IT IS A TOUGH MARKET TODAY FOR NEW ATTORNEYS. Large law firms are not hiring as they did when the market thrived. The companies that are hiring want experienced attorneys whose skills match the open position perfectly. Applications number in the hundreds for every job. The California Bar may impose a new regimen of volunteer and training requirements for law students and new attorneys. Newly employed attorneys apply skills that often feel foreign and underdeveloped. Employers emphasize billable hours. Facing these challenges, it is easy to become discouraged.
While I cannot offer solutions to all of these obstacles, I can suggest one way to develop your skills and make essential connections: the Barristers of LACBA—the section for new and young attorneys in Los Angeles. You are eligible if you are 36 years or younger or have been in practice for five years or less. You may have seen Barristers events in LACBA announcements. These events generally divide into two categories: educational development or networking opportunities. The educational events usually focus on building attorney skills through continuing legal education or seminars about the legal market. For example, the Barristers recently provided a CLE event concerning ethics and the Internet. This seminar not only provided legal ethics credit but also covered practical issues, such as when a tweet becomes advertising and the ethical ramifications of LinkedIn endorsements. This coming year, the Barristers CLE committee will provide more of these timely and essential programs.
Another recent educational event was a panel for finding employment in employment law. The panelists advised about the necessary skills and connections to secure a job. Law Day, another recent event, presented a chance to earn free CLE credit, bolster legal skills, and give back to the community. The training ranged from wills and trusts to federal court practice. A lunchtime seminar offered a credit in elimination of bias and provided tools for advising clients—in particular, clients with mental disabilities. Earlier, the Barristers trained and sent 20 volunteers on a bus to Lancaster to assist veterans with their legal problems. Some attorneys want pro bono cases; others want to volunteer for a day. The Barristers provides opportunities for both.
The Barristers also understands that connections are often what put a resume at the top of a pile or open the door for an interview, which is why we offer a variety of networking events. We have monthly free mixers, known as Thirsty Thursdays, which are the first Thursday of every month Downtown and the Westside. Attending these mixers is a way to make connections in an unstructured, informal setting. There is usually a healthy mix of regulars and new attendees. The Barristers also hosts an annual mixer with members of the judiciary. This offers a rare chance to speak with judges outside of court and is always well attended by members of the judiciary because they support the mission of the Barristers.
The Barristers also has a committee that focuses on access to members of the Los Angeles government. A few years ago, before Eric Garcetti became the mayor, he shared his platform with an intimate group at the Cork Bar. This past year, District Attorney Jackie Lacey and City Attorney Mike Feuer discussed their agendas. Those in attendance could ask questions and introduce themselves. In a year in which the offices of the District Attorney and City Attorney are hiring, this event offered a moment to make a connection that could lead to a job.
Another way to become involved is as a liaison to another section of LACBA. I was a liaison to the Litigation Section for two years. Because that section combines bench members and some of the biggest names in the Los Angeles litigation scene, I learned from far more experienced practitioners about being a lawyer. These were people I otherwise would not have met. The liaison positions expand a person's network to include some of the most experienced and respected practitioners in Los Angeles.
The Barristers also provides two other significant networking avenues. It works with local law schools to assist with mock interviews and campus events, which is an avenue for finding a mentee or staying involved with your law school. Barristers have fun too. Our annual Summer Bash with live music takes place in iconic locations around Los Angeles. The rooms are packed, a few of the drinks are free, and the vibe is relaxed. The Summer Bash is a way to celebrate summer and make connections.
As the incoming president, I understand the challenges facing new practitioners and believe that Barristers offers resources to make us all better attorneys. Barristers provides access to the diverse legal field of this city and tools to refine professional skills. I encourage you to tell us about your ideas for programs you would like to see, and I encourage you to get involved.
If you are interested, the first step is to visit the LACBA Web site and become a member of the Barristers. If you really want to make connections, join a committee. You can learn more from the Barristers Section page, which is part of the LACBA site. You may also send a message to Danielle Jones at firstname.lastname@example.org and let her know which committee interests you or an event you would like us to hold. I hope to see you at an event soon.