Guide to Member Involvement
Maybe you want more from your New York State Bar Association membership, and to do more for your career. Maybe you’d like to make a difference. You’ve heard NYSBA is a great place to gain exposure, build upon your network, and make a name for yourself as a leader in the legal profession. Now you want to take that next step.
But how do you do it?
NYSBA offers so many avenues for involvement and recognition that it can be a challenge to figure out where to start. Hence this handy “NYSBA Guide to Member Involvement.” Use it to find the avenues that are right for you…the steps that take you where you want to go. You can implement these ideas in any order, skip the ones that don’t apply to you, and delve deeper into the ones that do. In the process, you’ll not only gain visibility as you work with leading attorneys and judges, but also find rewarding opportunities to experience the legal profession from different perspectives.
Idea 1. Join a NYSBA section or two.
NYSBA’s 25 sections offer you opportunities to make a mark within your areas of practice—whether you focus on family law, real property, labor and employment, litigation or other areas. Within NYSBA sections, you can:
• Network with influential colleagues who share your interests, challenges and concerns.
• Write for section newsletters and publications (see Idea 3).
• Express your views or get quick, practical advice on section listserves.
• Participate on substantive section committees that address timely developments.
• Help shape legislation that affects your practice area.
• Get a mentor. Become a mentor.
• Enjoy section social events and meetings.
To find the NYSBA sections that interest you, visit www.nysba.org (click Sections/Committees).
Idea 2. Join a committee.
In addition to section committees, you can also be appointed to NYSBA’s “Standing and Special Committees” that examine “hot button” issues and advocate for members in many areas of concern: attorneys in public service, issues involving the judiciary, women’s issues, professional discipline, ethics, legislative action, Civil Practice Law and Rules and many others. Members find their visibility—and their reputation—rising to a new level through high-profile committee projects.
You can find a list of active committees at www.nysba.org (click Sections/Committees).
Applications for committee appointments will be available early in the year for terms beginning in June.
Q. What’s the difference between a section and a committee?
A. Sections focus on particular areas of practice or work setting. They keep members informed of developments in that area of concentration through programs, publications, listserves, and other resources and they enable like-minded attorneys to connect with one another. There are “section committees” which deal with issues pertaining to that area of the law. You must be a section member in order to serve on a section committee.
“Standing or Special committees” (which are separate entities from section committees) are task-oriented, examining issues and advocating for members in legislative, judicial and other arenas.
Idea 3. Increase your visibility and earn MCLE credits, too!
NYSBA offers you a myriad of ways to connect with your peers—to share your expertise and learn from them as well:
• Write an article for a NYSBA publication. Like every attorney, you have unique insights or areas of expertise that could translate into an article—and establish you as an authority. If you have a substantive topic that would appeal to NYSBA members, suggest it to the editor of the NYSBA Journal. If your idea deals with NYSBA news or services, take it to the State Bar News. (For submission guidelines, go to www.nysba.org, click Attorney Resources, then scroll to the relevant links.) If you want to write about a specific area of the law, section periodicals are often seeking submissions. Writing articles can earn you mandatory continuing legal education (MCLE) credits as well as add to your resume and credentials.
• Volunteer to speak. Few activities establish your credentials as quickly and effectively as public speaking. Members can earn MCLE?credits through speaking and producing coursebook materials. Ask to serve on an educational panel, or speak at one of dozens of educational programs at NYSBA’s Annual Meeting, which draws more than 5,000 leading attorneys and judges from all over the state each year. Lecture at NYSBA’s section co-sponsored continuing legal education programs. Serve as a panelist in your area of concentration or moderate a panel at a meeting. The exposure you gain as a speaker can establish you as an authority in your practice area, and others may seek your assistance as a consultant, or refer cases to you.
• Join a section discussion group. Many NYSBA sections' websites include listserves where members can discuss topics of mutual interest. Actively contributing to these discussions can raise your profile and build your reputation as a thoughtful leader in your area of practice.
Q. I’ve only been practicing for a few years. Can I still write an article for NYSBA?
A. Yes. Section newsletters and websites, in particular, regularly seek content from their members. Even NYSBA-wide publications are willing to consider story ideas from new and established attorneys alike.
Idea 4. Get on a leadership track.
For sustained visibility and the highest possible profile, nothing compares with taking a leadership role. NYSBA offers a variety of options for you to gain valuable leadership experience.
• Chair a committee. Members of NYSBA’s 60+ committees and task forces (see Idea 2) routinely look to their chairs for leadership and direction. NYSBA sections also offer great committee leadership opportunities, which can help lead to higher officer positions. More often than not, chairs also set the agenda for the committees’ future activities. These dynamics make leading a committee an ideal stage for showcasing your strategic and organizational abilities.
• Become a Delegate. Members of NYSBA’s House of Delegates act as its trustees, overseeing the affairs of the Association and determining Association policy. Delegates are designated from each NYSBA section, each judicial district and county bar associations. In addition, the President appoints delegates from among racial and ethnic minority members and non-resident members. Talk to members of NYSBA’s Nominating Committee from your judicial district, leaders in your section, or your local bar association about serving as a Delegate.
• Serve on NYSBA’s Executive Committee. NYSBA’s top leaders are the members of the Executive Committee: president, president-elect, secretary, treasurer, vice-presidents from each judicial district and several members-at-large. All are elected positions: NYSBA members may submit names to the Nominating Committee which prepares a slate of nominees to be voted on by the House of Delegates. Indicate your interest by submitting your name (or the names of others) to the Chair of the Nominating Committee, New York State Bar Association, One Elk Street, Albany, NY 12207. Nominations for president-elect are due by September 1st. It is strongly suggested that nominations for all other offices be received by September 1st.
Idea 5. Give back to the public and the profession.
In addition to serving the public, pro bono provides you with solid training, client contact, and courtroom experience—giving you a rewarding experience and making you much more marketable. NYSBA encourages every attorney to devote at least 20 hours a year of free legal services for the poor. In addition, pro bono work may earn you MCLE credit. There are innumerable ways that every attorney can do pro bono.
To find pro bono opportunities that would help you achieve your goals, visit www.nysba.org/probono, click Pro Bono Programs and Opportunities, and look for Pro Bono Opportunities: A Guide for Lawyers Outside New York City. (Within New York City, contact the New York City Bar at www.nycbar.org.)
Q. Who is eligible for positions in the House of Delegates? On the Executive Committee?
A. Any NYSBA member in good standing is eligible to be a member of the House of Delegates. To be eligible for the Executive Committee, members must have served in the House of Delegates or as a Section chair within three years of the election.
Idea 6. Get advice…and get moving.
Talk to attorneys who’ve used NYSBA membership as an effective career tool—and who have enjoyed the personal and professional rewards that come from involvement. We guarantee you’ll hear a familiar refrain: “You get out of it what you put into it.”
Make the most of your New York State Bar Association membership—get involved—so NYSBA can help you make the most of your career and your talents as an attorney. For more ideas on maximizing your membership, call 518.463.3200/ 800.582.2452, or visit www.nysba.org.