Denver Bar Association
July 2009
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Want to get involved? Here’s How…

by Becky Bye

"Volunteers do not necessarily have the time; they just have the heart."

— Elizabeth Andrew

Becky Bye and fiancé James Rufus Garts III first met at a CBA YLD Executive Council meeting.

Many attorneys tend to avoid giving away their free time. Understandably so.

As an attorney, particularly during these economically turbulent times, it can be difficult to imagine how anyone would carve out time from work and personal life to partake in other professional or volunteer activities that serve an altruistic purpose.

However, for me, I have discovered that giving time to various causes — law-related or otherwise — greatly enhances my personal and professional life in more ways than I thought possible.

Ever since high school, I have been described as a "joiner." From cheerleading to speech team in high school, and from staying active on law reviews and student newspapers to various student organizations in college and law school, I have never been one to turn down extracurricular involvement. Granted, in school, I was motivated primarily by my social butterfly tendencies and enthusiasm for free food and beverages at meetings or parties (hey, I was a poor student).

Today, as much as I still enjoy socializing (and free food), I find an even deeper satisfaction from staying involved. The main reason I enjoy filling my pockets of free time with volunteer activities is that it keeps me connected to many people with different backgrounds, ages and personalities. Commitments outside of work actually help me manage my free time.

As a young lawyer, it is critical to balance my integrity, professional work and outside commitments, such as friends, family and extracurricular activities. In other words, I want to have my cake and eat it too. I want to excel at my full-time legal job while maintaining my relationships with friends and family, planning a wedding, teaching as an adjunct professor, writing for The Docket, maintaining my position as chair-elect on the executive council of the CBA Young Lawyers Division and even trying to keep my summer garden alive despite my lack of green thumbs.

The Docket Committee Chair Becky Bye (right) and writer Doug McQuiston discuss story ideas for an upcoming Docket issue at a Docket Bar Review, July 7, 2008 at the Buckhorn Exchange.

Luckily, there is a way for young lawyers to manage a work-life balance and give back to the community. First, evaluate your current commitments. Consider your relationships, children, travel and even exercise regimen as current commitments. Then, determine how much free time you have to commit to volunteering. Based on the number of open hours and free days, or if you have a more flexible schedule at times, you can determine what types of activities meet your personal goals and conflict minimally with your current lifestyle. For example, if you are free on Wednesdays for lunch and have an interest in writing and working with humorous lawyers and DBA staff, you can attend light-hearted (yet stimulating) Docket meetings and write articles based on the free time you have during a particular month. If you are interested helping with committees for a bar association, you can research the different committees that might interest you and harmonize with your schedule. Regardless of your schedule and how much time you have to devote to your personal and professional life, you can find endless opportunities to give back.

It is important for all lawyers, particularly new lawyers, to stay involved in professional organizations and give back. During the first years of practicing law, young attorneys are less likely to be anchored by personal commitments and work-related commitments, and are more likely to have spare time and energy to volunteer for the bar associations and other charities or nonprofits.

Additionally, it can help in terms of professional development, enhancing your resume, and feeling better about yourself as a professional and a person. You will be able to build additional personal and professional relationships through your additional involvements (I met my fiancé while volunteering for the CBA YLD executive council).

Ultimately, your personal life will feel more fulfilling when you give back to the profession and society.

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