Young Lawyers seeks H.O.D. approval to become division

Issue September 2006 By Bill Archambeault

The House of Delegates will be asked to reorganize the Young Lawyers Section Council as a division of the Massachusetts Bar Association, with the goal of increasing participation and philanthropic opportunities.

MBA President Mark D. Mason, who is chairman of the Young Lawyers Task Force and was chairman from 1991-92 of Young Lawyers when it was previously a division, has made the conversion to a division one of his top priorities for this year.

The bylaws were being finalized in early August and sent to members of the section council for review. Once approved by the section council, the changes will be submitted to the House of Delegates for approval at its Sept. 20 meeting.

"We look forward to the House of Delegates endorsing the proposed bylaws in order to create the Young Lawyers Division," Mason said. "We'll be very excited about the goals the Young Lawyers Division has set in increasing its activity levels."

The change would establish an elected leadership with delegates from affiliated bar associations, similar to the Massachusetts Bar Association's organizational structure. It would also establish a separate budget, giving YLD more flexibility in creating and sponsoring programs.

"The desire for us to move over to a division came from a desire for us to do more than we could as a section council," said Sanjay K. Sankaran, whom Mason has appointed as chair of the section council. If the change is approved, Sankaran will continue to serve as chair of the division, with officer elections held the following year.

Sankaran credits much of the proposal to Mason, who thought it would be a good way to build on outgoing MBA President Warren Fitzgerald's goal of increasing the role played by Young Lawyers. Section council members have discussed the plans this spring and summer, and are now reviewing the bylaws.

"We are focused on increasing the Young Lawyers participation at the Bar Association and reaching out through the Internet and our Web site," Mason said. "We're increasing communications with our section councils, and I look forward to energizing our membership through the Internet."

While YLD would continue to sponsor or co-sponsor programs for the MBA's Continuing Legal Education Department, it would also look to offer a wider variety of programs to appeal to the diversity within the profession.

"This will allow us to be creative with the kinds of activities we'd want to host," Sankaran said, with particular emphasis on involving more young attorneys and doing more philanthropic work.

"One major focus I've discussed with several members is the desire to be more involved with public service," he said.

Should the plan be approved, one idea that's been proposed by Erik D. Scheinfeldt, an attorney with the Law Office of Dennis E. McHugh in Chelmsford, would raise money to offer $3,000 summer internships for law students to work with legal aid groups.

"We are hoping to become more involved in public service work," Scheinfeldt said, using dinners, auctions and other events to raise money that would benefit legal aid organizations or charities like women's shelters. "Most of these places can't afford to hire anyone, and most law students don't want to work for free."

Sankaran said that in addition to elected officers, the YLD would have delegates — modeled on the MBA's House of Delegates — and four standing committees. The new structure would also give young lawyers in the division an opportunity to hold elected office.

"Young lawyers could potentially use YLD to get experience with leadership for future MBA leadership," he said.

Another focus of the division, Sankaran said, would be on forging strong relationships with law students, with the goal of having a representative from each law school.

Part of that effort, he said, would send members of YLD into law schools to speak with students, in much the same way the Task Force on Diversity is sending teams of lawyers and MBA officers into high schools and colleges to speak with minority students about pursuing a legal career.

"I think that young lawyers are in a good position to talk to law students about what is immediately available to them," Sankaran said. "Often, they don't know what it is that younger associates are going through, and it would be helpful for them to learn what techniques young lawyers used to earn their first job or decide what type of law you want to practice. We'd be in a good position to offer those perspectives."

Overall, Sankaran said that members of the council are excited about the change.

"There is a lot going on, and I'm very excited about some of the new members I've spoken with. They all seem very energetic about being part of future of Young Lawyers," he said. "I think we have a good team on board with some good ideas that will make a name for young lawyers in the legal community."