DAYL President’s Message
by Haleigh Jones
At the risk of generalizing too broadly, most young lawyers, including myself, exist in a culture that glamorizes busyness. An insurmountable number of emails, demanding supervisors, young children, new spouses and partners, uncharted legal tasks, and the relentless slog of the billable hour are just a few of the many demands for our time. Adding to that mental load, there is a near-daily panic resulting from perceived ineptitude, paired with actual novice, and the stress in the associate-filled room becomes palpable. If you’re standing in that stress-filled room, reading this, you may have convinced yourself you don’t have time for DAYL-related commitments. In this column, my first as DAYL’s President, I hope to encourage you to think more meaningfully about the value DAYL offers you.
First, spend enough time here and you’ll realize you’re not alone, and there are resources to cure you of your imposter’s syndrome. That realization heralds both freedom and power. Accepting the fact that there are nearly 3,000 people in the DFW metroplex who share your own perceived ineptitude will free you from the insecurity that comes with inexperience (if you let it). The DAYL community, which assumes at least some level of inexperience, provides a safe space to ask questions and gain experience. Take the annual DAYL Trial Skills Boot Camp, for instance. That program is designed to provide young lawyers with little-to-no trial experience the opportunity to present some element of a trial to sitting Dallas-area judges in a controlled setting. That safe space is the power of DAYL and of realizing you’re not alone. DAYL offers meaningful resources that don’t exist anywhere else, because here, you’re not supposed to know what you’re doing. We have inexperience in common.
Second, for better or worse, bar leadership translates to perceived credibility. What I mean by that is the more lawyers you encounter through bar service, the larger your network becomes, and the more experienced you are perceived to be. This is, in many ways, unjustified. I don’t have any more experience arguing a complicated appeal than the next lawyer because I have helped plan and execute a happy hour with the DAYL Social Committee. I might, however, meet someone new, form a meaningful connection with them, and gain their trust on a personal level. It is no coincidence that most of DAYL’s executive leadership has been recognized on D Magazine’s lists of Best Lawyers in Dallas and Best Lawyers Under 40. Instead, (and no offense to my friends on that list) it’s probably because we have a large network of lawyers who thought of our names when D Magazine released the nomination form. Regardless of their cause, these types of recognitions lead to worthwhile business development. DAYL provides a marketing and networking platform specific to young lawyers that exists nowhere else in the law. Growth of that network is perceived by many to equate to experience and credibility. That perception, right or wrong, is something clients and supervisors notice. And, as young lawyers, we’ll take all the credibility we can get, right?
Finally, and most importantly, there are deep and lasting friendships waiting for you here that cut the tension in the metaphorical, stress-filled room of associates. I joined DAYL in 2015. I still remember the specific days in 2015 that I met people like Andy Jones, Helen Emerson, and Nicole Muñoz Huschka. I remember those days because they were rare occasions on which I met a person with whom I had an instant connection and a shared experience. I didn’t realize until well-after they were in my life how desperate I was in those moments to be seen and met exactly where I was in my career. The friendships I have made in DAYL have had an incalculable, positive impact on my mental health as a young lawyer and have carried me through some incredibly tough days into young partnership at my firm. There is a level of mental fortitude that comes from knowing I have invisible hands on my back. The power of DAYL isn’t sitting together at CLEs, although we need the CLE. The power of DAYL is being together for dinner, a wedding, our kids’ birthday parties, funerals, and countless other moments in between. Any career in the law, no matter what industry you serve, is a grind. But the community we share here makes that grind fun, rewarding, and a shared experience.
If you’re standing in that stress-filled room, feeling alone, I hope you’ll give DAYL a try this year. It might take more than coming to a single happy hour, but if you commit in a meaningful way to plugging in, I promise you won’t regret it. I hope to see you soon, and, in the meantime, know that I am pinching myself over the fact that I get to lead this incredible organization for a year. Let’s make it our best yet, shall we?
Haleigh Jones is a partner at Crawford Wishnew & Lang, focusing on appellate law and commercial litigation representing both plaintiffs and defendants. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Articles on the DAYL website are provided for informational use only, and are in no way intended to constitute legal advice or the opinions or views of the DAYL.