Back in August, my wife and I dropped off our daughter at college. This was our first child to go to college and it was as joyful and sad, as exciting and anxious, as you might expect it would be. It was a time of new beginnings for her, but also the end of a wonderful shared chapter of our lives – it reminded me a bit of the nostalgic reflections at the end of a very good year, only much, much more so.
In those last days before drop-off, I found myself wanting to impart to my daughter that last bit of wisdom or inject one more dose of common sense – as if through the right words I could make up for all of the shortcomings in my parenting from the prior 18 years. I probably drove her crazy as I gave her all the advice I could muster.
But I did tell my daughter at least one thing of value, I think. I told her that the first month or so of college is a magical time because right there and right then, everyone wants to meet everyone else. Everyone is friendly. No cliques have formed, groups of new friends can expand and contract by the minute – membership is open to everyone. It is socially acceptable to walk up to a complete stranger and introduce yourself. You’re not just doing yourself a favor, you’re doing them a favor, too. So do it. And through that process, new friendships are formed, including some that will last a lifetime. And also, it might be fun.
I believed that because it was true to my college experience. And I’m bothering you with this story now because it was also true to my introduction to the national Federal Bar Association.
I was a first-time attendee at a national FBA event – Chapter Leadership Training in Alexandria, Virginia. I was a bit on my own – I hadn’t had much national FBA involvement before. I can’t recall knowing a single person when I arrived. Whether it was planned or just the result of knowing nobody there, I sat next to a different person at every meeting, lunch or dinner, and got to meet some wonderful people from all over the country. A number of us banded together to go to lunch or dinner, and some of us may have enjoyed a beverage together after.
I met dozens of people at Leadership Training, among them: Christian Adams from Hawaii, Barry Ashe from New Orleans, (now Judge) Alison Bachus from Phoenix, Tonya Cammon from Chattanooga, Jon Hafen from Salt Lake City, Mike Gabel from Memphis, Scott Kane from Cincinnati, Kevin Maxim from Atlanta, John McCarthy from New York, Chris Stephens from Oklahoma City, Chris Sullivan from Boston, Christy Varnado from South Carolina, Maria Vathis from Chicago, and Dennis Wagner from the best-named chapter in the FBA, the Inland Empire Chapter. And there were so many more that I could (and probably should) mention. With that national meeting, I started to find my professional home within the FBA. I found my people.
That was years ago, and I have spoken, texted or emailed with everyone on this list in the last 12 months. I have spoken with many of them in the last 5 days.
And so it should come as no surprise that one of the focuses of the FBA during my presidential year is to help our members find their professional home within our national organization. This year, that goal manifests itself in several ways, but the newest and perhaps most significant is our inaugural Rising Professionals Symposium which takes place in Las Vegas on February 1-3, 2018. We invited top-flight speakers on topics that should be interesting to all federal court lawyers, we are adopting an innovative (and fun) format, we are providing an opportunity for some of our accomplished younger members to present to their peers, and perhaps most importantly, we are providing multiple (again, fun) opportunities for our newer lawyers to meet each other and to begin to develop their national network.
As you’re reading this, you should still have a week or two to make your plans to attend, or to invest in the career of one of the younger lawyers from your office, or from your chapter, section or division. Truly, I expect the next generation of Federal Bar Association Leaders to emerge from this Symposium. You should find a way to be a part of it.
It is tough being a young lawyer in 2018, and it is our opportunity if not our obligation as an organization to help the next generation of lawyers find their professional home within the FBA, and that includes developing their national professional network. The Rising Professionals Symposium is nothing less grand than a bold, purposeful attempt to help make their journey just a bit easier. And it might be fun.
Post Script: It has now been many months since my daughter has been away at college. Reports are that she’s learning (I think), she found her people, and she’s having fun.
Kip T. Bollin is the FBA president and a litigation partner at Thompson Hine LLP in Cleveland, Ohio. Kip Bollin can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org