You don’t need a doctorate in American History (let alone a law degree) to know the vital role attorneys have played in the development of our nation. And yet, according to recent data, lawyers are considered by the public to contribute less than any other profession to society’s well-being. That negative perception correlates with lawyers’ decreased role in politics; as of 2016, attorneys made up a historically-low 36.5% of Congress, well below the high of 79.5% in 1849-50 and much lower than the 52.6% that made up the first Congress in 1789-90. Lawyers’ voices, however, are crucial to the Republic, and tend to have a shared understanding on the importance of a just and equitable government. That viewpoint manifests in unique ways; for example, lawyer members of the House of Representatives are more likely to support government funding of legal aid programs compared to non-attorney members.
To address the decline in attorney participation in public life and in recognition of the distinct viewpoints young lawyers bring to the profession, the Civic Engagement Committee of the Young Lawyers Division is organizing three panels designed to encourage and educate young lawyers in pursuit of public office or other positions of public leadership. Each panel will focus on one of three different areas: (1) seeking judicial office; (2) seeking legislative or executive office; and (3) managing relations with media.
We are pleased to announce that the first panel on judicial office, to be moderated by past NCBA President Caryn McNeill, will be held at the Bar Center in Cary on December 11, 2019 beginning at 6:00 p.m. The panel will feature current and former jurists—both elected and appointed—from every level of the state court bench. Attendees will have an opportunity to hear from them about their experience seeking, or being appointed their positions, and how their legal experience and training helped guide them on those paths. Food and refreshments will be provided by the YLD, and you can register for the event here.
If other public office is more your speed, the Committee is hard at work pulling together a legislative and executive office panel in Charlotte for February of 2020. And, regardless of whether you’re interested in pursuing a government office or are more inclined to help your community through participation on a local non-profit board, the media outreach panel in Asheville currently planned for May of 2020 will help you navigate the perils and pitfalls of the media relations landscape. Check back here (and in the NCBA YLD E-Blast) for further details as those events develop, and feel free to contact Committee chairs Bryan Norris and Kevin Sweat if you’d like to learn more about the Committee and its programming.
The Civic Engagement Committee is proud to be one component part of the Bar Association’s efforts encouraging lawyers to obligate themselves in service of our state and country. We hope that you will take the opportunity to find out more about committing to public service by attending these panels, and that you’ll engage with the more intensive offerings available from the Bar Association, such as the Public Service Academy, when you’re ready to take that leap. Rest assured, our state and our country will be better for it.