Aug. 16, 2023 – Wisconsin lawyers are always busy. Whether you live in a rural community, a suburban enclave, or a big city, practicing law is stressful and challenging. The pressure to stay even with the competition or to advance ahead is always there.
That is why lawyer well-being is a major topic of concern, both at the State Bar of Wisconsin and the American Bar Association (ABA). The pandemic put greater pressure on all Wisconsin lawyers, and while COVID-19 has lessened, some of the experiences learned from that time are still with us. This is the broader reality and context of the legal profession today.
Our present reality is precisely the reason I want to share with you why I joined (and rejoined) the ABA, what I have learned, and why it complements the State Bar of Wisconsin. My observations in this piece are solely my own. They are given simply to help you decide whether you want to join the ABA (again, or for the first time).
I could easily talk about the varied sections, the numerous professional development opportunities, or the recent changes in ABA membership categories or dues structures. You may do that on your own. I want to focus on the more personal reasons for joining or rejoining the ABA and why it represents a terrific value.
I first joined the ABA as a law student. That was before the internet and the explosion of online learning and professional development opportunities. In fact, back then it was expected that new law graduates would join the ABA, because the ABA was held in high esteem, the gold standard internationally.
James Casey, Dayton 1988, is a research contracts and data protection executive based in San Antonio, Texas. He recently concluded a six-year run as a State Bar of Wisconsin delegate to the ABA House of Delegates.
I became a regular ABA member after law school, primarily because of the members’ deep connections and expertise in international law. Some things do not change.
Most lawyers are, at the most basic level, joiners. Whether the act of joining with other lawyers is driven by subject matter interests, larger social or governmental concerns, or simply out of economic self-interest (building a book of business), lawyers often self-select in the early years of their practice.
And then, as they grow into their careers, some will feel the tug of sharing more, back to the profession and their communities. That was my motivation in getting re-involved in the ABA, first as a State Bar of Wisconsin delegate to the ABA House of Delegates and then in the Science and Technology Law Section (SciTech).
An Environment of Growth
Because much of my career has been spent in academia, either managing research (often science and technology) or teaching, I was used to environments of growth – where change is the order of the day and learning new concepts (legal and nonlegal) is an imperative. Working in environments of growth prepared me well for my ABA experience. If your career has been in the same change environment, I know you will find the ABA to be an excellent complement to the SBW.
I recently watched the presentation of the ABA Medal to pioneering civil rights lawyer Fred D. Gray. He spoke passionately about how lawyers should render service to clients and their communities. And in his case, knocking down segregation everywhere he found it. He has been an ABA member since 1959. Remarkable.
Listening to his words, the thought came to me: that, in addition to rendering service, membership in the ABA helps you become the best version of yourself. Not just as a lawyer, but as a person.
That is the biggest reason to join or rejoin the ABA.
I hope my commentary spurs you to give serious thought to joining or rejoining the ABA – and then acting on it. Thank you.
Visit the ABA website to learn about the benefits of ABA membership. Here’s where to join.
Membership in the ABA helps you become the best version of yourself.