The State Bar Association of North Dakota Fall 2014 Gavel Magazine - Page 30

WHAT WE’VE GOT HERE IS FAILURE TO COMMUNICATE M AT T LU B A R O F F ALPS Director of Client Services Cool Hand Luke centers on the plight of Luke Jackson’s fight against a broken system. Our current legal system may not be as broken, but we are facing a communication barrier on the cusp of leaving large swaths of rural America with no access to legal services. The most recent data about the law school graduating class of 2013 shows that the job market continues to be tough for new lawyers. Not quite as dire as Paul Newman’s character’s plight, but with only 57 percent of 2013 graduates being placed in longterm, full-time positions where bar passage was required, the news isn’t exactly uplifting. We also know, however, that over the next 10 years an estimated 400,000 attorneys will be looking to retire, and many of who are solo attorneys with no succession or transition plans in place. In communities where there are attorneys, many are of the Baby Boomer, and while retirement may not be on the doorstep, that knock will come sooner rather than later. Mentorship is an important and vital step in the training of the next generation of lawyers, as well as providing the opportunity for experienced attorneys to find potential successors. The need to connect our young lawyers with our retiring lawyers is significant and in many cases, urgent. Mentorship helps young attorneys learn the real life scenarios that may affect their practice while forging relationships between the current and future leaders of the legal industry. It also helps established lawyers give back to the profession and makes it better as a result. If the jobs are there, if retiring attorneys want and need to connect with up and coming lawyers, if the practice of law is substantive and rewarding, and if our system continues to matriculate qualified and licensed attorneys, then where is the breakdown? 30 THE GAVEL It may come down to communication. In rural areas of the country, it’s the challenge of communicating the benefits of living and working on Main Street, USA and not chasing the highest salary possible to help climb the mountain of debt faced by more and more law school graduates. In these rural communities, the prospect of building a law practice while enjoying the quality of life that a smaller town can provide can be an appealing option. Indeed the work being done by practicing attorneys in more rural areas is impactful case work, work that an associate in a large firm may not get to see for years. Successful communication, as Cool Hand Luke learned, requires not just the impact of sending a message, but also another person willing and able to receive that message. To help facilitate the communication is ALPS Attorney Match, a free resource that brings together attorneys from every walk of the profession. Designed by ALPS, this easy-to-use service is a conduit for mentorship and clerkship opportunities throughout the legal community. From a risk management perspective, stronger communication among lawyers, whether in the form of developing a mentorship relationship or working on a blueprint for succession, helps mitigate risk through shared experiences and proactive planning. Whether you’re a young lawyer looking for a mentor or you’re a seasoned attorney looking to transition your practice in a few years, the time is now to establish your connections. Visit www. alpsattorneymatch.com today and sign up to see how you can make a match.