The Bar Comedy Night and Walk-A-Thon Food Drive are great ways for all members, regardless of years of practice, to get to know each other, to network, and to build camaraderie and relationships.  For example, at our Lunar New Year Dinner, I sat at a table with, among others, two law students, two judges, and two other CCCBA Board Members.  One law student mentioned that she wanted to help other law students to understand that these events (and CCCBA membership) are extremely valuable.  These events allow her to meet and talk with other attorneys, and more importantly, judges in our county in low-pressure social settings.  This interaction was important and valuable to her, and I am glad she took the time and effort to attend.

Of course, many CCCBA events are educational and offer MCLE credit.  Matthew Collis, Leader of our Barristers/Young Lawyers Section, put together a fantastic Bridging the Gap program this year.  I was inspired to see a great group of attorneys new to Contra Costa devote an entire day to learning more about the CCCBA and our legal community.  They gained valuable insight via presentations by Hon. Christopher Bowen, and other Section Leaders and speakers, and enjoyed a lunch and courthouse tour with Hon. Steven Austin.

To law students/new attorneys:

My best advice is to take initiative and reach out!  You are in control of your own success!  Take a chance, and call a CCCBA Board Member, Theresa Hurley our Executive Director, and/or any Section Leader to get to know more about his/her practice.  (Law Students:  You can join sections for only $5 per section!)  Go to social events, and bring another law student or new attorney too!  Sign up to volunteer at an event, or to write an article for the Contra Costa Lawyer magazine.  At the very least, take advantage of our Member Only Benefits, and make the most of your membership!

To seasoned attorneys:

Similarly, I encourage and /challenge you to take initiative and reach out! Think back to your law school days, or your first years as an attorney, and remember how it may have been a stressful time in your life.  I encourage you to reach out to the Barristers and Law Student Sections when thinking about planning events, or when you have a project that may be of interest to them.  Consider working with the CCCBA to become a mentor to a more junior attorney and/or law student.  If a law student/junior attorney offers to buy you coffee, consider treating them to lunch instead.  No one has unlimited time, however, all of us can and should assist and encourage each other, which will increase the public trust of attorneys and help the profession overall.