President's Column ~ January/February 2014
Monday, January 27, 2014
Posted by: Stephanie McGee
M. Gray Styers, Jr.
Tenth J.D. Bar President and Wake County Bar Association
WHY JOIN THE WAKE COUNTY BAR ASSOCIATION? You may be asked by new attorneys, as I often am,why they should join the Wake County Bar Association. How does it benefit them and their practice? Are the benefits worth the dues when we are all watching our expenditures?
The best, shortest answer, based upon my own experience, is "relationships – being a part of a community.”
If you want, and intend to be (and can make a living being), a solitary "lone wolf” attorney – if that is your goal – then you might find little value in joining a bar association. I believe, however, that those attorneys who build relationships and who work within the community of the practicing bar find the practice of law more fulfilling, are happier, are better able to represent their clients, and are more financially successful.
As young attorneys, we seek mentorship, guidance, and practical examples from more experienced attorneys. We look for continuing education, referral sources, forums for networking, and organized opportunities for public service and pro bono representation.
As more experienced attorneys, we seek the new ideas, fresh perspectives and high energy from our newer attorneys. We learn about new practice management tools and enjoy ways to give back to the profession that has given so much to us.
We break bread together at our monthly lunch meetings; eat BBQ together in May, oysters in November; and celebrate a family picnic at Pullen Park in early September. We dance and ring in the holidays in December, and the YLD members enjoy happy hours throughout the year. Through all of these events, we get to know better the other attorneys in Wake County. We learn whom we may want to associate with as co-counsel if we are slightly outside our comfort zone. We get to know our opposing counsel not only as adversaries, but as fellow professionals doing their best to represent their client with different interests than our own. We meet other transaction counsel with whom we will negotiate deals for the mutual benefits of our respective clients.
In our bar community, we can work together collectively to advance the goals of our profession more effectively than we can individually. We can sponsor and attend CLE classes, write articles and exchange ideas through our newsletter or blogs, promote professionalism, and engage in discussions and initiatives that improve our court systems and the administration of justice. As an association, we recognize and celebrate the successes of our members that advance these goals, honor and highlight the examples of those who exemplify the highest ideals of professionalism (such as with our Joseph Branch Award), and mourn the passing of those with whom we practiced when they are no longer with us (at our Memorial services).
We all know the line from John Donne’s poem, "send not to know for whom the bells tolls; it tolls for thee,” but I like even more the opening lines of the poem:
"No man is an island, entire of itself;
Every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.
If a clod be washed away by the sea,
Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were.
As well as if a manor of thine own or thine friend’s were . . . .
For I am involved in mankind.”
. . . For we are involved in the bar – a privileged few, officers of the court, with authority and responsibilities that accompany our licensure.
In this age of Facebook "friends,” text-messaging conversations, and single-interest groups, it is easy to forget that we are not individual islands, but rather a piece of the continent. We are all part of a profession whose members, at our best, help maintain an orderly, civil society in which disputes are resolved by the rule of law, transactions are crafted to promote economic activity and provide security to commerce and property ownership, and fundamental rights of all are protected and defended. The Wake County Bar Association provides a framework for attorney interaction as we pursue these ideals that distinguish our profession from being simply a collection of technicians or tradesmen.
In our day-to-day routine – talking on the telephone, responding to e-mails, drafting documents, attending meetings and calendar calls, it is easy to lose sight of these ideals – the "big picture” of who we are as attorneys and professionals and of our role in society. The Bar Association, through its activities, its committees, and its programs, can help re-focus our attention on this larger picture.
That’s why I believe all attorneys should be members of the Wake County Bar Association and why the small amount that we pay in dues is one of the best investments, in the long run, we can make in our careers.
If you agree, invite a new attorney – in your firm, in your building, or someone whom you just met at the courthouse – to one of our lunches or one of our social events. Share with them why you are a member, discuss the value of being part of our community, and encourage them to join our association. WBF