PRESIDENT'S PERSPECTIVE: A Return to ‘Old School’ Values

This year, the Tennessee Bar Association (TBA) has rightfully focused much time and energy on spreading a singular message to Tennessee lawyers: The practice of law is evolving, and we must evolve with it. This is not a message easily communicated, and it is certainly not universally embraced. Nonetheless, through the admirable efforts of the TBA Special Committee on the Evolving Legal Market (ELM) and TBA staff, recent reports indicate that more than 1,900 Tennessee lawyers have been exposed to the message so far, the numbers are growing, and lawyers across the state are eager to hear more.

Though change in the legal profession is here and pervasive, that change does not alter the fact that, fundamentally, the practice of law is built upon relationships and trust. These are the “old school” values that lie at the heart of our profession. As lawyers embrace technology to better serve clients, the need to maintain personal interaction with the greater legal community is very real. Now, more than ever, when communications are centered in cyberspace, text messaging has taken the place of a phone call, social media act as surrogates for real communication, and the ability to withdraw from the world is increasing, lawyers should strive to make true and lasting connections with one another.

John Donne famously wrote “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main.” So it is with the legal profession. The rare attorney may be able to limit interaction with others, rely upon his or her own referral base, and be content to work in relative isolation, but that attorney is missing opportunities beyond measure. That attorney is not enjoying the practice to the fullest. That attorney is engaging in something more akin to a trade than a profession. That attorney tragically fails to share in the communion that makes us all better lawyers.

The legal community is strong only when we take intentional action to make it so. I was present at the annual TBA Leadership Law (TBALL) Opening Retreat in Montgomery Bell State Park in early January. Thirty or so attorney leaders from across the state came together for a weekend of workshops and fellowship. The programming was excellent, and I have no doubt these attorneys found tremendous value in the presentations. However, from my perspective, the real value of the weekend lay in these attorneys simply spending time with one another. They shared meals, down time, conference activities, and by the end of three days there was an undeniable fellowship that had been created. These attorneys, largely strangers at the beginning of the weekend, walked away from those three days with a deeper understanding of one another, their families, and their practices. They entered the weekend as colleagues and left as friends.

That kind of community building is extraordinary to witness. In the span of a weekend, the TBALL Steering Committee managed to create an entirely new network within the profession. That network will pay off both for those individuals and the profession for years to come in the form of lasting friendships that will create opportunities to lead, network or simply share in the camaraderie of the practice. The net result will be healthier, happier and more successful lawyers.

Facilitating community is what the Tennessee Bar Association does best. There are countless opportunities throughout the year — from CLEs to programs to social events — to get out and engage with fellow Tennessee lawyers, and it is never a wasted effort.

Of all these opportunities, none is greater than the TBA Annual Convention. This year, the convention will be held in Kingsport, Tennessee, at the Meadowview Resort, June 14 through 17. There will be programming on topics ranging from the evolving legal market to diversity issues to attorney well-being, and a Bench/Bar conference with a program on the Hatfield/McCoy feud. We will be hosting multiple social events for judges and attorneys, including Kingsport Karnival in the downtown district, which promises to be an extravagant affair. In short, there will be something for everyone in Kingsport. 

I have heard some attorneys opine that we should no longer hold annual conventions as they are outdated, time consuming and unnecessary. With due respect, I disagree. In today’s age of email, social media and online shopping, nothing could be more relevant than an old school convention to bring us together. Please join us in Kingsport and embrace the opportunity to commune with your colleagues.
 


Jason H. Long JASON H. LONG is a partner with Lowe, Yeager & Brown in Knoxville. A graduate of the University of Tennessee College of Law, he is a past president of the TBA Young Lawyers Division and the Knoxville Bar Association Barristers.

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