We the People

As rezoomers, putting yourself out there and announcing your re-entry into the legal profession is imperative. It amazes me where my rezooming journey takes me, who I meet along the way and what made me go there. Often I find my most lasting connections come from events with the least likely potential and are simply attended because they ’spoke to me.’ This means my heart told me to go and I heed this intuition. This continued to be true the third Saturday in January, 2013.

In mid November, 2012, I received a general invitation from the NYSBA Law Youth and Citizenship Program to judge the We The People event in Albany, NY on January 12, 2013. The invitation was extended to me because I am a member of the NYSBA Committee on Women in the Law. Our entire group was invited to participate in hopes of adding a few women to the judging panel of this high school competition.

A little history is in order here. My oldest son, Drew, competed in the We the People event in Massachusetts as a junior in high school. My husband and I were two of many parents who traveled up to the Massachusetts State capital to see our children discuss six topics on the US Constitution, both past and present. The fluency with which these students spoke about our US Constitution amazed me. The judges were asked to question the students after their 4-minute presentation; and as a political science major in college my memory was put to the test. However, my son and his classmates easily fielded the questions and related both past and present pertinent constitutional processes and information in response.

When I saw this invitation to judge in my email inbox I did not hesitate to respond YES. It had been such an important educational process in my son’s high school experience; I felt it was the least I could do to give back to this premiere nationwide program. I was accepted, received the 300+ page textbook to familiarize myself with the subject matter studied and assigned one of the six sections on which the students were prepared to be tested on after their 4-minute presentation. My section was the sixth and final section of the textbook. “What Challenges Might Face American Constitutional Democracy in the 21st Century?” My follow up question for the students was, “How would they distinguish between cynicism and healthy skepticism?”

As the weekend approached, I did what I am notorious for doing, second-guessing my choice to attend this event. I had a conference the Thursday and Friday before We The People and I was seriously behind in my writing. They wouldn’t miss me, would they? This clearly is not a ‘high value’ event within my rezooming networking mission. How can judging at a high school constitutional law event help me, a solo practitioner, spread the word about using mediation in conflicts between people about animals? There was not even the remotest of connections. Let me call now and cancel.

Yet, this nagging feeling I needed to be there kept pulling at me. It kept saying the ‘Why’ would show itself once I arrived. So at 6:30 PM Friday night, in the teaming rain, I hopped into my trusty VW and drove from Stamford, CT to Albany, NY arriving at the lovely hotel none the worse for wear at 10:30 PM.

The next morning I was up at 6, on my 8 AM conference call with colleagues at 7 AM so I could make the 8:15 organizational meeting for the judges of We the People. I was in the breakfast meeting by 8:05 and shown to the table with my 2 fellow judges and our timer by 8:10. My judging panel for We the People were incredibly welcoming, friendly and experienced, thank God. A. Thomas Levin an attorney from Long Island NY who was the past president of the NYSBA and instrumental in bring the We the People program under the wing of the NYSBA Law Youth and Citizenship Program, The Honorable Helena Heath Roland, a City Court Judge in Albany and Mary Miller a writer with the New York News Publishers Association. Talk about a networking bonanza. Meeting these people in this relaxed setting forged fast friendships, camaraderie and memorable moments from which to maintain our friendships going forward. I had listened to that little voice in my soul telling me to give back to a program that had given my family so much. I hadn’t worried about the reward; I just participated in a wonderful event for the joy of it and let the unknown rewards flow.

This is an unusual story to share with you, my rezooming colleagues. This kind of serendipity has happened on so many occasions during the rezooming of my career, I now trust my intuition. It will help us remember, it is not always the biggest and brightest events, played to our perfect audience that brings us the highest personal and professional reward. It can be something small you do, because it makes you feel good and places you in a position to reap rewards that transcend any networking events promise of future employment.

I spent an entire morning shuttling from room to room; listening to the brightest kids I know recite our constitutional tenets, which they fully comprehended. We will all be ok if these students reflect our up and coming leaders. They were truly 21st century citizens who will make things better and welcome more active involvement of all citizens in our wonderful democracy. It was a testament to the hard work all these students put in to their studies this year and the commitment of their school, their teachers and their parents to support them both emotionally and financially for this competition. If you would like to become involved in your state check out the program at http://new.civiced.org/wtp-about-us/state-programs.

I always say, listen to you heart it will never lead you astray. In this I am more certain than ever. My heart advised my head to attend the ‘We the People’ event. I gave back to a forum that was instrumental in creating the self-confident speaker and constitutional aficionado my son is today. In participating I forged three lasting friendships with colleagues I can call on to ask questions I may have about the law. I will see them again at the NYSBA Annual meeting. They now have a personal connection with an alternative dispute resolution practitioner who they can call on to speak about conflicts needing mediation.

Next time your heart sings but your head tells you no, listen to your heart. In this 21st century world of email, twitter, Facebook and Linked in — personal community service is still an effective means of connecting with potential clients and colleagues in a more ‘personally’ professional way.

All opinions, advice, and experiences of guest bloggers/columnists are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the opinions, practices or experiences of Solo Practice University®.

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