My Reflections on Time as a “Young Lawyer”
Back when I passed the bar in 2011, I didn’t know a single lawyer in the State of Michigan. That was a problem because I was told that I needed a Michigan lawyer to move for/sponsor my admission as an attorney before I could practice law. I did not go to law school in Michigan and I was the first lawyer that I ever knew. My dad was an engineer and my mom was an auto line worker, mechanic, and jack of many trades in the auto industry during her career. I got so desperate that at one point I tried to track down my soccer coach from when I was 8 years old that my mom thought was “maybe a lawyer.” But then I found out that my local bar association – the Ingham County Bar Association – hosted a swearing-in ceremony for every bar exam and they would supply the lawyer sponsor for me. It changed my life forever.
At the reception after the swearing in, where the number of lawyers that I knew in the State of Michigan expanded 2,000%, I met Shenique Moss and Melissa Keener – the ICBA Young Lawyers Section President and Past President. They encouraged me to get involved with the Section at a coming meeting. I attended the meeting and soon was President-Elect with a year to learn under Shenique’s leadership. I continued to serve on the Young Lawyers Board for years after I was president and assisted many amazing leaders build upon the foundation that came before them. Though not on the Board in years, I remain ready to help anytime I’m asked including at their Paper Chase 5K this past year – an amazing community event started during my time on the Board. Years later, when Shenique was Chair of the State Bar of Michigan Young Lawyers Section, she drafted me to join the Board of Directors for the State Young Lawyers Section as well. Through my decade plus of service to these (and other organizations) as a “young lawyer,” I have planned countless educational and social events, assisted and volunteered in our community serving the public on a regular basis, established colleague relationships with hundreds of lawyers across the state, and established lifelong friendships. As the ultimate bonus, what started out as tremendous respect and admiration for an amazing leader and hard worker has turned into a wonderful relationship with my amazing “Superwoman” that I will be lucky enough to spend the rest of my life with.
What started out as a means to an end turned out to be an end in itself for me. As lawyers, we have tremendous power to make an impact in our community on lawyers and non-lawyers alike. Through my service on multiple bar associations as a “young lawyer,” I have helped to support many young lawyers as they shape and reshape the legal field and their communities and I’ve done my best to do the same for mine. As of July 1, 2022, I am no longer a “young lawyer” under the ICBA’s standards. As I write this, I am on the eve of my final meeting as a “young lawyer” with the State Bar of Michigan. I look back on my time as a “young lawyer” with pride, but I feel no sadness. My service to the bar and to my community will continue as I help to do my part to shape the next generation of young lawyers as they make their way in our community. I have also felt like the “old guy” in young lawyers groups for years so it will be nice to officially move to being the young guy in the “seasoned attorneys” club. Things recently came full circle for me when I was going door to door campaigning for my circuit court judge campaign. I knocked on a door that looked like the thousands before it and who should answer – the same attorney who swore me in as an attorney so many years ago. I thanked him again for swearing me in because I wouldn’t be a lawyer without him. I offered to give him my pitch for judge and he smiled and said, “No need. I know who you are.” Despite being one of many he swore in that day, he still remembered me. These are the quality of people who serve in our local bar associations and I’m proud to have served the young lawyers in the past as I continue to serve on the Ingham County Bar Association Board of Directors – or what we affectionally called the “Big Board.”
To all the “young attorneys” (and more seasoned attorneys alike), get involved. Your local bar associations have a lot to offer and you have a lot to offer to them. I know things may be overwhelming for you for now and you may be struggling to deal with all that practice and life has to throw at you right now, but I promise that your involvement will pay back immeasurable dividends for the rest of your life. Feel free to also get involved in non-profits and community service organizations that interest you and that would benefit from a lawyer with the time and passion to give (who also happen to be free).
To those I have served with in my 10+ years as a “young lawyer” – you’re not getting rid of me that easily. It’s the same exact promise (threat) I made when I was first starting out and knew I could be a young lawyer board member for many years to come. Seriously though, thank you for your service, support, and friendship. I remain here to support you on your paths forward as colleague and friend as many of you continue to support me on mine. I look forward to serving our community with you in the future even as our paths diverge and I look forward to forty years down the road, when we’re fully-seasoned lawyers talking about our experiences including back when Chris got passionate (or unruly – you know how people like to exaggerate) over the importance of holding an educational event for free or how our choice in speakers for an event may be viewed as an endorsement of that person and their recent questionable behavior.
It has been my pleasure. Time and time again.
Former “Young” Lawyer