Texas Young Lawyers Association Election 2019
The Texas Bar Journal asked 2019-2020 Texas Young Lawyers Association president-elect candidates Britney Harrison (left) and Tim Newman (right) to share their perspectives on issues facing young lawyers in the state. Vote online or by paper ballot from April 1 to April 30, 2019. The deadline to cast ballots is 5 p.m. CDT April 30, 2019. For biographical information on the candidates, go to texasbar.com/elections.
Why do you want to serve as president of the Texas Young Lawyers Association?
Harrison: I entered the practice of law for one simple reason: to serve others. That is who I am at my core. As vice president of TYLA, I have uplifted, empowered, and encouraged young lawyers to become experienced, respected professionals while continuing a legacy of public service. I love this organization, its mission, and what it does to serve the public. As president-elect, I would continue to serve TYLA with a commitment to public service, as I have served local affiliates and other organizations in the community. I am dedicated to the profession and want to help other young lawyers become our future leaders in the profession and the community. Given my background working in large, international law firms, as well as small- and medium-size firms, I can relate to and understand the issues that many young lawyers face. I’ve practiced in federal and state court, in commercial litigation, employment law, and now, family law. It took me a few years to find the area of practice that I found invigorating and challenging yet fulfilling. Given my personal and professional passions, I would be honored and proud to lead Texas young lawyers in furthering TYLA’s mission of public service.
Newman: I want to showcase the great service work our young lawyers do and inspire others to step up and get involved. TYLA’s charge is public service, and our young lawyers fulfill that charge every day. The TYLA board has developed hundreds of resources for Texas lawyers and communities, and our local affiliates do fantastic work on the local level. If elected, I would leverage TYLA’s platform and reach to showcase this service. Those doing the work deserve recognition, and seeing their service will spur others to action.
On a personal level, when I joined the TYLA board, I had no expectation that I would one day campaign to be its president. But I fell in love with the work and the people, and I put everything I have into my service. TYLA has shaped me as a servant and as a leader, and my wife and son and I are a TYLA family. I became a lawyer because of the platform for service the profession provides. What better way to advance that ambition than to serve as president of TYLA?
What are the three most important issues facing young lawyers in Texas and what role should TYLA play in addressing them?
Harrison: Student Loan Debt: Like many young lawyers, I have a considerable amount of student loan debt. Through collaborative efforts with financial professionals, TYLA can help law students and young lawyers avoid common mistakes, as I made, by developing financial literacy resources.
Wellness and Stress-Management: Many young lawyers struggle with wellness and stress-management. I would build upon the wellness panels TYLA started this year to incorporate innovative technological approaches to reach more members.
Business Development: Law school does not teach us the business side of practicing law. Having access to business development training and great mentors can be challenging depending on where you practice and the resources available to you. TYLA can assist by developing and disseminating resources that include tips and strategies for leveraging relationships to create business and finding mentors.
Newman: More law school graduates are starting their own firms, and law firm associates are finding it harder to get meaningful experience. TYLA is uniquely positioned to understand these challenges and provide support and guidance. Our new Young Gunners podcast is just one example of how we’re doing that (shameless plug alert). We also face ever-increasing stress because of the demands of our jobs, the “immediate response” environment created by technology, and the challenges of building a practice. This year, we’ve partnered with TLAP to highlight the importance of stress management and ensure lawyers know about TLAP’s resources. We need to continue that work. One final challenge is overcoming the negative reputation that sometimes attaches to lawyers. I enjoy a good lawyer joke, but the good that lawyers do is sometimes overlooked. My plans for showcasing that work and calling others to action would be a giant step in correcting that misperception.
You have served the profession in a number of capacities at a number of levels. Which of these experiences has best prepared you to lead TYLA?
Harrison: Numerous past leadership experiences have prepared me to lead TYLA. While I’ve been successful in serving in the profession and in life, I have also experienced failures. I’ve learned so much from each of those experiences, which have molded me into the stronger leader I am today. I’ve learned how to adapt my leadership style to best accomplish various organizations’ overall goal of uplifting and empowering others to achieve our mission and objectives. My bar service over my legal career, as well as community service outside of the bar, has helped me connect with diverse people, see firsthand where resources are needed, and taught me how to navigate numerous organizational challenges, including budgetary cuts and limited time constraints. All of these experiences have prepared me to lead and represent the young lawyers of Texas.
Newman: I am constantly learning and developing, and all of my experiences have shaped me as a leader. As a cadet at Texas A&M, I learned discipline and integrity, and when I became head drum major of the Aggie Band, I got a taste of what it’s like to be the face of a very public organization. When you’re in that spotlight, someone is always watching, and you have to always be “on.” Now as an experienced lawyer at my firm, I’m learning the importance of setting expectations and developing the skills of a team so we can do our best work. Bar service is a unique animal. We’re all volunteers, and we balance our service with demanding jobs and personal lives. Years of local and state bar leadership have taught me the importance of inspiring, energizing, and empowering others. These lessons have prepared me to lead TYLA.
If a college student sought your advice on whether to pursue a legal career, how would you answer?
Harrison: I would encourage the student to take a year off between undergrad and law school to work in the legal field and determine whether this is the student’s passion. College students considering a legal career should know attorneys in the area, take them to lunch, and learn about their experiences. I found my gap year to be an invaluable experience. I learned so much from the attorneys I worked for and was able to take a different approach to law school while bringing an insightful perspective into the classroom. This additional time to grow kept me motivated during school because I knew what was waiting for me at the finish line. Becoming a lawyer is a substantial time and financial commitment. Despite the pressures of the profession, I love being a lawyer. If pursuing a legal career is the student’s passion, give it your all and go for it!
Newman: “Go for it, but with eyes wide open.” I always recommend law school, with caveats. My legal career has been rewarding. I enjoy my work, and I’ve been able to make an impact in my community. But the outcome could have been different. With no lawyers in my family, I didn’t fully understand what lawyers do or appreciate the demands of the profession, even as I took out loans for school. I advise students to shadow lawyers and talk with them about what they actually do and how demanding the work really is. If you don’t enjoy the work or don’t want the demands, a legal career could be long and miserable. I also suggest working a couple years before law school. That’s something I didn’t do, but starting your legal career with the maturity we all gain during those first few years of working can be a real advantage.
How do you balance your personal life with your professional life?
Harrison: When that happens, I will let you know! I occasionally struggle with prioritizing my needs. Finding balance can be difficult at times, but I have challenged myself to find ways to manage. I’ve made small adjustments to bring more balance into my life, such as instituting a “no cellphone” hour when I arrive at home for the day. This hour allows me to decompress and focus on myself. I schedule weekly workouts with a trainer and have a massage membership. I also have a strong support network of other lawyer friends. We discuss our issues and provide support and ideas to one another. In the end, I somehow find ways to make time for what is truly important to me because, if I am not at my best, I cannot serve my clients at the level they deserve nor can I be an effective leader.
Newman: “Wherever you are, be there.” A partner I worked for gave me that advice when I was a young associate. The point was, “Be present.” When I’m in the office or a client meeting, I focus on my work. When I’m with my family, I focus on them. It’s not always possible given the competing obligations we all have, but the mindset helps me prioritize. Working at a firm that encourages public service and having an incredibly supportive wife (who has her own career to balance) also help. I also think the different aspects of my life make me better at the others. I truly believe becoming a father has made me a better lawyer. I spent years learning the hard edge of the law, but having a son has helped me understand the human side of my work. Now I practice and advise my clients with more compassion and understanding.TBJ