From the Multnomah Lawyer: Giving Back and Stepping Up: The Spirit of the YLS

As 2019 comes to a close, I’m excited to share some of the YLS’s achievements from the year. Our committees have accomplished a lot and look forward to more as we incorporate new members. I’ve also received a good deal of feedback about the personal benefits that folks have experienced as YLS members. I’m taking this opportunity to highlight some of the organizational and personal benefits YLS membership offers.
Committee Achievements
The YLS as an organization accomplishes some pretty amazing tasks in a single program year. Currently, the section supports four committees: Membership, CLE, Service to the Public, and Pro Bono. Although each committee is governed by its charge, they are encouraged to be flexible and allow individuals to present and pursue new ideas. During my time with the YLS, I have met new practitioners with a variety of passions and experiences. The YLS embraces this diversity and creates opportunities for members to be innovative and curious, and provides access to resources to execute their ideas. The results include impressive programming and content, some of which are highlighted below:

  • Judges’ Social. The YLS Membership Committee organizes a social event that focuses on bringing new lawyers and judges together. For many new lawyers, being before a judge in a courtroom is uncommon and unfamiliar. Meeting judges in a social environment without results-oriented pressure is important for new practitioners to gain confidence and expand their professional networks. Be on the lookout for details about the 2020 Judges’ Social on the MBA website.
  • Young Litigators Forum. The YLS CLE Committee focuses on providing CLE seminar content geared toward newer lawyers and one of its most popular series is the Young Litigators Forum. The YLF provides both theory and practical skills about the nuts and bolts of litigation in one-hour lunchtime CLEs over the course of several weeks. This year’s series begins on Thursday, January 16.
  • Objection! Poetry Slam. The YLS Service to the Public Committee works to connect lawyers with volunteer opportunities. The committee also organizes a poetry slam that brings local high school students, attorneys, and poets together to create art based on a legal theme. In 2019, the Poetry Slam’s theme was “Free Speech, Free Press, Free Society” and the event successfully connected folks for discussion, creation, and socializing.
  • Pro Bono Pour & Support for the VLP. The YLS Pro Bono Committee provides MBA members with pro bono resources and organizes volunteer opportunities. The committee also supports the Volunteer Lawyers Project in a variety of ways, including raising money by hosting the Pro Bono Pour. The 2019 fundraiser was a success and raised more money for the VLP than the event has for the past several years.
I am constantly impressed by the level of enthusiasm and dedication members contribute to their roles. The efforts of committee members result in successfully organized events, CLEs, community service and pro bono opportunities tailored to new lawyers. Hard work pays off, but diligence is not the only value shared and prioritized by YLS members. I am regularly inspired by the commitment our YLS members as individuals dedicate towards pro bono and public service. These shared values serve as a foundation for YLS members to make strong connections with each other and with the greater community. YLS Board Secretary Kirsten Rush summarizes that sentiment below:

“The YLS empowers its members to engage with the community by providing programming where new lawyers have opportunities to get involved in public service in a meaningful way through a wide range of volunteer activities which serve the greater-Portland area, including many that are aimed at educating the public about the legal system and inspiring the next generation of attorneys to join our profession.”

The YLS’s organizational model does not stop with supporting member innovation and offering a platform for prioritizing service-based values in the greater community. Indeed, one of the most important benefits the YLS provides for its members is the opportunity to participate in leadership.

Dedication to Leadership
My experience with the YLS has shown me that the value to the organization is greater than the sum of its parts. Membership empowers new lawyers, myself included, to create a professional reality that provides meaning and purpose. For many new practitioners, that means the opportunity to develop leadership skills. “The YLS creates a positive space where there are opportunities to engage in leadership roles and to learn from other new lawyers in different practice areas so that everyone can grow, professionally and personally,” says Maxine Tuan, CLE Committee Chair. 

YLS members have created a community that empowers individuals to succeed even at the most basic level of involvement. Our leadership focuses on maintaining that community and supporting members in every step of their participation. This support enables members to feel good about their work and results in a desire to learn from their leaders so they can continue to improve and grow. “The YLS allows new lawyers to interact with leadership directly and develop practical leadership skills,” states Anthony Blake, Pro Bono Committee Chair.

At both the organizational and individual levels, it is difficult to mistake the spirit of the YLS. We are a thriving community seeking to improve both the legal and greater communities around us. Furthermore, we provide a support system for each other that encourages professional growth and prioritizes meaningful personal connections. For me, YLS membership has and continues to provide special meaning and value. I have also received similar sentiments from many new lawyers. It should come as no surprise that we modestly regard the YLS as one heck of a “professional network.” It has been my privilege to serve as YLS President. I look forward to the rest of our program year and many successes in the future.

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