Article by Tiffany M. Graves 1 2017–2018 CABA PresidentPosted 01/01/2017
I am honored to serve as President of the Capital Area Bar Association (CABA) this year. I have been a proud member of CABA’s Board of Directors (Board) for the last six years. I started out as the President-Elect of the Jackson Young Lawyers Association (JYL). For those who may not know, the President and President-Elect of JYL serve on CABA’s Board in an ex-officio capacity. We are pleased to have Alicia Hall (JYL President) and Andrew Harris (JYL President-Elect) on the Board this year. The long-standing partnership of our two organizations has been mutually-beneficial and crucial to CABA’s success and sustainability.
I have a confession. It was not until I became involved in bar associations that I really began to enjoy the practice of law. As a non-Mississippian, I moved to Jackson only knowing a handful of people. I did not attend either of Mississippi’s law schools, so I felt like I was at a disadvantage in many ways. When I became active in local and specialty bar associations, everything changed. I met a ton of outstanding lawyers who later became friends and confidants. I learned about different areas of the law and developed leadership skills that continue to serve me well, personally and professionally. I also began to really appreciate the richness and diversity of our profession. I cherish those early bar association experiences and feel strongly that they have prepared me for where I am today, proudly leading the largest and most active local bar association in Mississippi.
While there are many reasons why lawyers join bar associations, I believe the following may be the “top five” benefits of bar membership. As I address all five, I will discuss what we have planned this year to make sure you are aware of the benefits of membership that may have made you renew your membership or join CABA this year.
Our dependence on email, social media and similar technologies has drastically changed how often we engage with one another face-to-face. Despite the utility of these platforms, there is no substitute for personally getting to know your legal community and interacting with colleagues away from the computer screen. In addition to our membership meetings, CABA hosts several social events, including the recently-added “Bar Reviews,” to provide rich opportunities for networking and fellowship for our members. I am excited to share that we will partner with the Madison and Rankin County Bar Associations on two of our social events this year. We encourage you to attend these free, after-hours events to meet other lawyers and get your name and practice area circulating in the legal community.
The legal profession is constantly evolving, so it is imperative that we stay current on changes in the law and other shifts that could affect our practices. This year, three of our five membership meetings will offer opportunities for members to gain valuable, free CLE credit. In addition, we are offering three “Flash CLEs” in November, January and March at the Mississippi Bar Center. Members who attend these programs can receive one hour of free CLE credit and get even more chances to interact with other lawyers who share similar interests. We have other educational opportunities planned, too, so keep reading.
As lawyers, we are fortunate to have gained a unique set of skills that can be extremely valuable to many community organizations and nonprofits. As the Executive Director of the Mississippi Access to Justice Commission, I can assure you our legal nonprofits need lawyers to do pro bono work, serve on their boards, or otherwise contribute to their missions. Our Community Outreach & Pro Bono Committee is planning volunteer opportunities that will include assisting with food service at Stewpot Community Services and an expungement workshop and legal clinic in Jackson. We will continue to support the Mississippi Volunteer Lawyers Project with proceeds from our annual golf tournament. Finally, we will continue to put your membership dues to good use by honoring our longtime commitment of support to students at Mississippi College School of Law and the University of Mississippi School of Law through minority scholarship awards and by recognizing the students and teachers who participate in our annual essay contest.
Effective lawyers know their judges and we have an outstanding roster of local, state and federal judges in the Metro Area. Lucky for us, our judges are known for their commitment to and visibility at CABA functions, including our membership meetings and socials. Our Bench-Bar Relations Committee is planning a special judges’ panel for our April membership meeting. We will formally recognize the contributions of judges to the profession at our year-end “Evening Honoring the Judiciary” event on May 17, 2018. Don’t miss these outstanding opportunities to interact with your local judges at CABA events this year.
Each bar association has its own culture, climate and personality. What I appreciate most about CABA is the diversity of our membership. Whether you are in private practice, in house or a government attorney, there is a place for you in CABA. Our Board and Committees are working hard to think about programming this year that will be useful to all of our members, regardless of their practice areas. But we also want to be thoughtful about and responsive to the specific needs of some members. We created the Small Firm/Solo Practice Committee several years ago to provide support to attorneys with those type practices. That committee is planning a half-day, information-packed CLE event about the practicalities of establishing and maintaining a solo and small firm law practice. Our Women’s Initiatives Committee is planning another big panel event to address the issues that women lawyers face in the legal profession. Finally, our Diversity Committee is hard at work on developing programming that will promote the importance of diversity within the legal community.
This list could certainly go on, but I have taken up quite a bit of space already with this, my first, column. With at least two more to go, I will save some content for future issues. I will end by saying that I hope your participation in CABA allows you to experience a true sense of community and connection and support when you need it. Law practice can be extremely challenging and we have to find ways to support one another. I have been able to find support many times from my fellow CABA members and I hope you will, too. We are certainly stronger together.
If you have not renewed your membership, please do so today here. You don’t want to miss out on all of the fun we will have this year!