July 2013 - The Young Lawyers Division—Bar Passage and Beyond
by Michelle L. Tran
Click. Click. Fifteen magical words appear on the screen: The name above appears on the pass list for the July 2012 California Bar Examination. After re-checking the Bar Examination Pass List an additional 7,162,684 times, the truth remains the same—you are an attorney.
Which raises the question: Now what?
For most, entering the legal field as a young attorney and making the shift from full-time student to full-time employee is a daunting concept. It does not help that the current job market is slim and young attorneys are facing six-figure law school debt.
A uniquely targeted division of the Orange County Bar Association, the OCBA Young Lawyers Division (YLD), provides solace to those new to legal practice. YLD offers its members the opportunity to network alongside more seasoned members of the OCBA and the potential to meet new employers, build their books of business, and grow personally and professionally. YLD makes the transition from being a student to a legal professional a positive and exciting experience.
My involvement with YLD started immediately after I passed the bar examination. I had the incredible opportunity to meet many members of the organization who went above and beyond to help me reach my goals as a legal professional.
One of the most inspirational moments of my early legal career occurred during a professional development lunch with OCBA member (and then OCBA YLD Education Chair) William O’Neill of Haynes and Boone, LLP. Mr. O’Neill was a fourth-year associate while I was a baby attorney with a solid two weeks of experience under my belt. After an hour-long conversation filled with invaluable words of wisdom, I couldn’t help but ask, “Why are you being so helpful?”
His response was simple. “I’ve been there and have met other OCBA members who walked me through it, too. Just pay it forward.” His words resonated with me and made me realize how valuable OCBA membership and the opportunities afforded through its Young Lawyers Division would be to me.
The OCBA Young Lawyers Division
Open to all OCBA attorney members in their first four years of practice, the OCBA Young Lawyers Division—which consists of the Chair, Chair-Elect, Committee Chairs, and individual members—promotes giving back to our community, educational development, social interaction, and sports involvement.
The backbone of YLD lies with the Committee Chairs, representing Community Outreach, Education, Sports, and Social. Kathryn Yarnal of Hughes & Hughes is Chair of the Community Outreach Committee. Brian Skalsky chairs the Education Committee and is an associate with Bremer, Whyte, Brown & O’Meara, LLP. Andrew Slade manages the Sports Committee and is an associate at Crowell & Moring, LLP. Michelle Q. Nguyen is the Social Chair and currently dedicates her time at the Bette and Wylie Aitken Family Violence Clinic at Chapman University School of Law. The Committee Chairs are tasked with managing the various committee members and planning annual committee events. The Chair-Elect is Sarah Nowels of Amezcua-Moll & Associates. Ms. Nowels will take over the reins of the organization next year.
YLD prides itself on giving back to the community. As lawyers, we have a responsibility to contribute to society in a meaningful way, whether by providing legal services to those less fortunate or simply volunteering our time for a worthy cause. This year, under the leadership of Kathryn Yarnal, YLD members had the opportunity to work with Orangewood Children’s Foundation as part of an event at the Pretend City Children’s Museum in Irvine, which utilizes purposeful play, hands-on learning experiences, and role playing to fuel a variety of educational programming. At the Second YLD Business Meeting of the year, representatives from Public Law Center, Legal Aid, Laura’s House, and the Constitutional Rights Foundation, Orange County spoke to our members about ways to volunteer their time and get involved in the community. The Community Outreach Committee will also work closely with Someone Cares Soup Kitchen to continue volunteering and giving back to those in need. I encourage all YLD members to make a difference in the community by contributing their time.
A fundamental benefit of YLD membership is the opportunity to receive MCLE credits, learn from prominent attorneys, and interact with members of the judiciary. This year, under the guidance of Brian Skalsky, YLD organized a seminar entitled “Starting Your Own Practice as a Young Lawyer and Building Your Book of Business.” YLD also offered its members the opportunity to hear a three-judge panel’s perspective on how to successfully navigate court as a young lawyer. Our distinguished judges provided advice to help young lawyers make appearances, argue law and motions, and try cases. The Education Committee also plans to host two more events this year, including a seminar focused on the “smart” way to use social media.
This committee organizes sports-themed events throughout the year such as “A Day at the Del Mar Race Track,” where members can watch world-class horse racing and test their luck at the track while enjoying time with their peers. The Sports Committee also invited its members for a night out at Angel Stadium in May 2013. The crown jewel of the Sports Committee is the Bad News Bearristers softball team, where a sense of humor is mandatory, but athletic skill is optional. The team offers members of all skill levels the opportunity to play softball throughout the year and is managed by Andrew Slade.
It goes without saying that YLD members know how to have a good time. With this in mind, Michelle Q. Nguyen organized the year’s first social event at the Yard House in Costa Mesa, which was sold out days before the program! The Social Chair also paired with the Orange County Women Lawyers Association (OCWLA) to host a Taco Tuesday for our respective members. This event allowed YLD members to mix and mingle with members of OCWLA and was similarly well attended. The Social Committee also plans to host a wine tasting event in addition to the annual Holiday Party, which is typically YLD’s largest social event of the year. I encourage all YLD members to participate in the social events, which provide invaluable networking opportunities and unforgettable experiences.
State of the Division
I am proud to announce that YLD had many “firsts” this year, and I am honored to have been a part of the organization’s growth. This year has been especially exciting with the launch of the YLD listserv where our members are now able to reach out to others with questions about law and procedure. YLD also began hosting Quarterly Meetings to provide members with opportunities to get involved with other legal organizations and continue to network among peers and presenters.
At the First Business Meeting of the year, YLD had a record-breaking attendance of more than 85 members. We have sold out events and continue to have high attendance at all our programs, including our social, community outreach, education, and sports events.
I am pleased to report that due to the collective efforts of individual members, the Committee Chairs, the Chair-Elect, and the Chair, YLD membership witnessed a 33% increase year-over-year in January 2013 and is currently 564 members strong. YLD stands firm and remains committed to the advancement of its members and the legal community as a whole. On that basis, I remain grateful and honored to be a part of this amazing group within the OCBA, and I look forward to its continued success.
Michelle L. Tran is the 2013 Chair of the OCBA Young Lawyers Division and an associate attorney with Hittelman Law Group focusing exclusively on family law issues. She may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.