Top 5 Reasons to Join a Minority Bar Association
Though lawyers were present in America from the very beginning, the first African American lawyers were not admitted until the 1840s. Instead of welcoming Black lawyers into the profession, white attorneys carefully excluded them from bar associations that could aid their careers. Rather than accept defeat, the enterprising African American attorneys formed bar associations of their own.
When formal segregation ended, the all-white bar associations were forced to admit attorneys of color. But the bar associations formed by the early African American legal pioneers did not disappear. They endured and grew into organizations that continue to provide vital resources for attorneys and communities. While there are many reasons to join a minority bar association, this article will focus on five of them.
Minority bar associations provide unparalleled networking opportunities. Networking helps new and seasoned attorneys make new contacts in the legal community. The person sitting across the table at a gala might be the judge or opposing counsel on an upcoming case. The person you chat with at the coat check might casually mention that her firm is hiring. Opportunities to make new friends and connections abound at most minority bar association events.
Making new connections is particularly important for recent graduates, solo practitioners, and attorneys who have recently relocated. An attorney cannot find a mentor, a second chair for a case, someone to appear pro hac vice, or someone to help them get admitted to a court without meeting other attorneys. While networking takes time, time spent making professional connections is a wise career investment.
2. CLE Courses
Joining a minority bar association may help you meet your state’s CLE requirement. Forty-six states require their attorneys to attend continuing legal education (CLE) courses on a regular basis. Fortunately, many minority bar associations offer CLE courses. What’s more, in many cases, their members receive discounts on CLE courses and other programs.
3. Career Advancement
One of the primary reasons to join a minority bar association is professional advancement. As previously stated, the networking opportunities provided by minority bar associations can lead to powerful connections. Meeting someone who knows about openings or has hiring authority at their firm is a considerable benefit.
Moreover, beyond the indirect benefits of networking, minority bar associations have programs that directly aid your career. Some minority bar associations host job fairs. Even better, some bar associations offer members access to exclusive job listings. The career benefits should be clear.
4. A Place to Vent
While being an attorney can be rewarding, it can also be challenging. Law is one of the most stressful professions that doesn’t involve physical labor. Research sponsored by the American Bar Association found that lawyers have high rates of depression, anxiety, and alcoholism. Given the demands of legal practice, it’s unsurprising that many lawyers are unhappy.
While all lawyers face the judges, clients, and deadlines that produce stress and anxiety, Black lawyers have additional stressors to consider. African American attorneys are outnumbered in most legal workplaces. The legal profession, like other professions in America, employs people with conscious and unconscious racial biases. Dealing with racism is difficult, but dealing with it alone is even more so. Connecting with others who share your experience can provide you with much needed advice, validation, and encouragement.
5. Community Service Opportunities
One of the best reasons to join a minority bar association is to help others. Despite portrayals in popular media, most lawyers attend law school because they want to help people and make a difference. However, the time spent practicing law cuts down on the time available for community service. Luckily, minority bar associations give members the opportunity to help themselves while helping others.
Many minority bar associations host a signature community service project each year. Some of the events provide scholarships to local students. Others focus on mentoring high school, college, or law students. Some honor those fighting for justice in the community. Planning or attending these events gives an attorney an opportunity to improve his career and community at the same time.
Clearly, there are many reasons to join a minority bar association. Like these minority bars, The African American Attorney Network is committed to helping African American lawyers get the resources they need. Follow us for more career advice tailored to the needs of the Black attorney.