By Bill Bilderback
Bill Bilderback is president of the Barristers.
This President's Page was originally published in the December 1999 issue of Los Angeles Lawyer.
Become Involved in the Association-It's Fun
Both your work and your professional pride are enhanced by participation
It has, unfortunately, become a fashionable cliché for those discussing the state of the legal profession to observe that the business of law has overtaken the profession of law. Lawyers and law firms have shifted their focus, it is said, to the bottom line, rather than concentrating on the quality of their legal services. This, in turn, has had a deleterious effect on the morale of lawyers practicing today. One of the effects of this trend, it is concluded, has been a decline in civility in the profession.
I do not argue that this observation is untrue; perhaps this trend does exist. However, I have been having too much fun, both at work and with the County Bar, to notice. Because, if Edmund Burke is right (to follow a fashionable cliché with a hoary adage) that "the only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing," then this particular evil does not stand a chance. My experiences with the County Bar have brought me into contact with a great many good people doing something to improve the legal profession. Given the level of energy and enthusiasm I have witnessed in my dealings with members of the County Bar, any allegedly negative trend in the profession will surely be reversed.
Enhancing the Profession
No group of which I am aware has done more to strengthen and enrich the legal profession than the members of the Los Angeles County Bar Association. Those who despair of the state of the profession need look no further than the County Bar. The County Bar is filled with bright, energetic, and dedicated lawyers who repeatedly demonstrate their devotion to the profession and who recognize the honor and responsibility that membership in the profession entails. While everything I have just said is true, it isn't why those of us who become active in the County Bar choose to do so. We do it because it is fun.
My first experience with the County Bar came while I was still in law school, when I participated in the Barristers Moot Court program. It was a lot of fun. The following year, I began work at the California Department of Justice. When the County Bar membership materials came in the mail, I remembered that moot court had been fun, so I signed up. It turned out to be one of the best professional decisions I could have made, because participation in the County Bar has made the practice of law a lot more fun.
I have had the opportunity to serve on several County Bar committees and to work within its largest section, the Barristers. It has been my privilege to work closely with lawyers from firms large and small, as well as solo practitioners and lawyers from many government agencies. Regardless of their area of practice or type of firm, all the lawyers I have worked with at the County Bar have brought an enthusiasm for the profession that overpowers any cynicism erected in opposition to it. In my experience, once the cynics understand what we are doing, they support us too.
Those of us who are active in the County Bar have figured out the big secret: we have discovered that working in a profession in which you have pride is more fun than doing work of which you are ashamed. We have discovered that treating your colleagues with respect is more fun than being a bully (especially if someone is trying to bully you, because it is fun to be superior). We have discovered that working to better the profession is more fun than complaining about "the decline in civility in the profession." (Although I will acknowledge that for some, there is little work that is more fun than drafting a well-crafted complaint.)
A Sense of Community
The sense of community created by involvement in the County Bar makes work more fun too. Our participation in an adversarial system comes with the risk that we will view our opponents as immoral or corrupt. It is much easier to remember that they are not-and therefore resist the impulse to employ hardball tactics-when opposing counsel is a person with whom you have worked on a County Bar project. This makes our work more fun for everyone involved.
Part of the fun of the County Bar lies in its ability to react to different levels of involvement. If the demands on your time and attention are such that you only want to do something for an hour or so, once a year, there is a project to accommodate you. If you want to get more involved, we can happily accommodate that too.
Those who are already active know that bringing more people into the fold makes it more fun for everyone. Every lawyer I know who has become active in the County Bar can point to an individual who provided the initial encouragement to attend that first County Bar function, or section event, or committee meeting, or whatever. So, if you have not already done so (or even if you have), make a special effort to bring someone else aboard.
The best answer to those who would question the integrity of our profession is to be too busy promoting integrity in the profession to notice. And the best mechanism I have encountered for doing so is participation in the Los Angeles County Bar Association.