Virginia Lawyer

VaLawyer_Feb2012

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Young Lawyers Conference by Christy E. Kiely, President What the Young Lawyers Conference Brings to the Bar AUTHORWILLIAM A. FEATHER said, "Experience and enthusiasm are two fine business attributes seldom found in one individual." The quote contains a kernel of truth. I no longer have the same energy as when I was a first-year associate. I look back on my early years, the all-nighters, and wonder if it was the same person. Of course, then I was ten years younger and had no small children siphoning my sleep. The demands on my time have since increased, both in and out of the office. It is only natural that I have adapted. I imagine that also will be true for the next ten years, and the ten after that. And I know I am far from unique. Experience also changes us in other ways. The longer we practice law, the more we are exposed to the good and the bad in the profession. There will always be wonderful aspects: the great colleagues with whom we work, the talented support staff, the apprecia- tive clients. But there are not-so-great aspects: contentious litigation, unyield- ing deadlines, 24-hour accessibility, stress. The legal profession is not for the faint-hearted. These factors temper the initial awe we felt at becoming attorneys, as we realize the law, like any other job, has its ups and downs. This brings me to the message of this month's column: what the Young Lawyers Conference uniquely brings to the Virginia State Bar. Let me first note the criteria for membership. Membership in the YLC is automatic for all Virginia attorneys who are age 36 and under, or in their first three years of practice with Virginia as their initial bar. In other words, the YLC is composed of the newest attorneys in Virginia. If energy, enthusiasm and 58 VIRGINIA LAWYER | February 2012 | Vol. 60 excitement are fuel, then the YLC has deep, deep reserves. (I should note that, as an employment attorney, it is strange to openly refer to anyone's age as a fac- tor for membership. We are more aptly the "New Lawyers Conference," since our recent induction into the field is what really sets us apart.) Do you remember the day you were sworn in by the Supreme Court of Virginia? Going out to lunch in your suit afterwards, feeling like it was a cos- tume? How it felt to walk into your first office for the first time? The first time you typed "Esq." after your name or introduced yourself as an attorney? I was awe-struck, wholly and completely, in my early years of practice. I couldn't believe that, after proclaiming at age seven that I would become a lawyer, I had actually done it. Of course, that level of enthusiasm is hard to maintain over time. As with anything new, the glitz and novelty begin to wear off. Within the YLC, that excitement and "can-you-believe-we're-lawyers" feeling is still a driving force. We capi- talize on that enthusiasm to run more programs, with less money, than virtu- ally any other lawyers' conference. We also know how lawyers are perceived by the outside world because we only recently left it ourselves. These aspects of our conference make us ideally suited for certain offerings to our members and the public. Our Oliver Hill/Samuel Tucker Pre- Law Institute is a week-long experi- ence where sixteen to twenty-four high school students are introduced to the legal profession. They live in a college dorm, attend mock classes (complete with reading assignments), prepare a mock trial, visit the Fourth Circuit and participate in seminars on legal careers, test-taking strategies, and the college admissions process. Who better to introduce excited young minds to the practice of law than those who most recently entered it themselves? Consider our three annual Minority Pre-Law Conferences. These confer- ences, held in geographically diverse Virginia locations, teach college stu- dents how to become a lawyer. They explain the law school admissions test (LSAT), have panel discussions with lawyers and judges, and offer mock law school classes and mock trials. Who better to candidly discuss the LSAT experience than the lawyers who still see those logic games in their sleep? In the semi-annual Admission & Orientation Ceremony, we arrange for candidates who recently passed the bar exam to be admitted to the Virginia State Bar in a group ceremony before the Supreme Court of Virginia. When I addressed the more than 2,000 admit- tees in October, I remembered, in vivid detail, the day I was in their shoes. These are but a few ways the YLC uses the relative youth/newness of its mem- bers to our advantage, by speaking to the next generation of lawyers as only contemporaries can. I hope I look back in a few years with fond nostalgia of my young lawyer days. Until then I, and the rest of the YLC, plan to make the most of it. www.vsb.org

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