Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division says Bar is more than a disciplinary group
If you conducted a word association test on law students and prompted them with ‘The Florida Bar,’ many students would likely come back with responses such as ‘exam,’ ‘character fitness,’ or ‘discipline.’ However, were the same test done on practicing attorneys, one might hear things like ‘networking,’ ‘professional development’ and ‘opportunities.’
On Tuesday, Oct. 19, Renee Thompson, a UF Law grad and current president of the Florida Bar Young Lawyers Division (YLD), came to campus to let students know that the Bar is much more than a disciplinary group.
The Bar, and the YLD in particular, offers young lawyers the opportunity to network amongst each other and provides opportunities for continuing education, with a long list of other services.
While this makes it clear that the Bar can be useful to attorneys, there didn’t used to be a way for law students to get integrated into this community while they were still in school. A few years ago, that changed. The Board of Governors of the YLD decided to create the Law Student Division, which now has chapters at each of the 11 law schools in Florida.
Thompson noted that one of the main reasons why Law Student Division was created was to bring students into the fold even before they started practicing law.
“We decided that we wanted to forge better networks with law students,” she said, “since you are the future of our profession.”
While the three years of law school may seem long for students pulling all-nighters and surviving on caffeine, the gap between being a law student and being a practicing professional is quite short. “In a few years,” Thompson said, “you’ll be the people sitting across from us at depositions and trials, and we wanted to get to know you better before that.”
The Florida Bar YLD acts as an umbrella group, with each circuit’s local bar association also having a YLD group. Representing the local bar association on Tuesday was Jake Rush, an attorney with the Gainesville firm of Rush and Glassman, and a member of the 8th Circuit YLD Board of Governors.
Rush spoke of the demands and difficulties of being a young lawyer, when you are often surrounded by those who have years or decades more experience. Even still, reaching out within the YLD will show that, whatever you are dealing with, you are probably not alone. “One advantage of the Young Lawyers Division is that we’re all in the same boat,” Rush said.
“The practice of law is a big network,” Rush said, mentioning the frequency of lawyers referring other lawyers to client who have a particular need. When that time comes, it shouldn’t be a surprise who lawyers refer their clients to. “People are going to go to people they know,” Rush said, “people they’ve heard of, people whose face they’ve seen.”
Students will soon have another opportunity to network as the 8th Judicial Circuit YLD begins a mentoring program that matches up students with area lawyers. The local YLD has also created a student division at UF, meaning that between the Florida Bar YLD Law Student Division and the 8th Judicial Circuit YLD, students have an immediate opportunity to get involved with their local and state bar associations.