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VOL. 119 | NO. 73 | Thursday, April 28, 2005

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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 their practice.

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 services.

Diversity. The 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 years.

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, really.


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