Baili B. Rhodes College Station Alex L. Yarbrough Amarillo The Texas Bar Journal asked 2016-2017 Texas Young Lawyers Association president-elect candidates Baili B. Rhodes and Alex L. Yarbrough to share their perspectives on issues facing young lawyers in the state. Vote online or by paper ballot from April 1 to May 2, 2016. The deadline to cast ballots is 5 p.m. CST May 2, 2016. For biographical information on the candidates, go to texasbar.com/elections or see p. 240 of the March issue. WHY DO YOU WANT TO SERVE AS PRESIDENT OF THE TEXAS YOUNG LAWYERS ASSOCIATION? Rhodes: As the public service arm of the State Bar of Texas, TYLA works to develop projects that benefit lawyers, the public, and law students. During my time on the TYLA Board of Directors, I have been astounded by the impactful projects that TYLA has produced and its ability to reach the diverse citizens of Texas. As president of TYLA, I would have the unique opportunity to develop projects that will continue that tradition of great service. I believe I can accomplish this by developing programs that will prepare law students to enter practice as well as tools to provide young lawyers assistance in business development, forming networking relationships, and succeeding in their early years of practice. I also want to encourage young lawyers to serve the public by becoming involved in TYLA on either the state or local affiliate level. Finally, I have several ideas for resources to inform members of the public of their legal rights and duties in various situations. These include working with primary and secondary schools to identify needs in the education system and, based on this, developing projects to benefit teachers and students alike. Yarbrough: For me, the opportunity to serve as president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association is about being able to increase awareness of all the incredible things TYLA does. TYLA impacts many different people in many different ways. Every lawyer I know who has helped with a TYLA or local affiliate program has felt like he or she made a real difference and has been proud of being a lawyer. As far as professional development, TYLA helps new lawyers bridge the learning gap by offering great programs like Ten Minute Mentor videos and toolkits on various topics. TYLA’s programs also impact Texas citizens. From civic-minded publications like the Legal Guide for Cancer Patients to the CPS Handbook, TYLA’s efforts have a real impact on Texans. Finally, I want to serve as president of TYLA because I want to continue TYLA’s strong tradition of member and public service. I’ve seen firsthand the tangible impact that TYLA has in communities, locally and statewide. I want to continue that tradition. WHAT ARE THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT ISSUES FACING YOUNG LAWYERS IN TEXAS AND WHAT ROLE SHOULD TYLA PLAY IN ADDRESSING THEM? Rhodes: Finances, stress management, and finding a job. Many young lawyers graduate from law school with significant student loan debt. TYLA can continue helping young lawyers deal with financial issues by educating prelaw and law students about alternative forms of financial aid and the true cost of borrowing money. Stress is inherent in our chosen profession. TYLA has developed and will continue to develop projects that address stress management and work-life balance, as well as helping young lawyers find mentors to help deal with these issues. Finally, finding a job is a huge issue faced by young lawyers. This comes in two scenarios: first, finding a job right out of law school, and second, finding a job that is fulfilling. TYLA can work with law students and young lawyers not only to find their first job but also to encourage them to find jobs where they will be fulfilled. Yarbrough: Job/Career Satisfaction— Many young lawyers do not like what they do and are looking for other ways to use their education. Whether it’s using their practice areas to help create public service pamphlets or answering questions at senior citizen seminars, TYLA and its local affiliate programs offer a place to use those talents. Avoiding burnout—Our profession is stressful and places huge demands on our time. It is easy for lawyers to hit a point where the practice of law has taken over their lives in an unhealthy way. TYLA has implemented, and can continue to develop, programs aimed at helping lawyers cope and succeed. Employment—Law students and recent graduates find it exceedingly difficult to get a job, particularly one sufficient to repay their educational debt. TYLA should work to promote better understanding of the job market and provide more opportunities for developing supportive networks. WHICH TYLA PROJECT OR PROGRAM THAT YOU HAVE BEEN INVOLVED IN HAS BEEN THE MOST FULFILLING TO YOU AND WHY? Rhodes: I became a lawyer because I wanted to find a career that combined my love of learning with my desire to serve others. I have found TYLA’s public service projects to be the most fulfilling. This year, I am Executive Committee adviser for the Public Service Committee. One of the most fulfilling projects under this committee is Healing the Wounds: Navigating the Legal System After Surviving Domestic Abuse, a project dealing with domestic violence, which we present in the form of “Ladies Night Out” events at women’s shelters. Additionally, it has been amazing to work with this committee to develop projects that will benefit the general public. These include Cyclists Be Careful, Permanent Kinship Placement, and Breaking the Silence presentations. Yarbrough: Without a doubt my work on the Local Affiliates Committee has been the most fulfilling. The Local Affiliates Committee works with the different local affiliates across Texas in various ways, including providing grant money for new and exciting projects. Additionally, the Local Affiliates Committee helps host the annual Bar Leaders Conference. Bar Leaders is a great place to share ideas and projects with other affiliates and explore which kinds of projects work and do not work. It is also a great place to network and meet other young lawyers from across the state. The conference ends with a casino night and an opportunity to win a gift basket or two. Who doesn’t like casino night and gift baskets? HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOUR LEADERSHIP STYLE? Rhodes: My goal is to encourage and empower those I am charged to lead. Rather than act as a micromanager who wants to dictate every detail, I want to let those I am leading have an opportunity to take charge and see projects to completion. The TYLA board takes on many projects each year. As a result, people of all personality types and backgrounds have the opportunity to take ownership of a project and see it through to completion. I love this aspect of TYLA, and it fits well with my leadership style. Not only are we creating amazing projects that benefit individuals across the state but the next generation of leaders also is being developed within TYLA. Yarbrough: When I first thought about this question, I wanted to put something funny, like “Summarily, I am a dictator.” However, attorneys who I work with said there is nothing funny about dictatorships, so I decided to put a more honest answer. As a graduate of LeadershipSBOT, I have learned about numerous styles of leadership. My leadership style is similar to that of Joseph Luellen III’s dodgeball strategy. Joseph grew up playing dodgeball on basketball courts, where a player can throw the ball from half-court and into the opposing basket so that the whole team gets resurrected. Joseph was great at half-court shots and always tried to get his whole team back in the game. That is the kind of leader I am learning to be. I want to be the leader who helps get his whole team into the game so that we can get the most from everyone involved. HOW DO YOU BALANCE YOUR PERSONAL LIFE WITH YOUR PROFESSIONAL LIFE? Rhodes: Balance is always a challenge. I am a wife and a mom. I am a lawyer. I am a leader in my profession and my community. I love each of these elements of my life, but they don’t always work well together. My husband and I often have to divide and conquer. When one of us has a heavy workload, the other takes on more responsibility around the house and with the kids. We are constantly finding new ways to make things work, and it is never easy. At the end of the day, we work hard to support one another. No matter how busy I am, I do my best to set time aside to spend with my family. Additionally, I try to take some time for myself. If you are interested in further discussion of this topic, check out the TYLA blog lawyerswholunchblog.com. Yarbrough: I try hard not to bring my work home. When I am at work, I dedicate my time to resolving clients’ issues. When I am at home, I give my full attention to my wife and children. But, like the practice of law, achieving a healthy work-life balance requires commitment; sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose. One thing important to me is traveling with my family. I turn on my automatic replies and do not answer emails while on vacation. This practice may make some clients upset, but at the end of the day, you truly have to prioritize what is important. For me, family is at the top of the list.
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