VOL. 119 | NO. 73 | Thursday, April 28, 2005
Attorneys Learn to be Community Leaders
Attorneys Learn to Be Community Leaders
The Daily News
Leaders arent born; they are made. And they are made just
like anything else, through hard work. -Vince Lombardi
Whether its Lombardis game of
football or the practice of law, leaders are necessary for success. In an
attempt to create leaders not only for the legal profession but for the Memphis
community as a whole, the Memphis Bar Association launched a Leadership Forum
to help develop the leadership qualities of its newer attorneys.
Now, the MBA Leadership Forum is wrapping up its first year,
with the graduation of its inaugural class next month. Began in September with
a two-day retreat, 23 attorneys came together monthly to learn what is needed
to be a leader in the community.
Our definition of leadership starts with who you are and
then moves to what you do, said Kathy Story, associate director of the
Leadership Institute in Judicial Education at the University of Memphis and an
educational consultant for the forum. Our definition of leadership is all
about developing yourself and other people. And you do that through retreat
activities and community service work and through getting to know one another.
Getting involved. Having
leaders in a profession is one thing. Empowering attorneys to be the
communitys leaders is a completely different endeavor.
I saw it as No. 1, an opportunity to get more involved in
the bar association, but No. 2, as a chance to get involved in leadership roles
in the community, which is something I look forward to doing, said Danese Blankenship, vice president and counsel at First
Tennessee Bank and a participant in the forum. I saw the Leadership Forum as
an opportunity to be exposed to community leaders who could share their
experiences with us, particularly attorneys who are in leadership roles in the
community. And also to get some exposure to some of the needs in the community
and the service organizations that provide those services to the community.
Strong response. The MBA is looking for participants
interested in next years forum, which will begin in September. Applications
are due June 1, and participants will be notified of their acceptance by July 1.
Interest was strong in the inaugural program.
The response has been wonderful, said Susan Clark, an
attorney with Burch, Porter & Johnson PLLC and 2005 president of the MBA. I
think the participants appreciated two aspects. One was getting out into the
community and going to places that perhaps they had not been before, meeting
community leaders and learning about community agencies. The second was getting
to know lawyers, more experienced lawyers who they might not get to know in
From both of those experiences, I think they gained insight
into whats going on in the Memphis community both the legal community and
otherwise and met some of the people who are influential in those areas.
Community focus. Participants
met on a monthly basis at sites such as the National Civil Rights Museum,
Metropolitan Inter-Faith Association and the Shelby County Commission chambers.
The on-site seminars were designed to let participants interact with community
leaders in a setting that would expose them to an organizations specific role.
Weve had an opportunity to visit numerous organizations
that serve the community, Blankenship said. Its been a good opportunity to
gain some insight into what some of the needs of the community are and how
these organizations are providing them, and try to see where you might be able
to fit in.
Ways to get involved in the community arent always obvious.
Like most attorneys, everybody gets busy with their own
private cases and sort of neglects the public service stuff, said participant
Tom Barnett, an associate with Baker, Donelson, Bearman, Caldwell
& Berkowitz PC. So the Leadership Forum is just a way to make you more
conscious about the civic organizations and what they need in terms of legal
mission of the forum is to develop leadership skills of attorneys who are in
their early years of practice, empower them to use those skills to make
contributions to the community and profession and encourage diversity in the
practice of law.
Diversity is an important part of the leadership forum. But
its not just diversity in race and gender; an important aspect is to get
attorneys from diverse practice areas together.
We looked at individuals we knew who were potential leaders
who were involved and we were looking very much for diversity in race, gender,
type of practice, Clark said. We were interested in having people in private
practice and the corporate sector and government practice. And thats what we
will again look for.
Young leaders. The
forum is open to attorneys who have been practicing between three and eight
We want to focus on the next generation of leaders in the
legal profession, so we wanted to hit that age, Clark said. And we felt like
lawyers needed to be in practice a few years at least to have the kind of
experiences that would teach them about what the practice of law is about.
There needed to be some experience practicing law, but we dont want to make it
too restrictive because we want to open it up to anyone who is interested,