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Finding time for your communities

I was talking with my fellow blogger last night at the reception for an award that we both received, and the conversation turned— naturally — to this blog.  And particularly the question of how one finds time to blog. Or to do any of the other myriad of non-billable but career-related things that compete for the time of young lawyers.

Earlier that day, I had spoken with one of our summer associates about a very similar subject. Federal appellate Judge Andre Davis had spoken to them about the importance of engaging and investing in the community. Not just in the local legal community — the community itself.

It is good advice, and advice that I have taken to heart.

Engaging in the local, non-legal community has many obvious benefits, both to the community and to a young lawyer. The community benefits from legal expertise. A young lawyer gains a network that is no longer limited to lawyers and a perspective that encompasses more than just the law. For example, by serving on a board, I can offer it a legal perspective while also gaining insight into the internal operations of an organization, which translates into a better understanding of the business interests at stake in my work as an attorney.

Community involvement also gives a young lawyer an opportunity to take the lead on something, and to use and cultivate a different “voice.”  Blogging, for example, gives me the chance to write — which is something I enjoy — in a more casual and introspective context.

But how does a young lawyer find time to engage? It isn’t easy. I am fortunate to work at a firm that supports its attorneys engaging in the local, nonlegal community (in addition to the legal community, of course).  But even with a supportive employer, there are many demands that compete with community involvement — family, personal interests, and work, to name a few.

Well, technology helps.  For example, I have folders of draft blog entries on my Droid Pro and my iPad.  Whichever device I happen to have with me at the time, I use it for the random free moments on the train or waiting in line or elsewhere.

And non-billable work can offer a welcome break from, say, the monotony of discovery (assuming, of course, that the break will not interfere with any deadlines).

When non-billable work requires more dedicated time, I make time for it by getting into the office early or working on it after the kids go to bed.

It isn’t always convenient or easy, but, at least in my experience, the rewards are well worth the investment.