In a conversation with Brooklyn Law School (BLS), former Brooklyn Bar Association President Aimee Richter and two other bar association leaders talked about the importance of bar associations for attorneys who are trying to develop their careers.
Richter was joined by Marie-Eleana First, president of the Queens County Bar Association, and Elena Karabatos, president of the Nassau County Bar Association, in a discussion about the importance of face-to-face conversations in creating a professional network.
“As a 25-year-old, right out of law school, I joined the Brooklyn Bar Association and, ever since, it has helped me develop my professional relationships,” Richter said. “It offers so many opportunities to meet leaders of the Brooklyn legal community. Looking back, the people I met through the bar association — when I was just starting out in my career — are now my friends, many of whom have gone on to become judges and politicians.”
Richter, a BLS graduate, is a partner in the firm Lee Anav Chung White Kim Ruger and Richter LLP, and is co-chair of the firm’s matrimonial and family law practice group. She is a member of the Committee of Character and Fitness for the Second, 10th and 13th Judicial Districts, and is special master to mediate matrimonial and family law appeals in the Appellate Division, First Department.
Richter said that it has been a challenge to make the case to younger attorneys who use social media such as LinkedIn to network that bar associations offer potentially greater value.
“I sit on the Character and Fitness Committee for the Second Department, and when I am doing interviews with the students, I stress the importance and value of joining,” Richter said. “There are lots of benefits for new lawyers like free continuing legal education, networking and mentoring.”
First pointed out that bar association membership is free for law school students and that they should join as soon as they can to get a start on building a professional network.
“We started a student ambassadorship program, in which we have two student representatives from each law school act as liaisons between the law school and the bar association,” First said. “Our student ambassadors share information about our bar to the law students and also help our bar to coordinate its networking events, panels and mentorship program.
“In this way, lawyers and law students can better engage with each other, fostering goodwill and deeper connections. We also have writing opportunities for students, including contests that recognize articles and law notes.”
Richter also pointed out that bar association membership is a good way for law school students and attorneys to make a difference in their communities.
“We have a volunteer lawyer network and a referral system to get representation where it is needed,” she said. “We have been setting up many foreclosure clinics. We responded with legal help after Hurricane Sandy in New York and Hurricane Maria in Puerto Rico.
“Recently, we have been working to protect children and families from being separated,” Richter continued. “We also have our Foundation Law Programs for the Public Committee, which provides legal information and help with many issues, such as housing rights, foreclosure, divorce and immigration. Younger lawyers today are more interested in social justice issues and being a part of the bar association gives them a way to galvanize and work with a larger group of lawyers committed to those same causes.”
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