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VOL. 122 | NO. 227 | Thursday, November 29, 2007

Young Lawyers Make Mark on Bar

By Eric Smith

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Someday they will be partners or judges, lawmakers or law professors. But for many attorneys in the Memphis Bar Association's Young Lawyers Division, the future is now.

This section of the Memphis Bar Association is 500 lawyers strong - about a fourth of the bar's membership. It's comprised of attorneys who are either 36 years old or younger, or have been practicing for three years or fewer. The active, involved group of attorneys is dedicated to making a mark on their chosen profession.

Two weeks ago today, the YLD ushered in its new year by passing the proverbial gavel and installing a new set of officers and directors.

Stacie Winkler, an associate at Thomason, Hendrix, Harvey, Johnson & Mitchell PLLC, accepted the role of 2008 president, and she said she is eager to take on her new duties.

"I've always been active, and I'm not from Memphis, so this is a way for me to be involved in the bar and also the community of Memphis," Winkler said. "I think being involved with the Young Lawyers Division helps your practice, it helps you get to know people, be comfortable with other lawyers and the judges and helps your comfort level in the courtroom."

Social roots in philanthropy

The YLD originally formed in the 1940s as the "junior bar," something of a social arm for the MBA. But over the years it evolved into a thriving section geared toward philanthropy and mentoring, as well as making sure lawyers new to the bar become comfortable with practicing law in Memphis.

YLD raises money for the local Boys and Girls Club through its "Happy Hour" celebrations, in which lawyers who attend are asked to make donations in exchange for free drinks.

Additionally, YLD runs the regional portion of the Shelby County High School Mock Trial competition. The event usually begins each February, with YLD members acting as judges in the mock trials.

Winkler said she hopes more young lawyers become involved with this event and others. She said the section's two officers and nine directors do much of the heavy lifting throughout the year, and she welcomes more participation.

"Typically it's just been the nine board members doing things every year, running every single thing that there is," Winkler said. "It's great, but it can get a little taxing when we all have a limited amount of time, so I think this year one of our goals is to increase the activism - even if you're not on the board, to get other young lawyers involved in our events."

Nuts and bolts

YLD is responsible for holding continuing legal education seminars, the most popular of which is a "nuts and bolts" class. In that one, lawyers who recently passed the bar exam are taken to the courthouse and sworn in at every court.

Each judge gives the new lawyers an orientation to his or her courtroom, such as who the court clerks are and how things are run in that particular court.

"These are things you couldn't possibly learn any other way," Winkler said.

More than anything, YLD wants new practitioners to assimilate into the legal profession. One of the knocks on legal education is its failure to teach the proper practice of law, only theories.

"One of the biggest challenges is you get to your office and you're sitting there and you're supposed to be a lawyer, but you have no idea what you're supposed to be doing," Winkler said. "Being in the Young Lawyers Division and being active helps you get to know the judges, helps you get to know other lawyers. Other lawyers and judges can get to know you on a personal basis and understand that you're professional and you're competent and trying to help the community. That's one of the advantages of being involved."

As she prepares for 2008, Winkler said she wants her feelings toward YLD to become infectious.

"I think people are excited about this year," she said. "I hope they are, anyway."

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