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Membership has its privileges

Last weekend, I attended the 55th Annual Conference of Bar Presidents in Solomons Island. The conference brings the leadership of the Bar associations throughout Maryland for nearly two days of jam-packed networking, training, and information.

While I was there, it got me thinking of the reasons that I joined and became involved in Bar associations and, more importantly, why they shaped who I am today.

In the summer of 2008, I had the opportunity of attending the Maryland State Bar Association’s annual meeting in Ocean City. I knew no one there except my then-managing attorney, who invited me. While at the registration table, I was surrounded by friendly faces who greeted one another all around me. I carefully reviewed the program when I saw the words “Young Lawyers Section.” I knew then that I needed to find this “section” and join.

On Friday afternoon, I peeked my head into the meeting and asked if I could become involve in the YLS and I was happily accepted and put to work. I started in the YLS as the co-chair of the policy committee.

Six years later, I continue to be involved with the Young Lawyers Section and with other committees of the Maryland State Bar Association. Here are the lessons that I learned from my membership:

1. Membership has its privileges. I am often asked how I know this or that person. The reason that I know anyone is because of my involvement in the bar. I went to law school in Connecticut and was obviously not part of local law school culture. I have met some great colleagues and friends by simply being involved.

2. Watch and learn. People often join a group and feel that they should automatically ascend to leadership. During my first year, I learned so much by watching the YLS leaders. I also volunteered to help another committee in order to understand the group dynamic.

3. Make your mark. At some point, you will be trusted with an activity or task. When the opportunity presents itself, be sure to shine.

4. Do what you love. I often cringe when I hear the stories of people joining groups because they feel it will advance some criteria on their check list towards some sort of professional goal.  Unless you have to, do not do what you don’t love because it shows. You will not find me on top of a roof or planting trees, but you may find me sorting food at the food bank or serving food at the soup kitchen.