5 Things We Learned from New and Young Lawyers — and What We’re Doing about It

New Bar card

We heard you and we changed the card.In fall 2014, I launched a survey of WSBA new and young lawyer members.

We wanted to collect information on three main areas:

  • New members’ experience leading up to, and immediately following, the admissions process
  • What new and young lawyers value from their bar association
  • What type of community new and young lawyers value

Here’s what we learned — and what the WSBA is doing in response to your feedback.

Change the Bar card! The most significant percentage of comments we received was about the Bar card. Many of you felt the card did not appropriately reflect the amount of work put in to earning it and that the card needed an update. As it happened, we were already in the process of reviewing the format and materials of the Bar card to coincide with the WSBA’s 125th anniversary. The survey responses helped kick this idea into action.

Launched in spring 2015, the new commemorative Bar card is provided to all newly admitted members. And since we didn’t want to leave anyone out, all WSBA members can receive an updated card at no charge through Dec. 31, 2015. To request a new Bar card, email questions@wsba.org. As always, if you’d like a photo on your card, you can purchase it through the WSBA store.

We’re in debt and unemployed. One member wrote, “Collectively, my wife and I earn appx. $120,000/year. Student loan debt is a millstone around our necks. We are barely past paycheck to paycheck living and loans are actively preventing our entry into the middle class. To the extent that the WSBA can do something/anything about this burden, it would be great.”

The WSBA has been aware of this issue for over a decade and has made an effort to put programs into place to help reduce financial burdens. Recently, new content was added to the WSBA website to discuss the student loan debt crisis, connect you to resources to help manage your student loan debt and share ways to reduce costs when engaging with the Bar. This is a highly complex issue with many players and no easy solution. Looking ahead, the WSBA Board of Governors and the Washington Young Lawyers Committee are energized to participate in conversations and efforts to address this issue.

We like the website, but it’s hard to find information. With a website that serves the public and members, and offers a statewide repository of information and resources on both member services and regulatory matters for all types of members, things can get crowded. On top of that, the WSBA’s internal organization doesn’t necessarily reflect how a user engages with our website. It can be a challenge to “think like a member” when you wear your staff hat all day, every day.

As a result, the WSBA’s Communications Department is conducting focus groups in July. These focus groups will bring together new and young lawyers for engaging, active conversations to help us better understand how you navigate our website, what you are looking for, what you value and where you would assume to find what you’re looking for, but can’t.

I’m not new, I’m young! (Or, I’m not young, but I am new.) This topic comes up time and again. Some survey respondents commented that the term “young” lawyer excluded them because while they were a new practitioner, they were older than 36 years of age. On the flip side, some comments reflected that the term “new” was not one they liked because it seemed to inaccurately reflect their skill as an attorney. What’s clear is the concern that neither term is as inclusive as it should be. “I’m new but not young, so I feel excluded,” said one member. “Does a 25-year-old new lawyer have different professional needs than a 50-year-old new lawyer?” asked another.

The Washington Young Lawyers Committee is keenly interested in this topic and will be delving into this with great attention in the next year. To share your opinion on the term or see WSBA Bylaw definitions of those terms, contact newlawyers@wsba.org or a member of the Washington Young Lawyers Committee.

Bar staff is helpful. As a staff member, thank you! We are committed to providing you with quality support and valuable member services through professional and helpful customer service. It’s reassuring to learn that those who have reached out to us have found the experience to be helpful.

You can read the full executive summary of the WSBA New Lawyer Survey online. I encourage you (new, young, retired, student) to take a look. I promise you’ll learn something about the struggles your newer colleagues are facing — and about the WSBA — that you didn’t know before.

Young Lawyers Committee — The Voice of New/Young Lawyers

 The Washington Young Lawyers Committee (WYLC) is the vehicle for new attorneys and law students to get involved with the Washington State Bar Association.

Read more from the YLC.  Learn more about the YLC.

2 thoughts on “5 Things We Learned from New and Young Lawyers — and What We’re Doing about It

  1. Lauri

    Given the collective wealth of the WSBA members, I am surprised that there is not a platform for members to donate funds so that other WSBA members can obtain 0 interest loans, or in the alternative donate funds where the student loan debtor is able to get a lower interest rate than is otherwise available from other sources.

  2. Ron Greenen

    I am surprised that the new and especially young lawyers didn’t figure out that they don’t even need a bar card in this electronic age. I’m not even sure where mine might be.

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