Looking Forward: Young Lawyer Outreach – Samuel W. Seymour

Samuel W. Seymour

President’s Column, February 2011

When I was installed as president of the New York City Bar Association last May, one of the issues I highlighted was the importance of keeping pace with the rapid changes in the legal profession in areas including technology and globalization, and with the next generation of lawyers. I raised the alarm that our future as an Association may be in peril if we fail to involve new lawyers in the work of the City Bar. New members are our future, and thus it is critical that we as an Association reach out to young lawyers and engage them in our work.

I determined to communicate to young lawyers and law students the benefits of being a part of an Association, including the invaluable connections that can be made and the opportunity to set yourself apart and take a leadership role in your career. It seemed to me that somewhere along the way, this message had been lost, and I committed to meet with and listen carefully to lawyers in the first decade of their practice, and to work to meet their expectations, concerns and needs.

As the next half year begins to unfold it seems like a perfect time to reflect on progress in my outreach to the next generation of lawyers.

The outreach to young lawyers was kicked off with a lunch reception hosted by the City Bar at Cardozo Law School in October. Since that reception I have visited New York Law School, Columbia University School of Law, New York University School of Law, Brooklyn Law School, and Pace University School of Law. These are only the beginning, as I will soon be visiting Rutgers University School of Law, Fordham University School of Law, Hofstra University School of Law, St. John’s University School of Law, and CUNY School of Law. Our receptions are designed to inform students about the benefits of student membership in the City Bar as well as the opportunities for professional and personal development. I am not surprised that we have seen a tremendous growth in law student membership in recent months, as well as an increase in student membership on our committees. The receptions have provided the students with the benefit of being informed first-hand of the many resources the City Bar has to offer, and the value of seeing the Association as a professional “home” throughout their legal careers.

In addition to meeting with law students at their respective law schools, I have had the opportunity through the City Bar’s Lawyers Connect series, to speak with young lawyers. These events are intended for lawyers to socialize and network among food and drinks and various themed events. I have attended a number of these events, and have talked with many of these lawyers about their hopes and anxieties in launching their careers. I stress that the City Bar wants to help them navigate the legal profession in New York.

Our focus on law students and young lawyers is evident on our website, where we feature profiles of young and future lawyers, highlighting their interests and work in the legal realm and beyond. Our first feature was on a Brooklyn Law School student, Farah Zaman, who helped the Association pass an important milestone when she joined the City Bar this past year, becoming our 1,000th law-student member. In addition to the changes to our website, we have turned special attention to Facebook as a means to connect with young lawyers and law students. Our latest program for law students is the Presidential Access to Justice Internship, which provides students with the opportunity to work on the City Bar Justice Center’s Legal Hotline—the largest free civil legal hotline in the City—providing legal advice and services over the telephone to low-income New Yorkers.

After just a few months of working closely with law students and young lawyers, I am pleased to dial back my alarm. While we need to maintain our efforts, I now have a strong impression that the Association will remain as vital in the 21st Century as it has in the previous two, and that the legal profession will be in very good hands with the next generation of lawyers.