Daniel Cardwell is the winner of the Federal Bar Association - Tampa Bay Chapter Essay Contest which addressed the following prompt: How can the legal profession better engage lawyers of all backgrounds and ensure they can maintain a meaningful role in the legal community or "stay in the game" throughout their careers?
There are two approaches to take when handling a labor problem where people quit an industry entirely. The obvious approach asks us to look at the reasons behind the departure and informs us of the obstacles that need to be removed or minimized. The second approach asks us to look at why people decide to stay, which guides us to replicate the same motivations and circumstances for those who exit the legal profession. Regardless of the approach, one key observation is clear: connection and inclusion will inspire any possible solution we should consider. These two concepts address both sides of the equation.
The opposite of connection and inclusion is isolation and exclusion. Professional isolation and lack of inclusion are major forces that facilitate dropping out of any profession. Meanwhile, connection and inclusion can motivate people to stay in a position even under difficult circumstances and pressures. Therefore, any serious solution to a "staying in the game" campaign must emphasize programs and policies that ignite those two concepts within the legal profession.
If we look for inspiration at the top, we see that the Justices of the Supreme Court often talk about mentors, professors, and colleagues who have played an empowering role in their careers. Whether it is career guidance, skill development, or celebrating milestones, these leaders in the top tiers of American jurisprudence express gratitude for opportunities that connect them with a professional population of academics, practitioners, and other professionals. These elite jurists truly view and experience the legal industry as a community.
Therefore, my solutions to stay in the game focus on community building, allowing established professionals to expand their professional networks through mentorship programs and community engagement events. This strategy allows early-career professionals and students to participate and take on meaningful roles with attorneys in different fields and at different career stages. Building these kinds of communities allows all professionals to learn and figure out professional lessons in a "safe space" away from the pressures of client demands and malpractice stress. If an attorney cannot find a community that allows them a safe place to connect and learn, then by definition, they will experience isolation and exclusion. This disconnect will cause any career to stagnate and stop growing.
More specifically, I suggest that we build our community through co-leadership opportunities. This means bringing professionals from different backgrounds and experience levels together to work and lead. This strategy can include creating and teaching a workshop or webinar, or service on a committee that requires the creation of professional work products. Co-authorship initiatives is another great way to build connection through mutual professional advancement. A connected professional sees career accomplishments and believes that their contributions to society matter will always stay in the game.
Daniel Cardwell is a 3L at Western Michigan University- Thomas M. Cooley Law School. He is the President of the Federal Bar Association Colley Law School Division. He completed his MA in English: Rhetoric & Writing and MA degree in Library & Information Science. He is active with the American Library Association, serving on committees through his home division, the Association of College & Research Libraries. He is also a member of the American Association of Law Libraries and a 2019 recipient of the AALL George A. Strait Scholarship.
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Joseline J. Hardrick is the Founder and President of Diversity Access Pipeline, Inc. She is also an author, professor, and lawyer and resides in Tampa Bay, Florida. Guest bloggers are students in the Journey to Esquire® Scholarship & Leadership Program.