When do you join the WBA?
I joined the WBA in 2011 or 2012, shortly after beginning my first post-law school job. I’d shared with someone my uncertainty about my career; no longer did I have the linear, predictable path of schooling. The person (another Black woman lawyer) suggested checking out local voluntary bar organizations and among them was the WBA; she specifically recommended the Holiday Tea. I was too late to get a ticket to the Tea — don’t make that same mistake, buy your ticket early!! — but I saw other events I was interested in, so I registered, kept an eye on programming, attended programming, and eventually joined as a member.
Why did you join?
I was looking for connection and mentorship, and I wanted (well, needed!) to figure out what my career could look like. I quickly came to value being around successful women of all sorts, which, over time, helped me craft my own definition of what success looked like. Quite simply, I felt comfortable at WBA events, and, at the time, feeling comfortable was priceless for me. While I am still working on that definition of success, I now have a much better idea of what doesn’t work for me as much as what does, and I am charting my career with more confidence. I also appreciated that I was invited to engage with programming, first as an attendee and then as a planner at a pace that was comfortable and not pressuring. That no pressure entrée into WBA activities and leadership still holds and is invaluable.
What benefits has your membership brought you?
Mentorship, support, accountability, guidance, advice, and, yes, sisterhood. At first the concept of “sisterhood” and finding it within the WBA was uncomfortable for me; I could not see what I’d find in common with women who were either (way) ahead of me in their careers, did not look like me, or did not have the same background as me: I couldn’t fathom how or why they’d want me in their sisterhood. Plus, I was a loner, insecure about my professional path, and an exuberant introvert. But becoming involved at my own pace helped, over time. And then, serving on the Board under Jill Dash’s leadership softened that discomfort about sisterhood into acceptance because Jill constantly refers to WBA-ers as her sisters. I began to resist the label less and, instead, to look for commonalities in our experiences and to embrace differences within the perspective that we were all working in service of the common goal of advancing our profession to be more equitable and just for all women attorneys.
There have been times when I felt adrift in my legal career or have had low and very challenging personal moments when being among WBA-ers or working on WBA activities gave me stability, purpose, and reminded me that yes, I am capable. And even in those times, WBA-ers have asked, “Hey are you OK?” which is an underrated and powerful question to ask (long before this Pandammit). It mattered a lot to be asked that and to have the WBA either as an outlet or refuge while I learnt and figured things out.
Why do you think others should join?
Join for the sisterhood — yes, I mean it — and for the ability to strengthen your confidence, develop leadership skills, for access to different pictures of success, and to display your substantive acumen and network. Don’t discount the last bit: it’s important for women (lawyers or not) to show + tell what we can do and to do so unapologetically…after all we are trained practicing professionals! I have found that the WBA is a sincere organization working hard to fulfill its mission, and I appreciate that very much. Also, practically: membership is affordable, programming is affordable, you’ll get access to accomplished people, and leadership is always actively looking for ways to increase value to/for members — and you can have a say in what the value is, too.