Young Lawyers Division | Ringing in the New
By Laura Ruth Talbert
On behalf of the OBA Young Lawyers Division, let me be among the first to wish you a happy New Year! It is truly an honor and a privilege to serve as the YLD chair, and I could not be more excited for what the new year holds.
As the curtain falls on the bygone year, we find ourselves standing at the threshold of a new era, ushering in the promise of fresh beginnings and untapped potential. The transition to new leadership invites us to reflect on the accomplishments of the past year while embracing the opportunities that lie ahead. It is a moment to express gratitude for the foundations laid by our previous leaders and to set our sights on an even brighter future in 2024.
The YLD’s accomplishments last year leave much to reflect on, thanks to my predecessor’s tenacious leadership. If you know Caroline Shaffer Siex, you know she is the very definition of a leader. Caroline simply gets the job done, regardless of what it takes. With Caroline at the helm, the YLD had an excellent 2023. It would take the entire bar journal to recap everything Caroline did throughout the past year, so I’ll focus on just a few highlights instead. She was instrumental in coordinating YLD CLE in 2023, something that hadn’t been done in several years. Under her leadership, the YLD put on another Wills for Heroes event, which allowed many first responders and service members and their families to get some much-needed estate planning in place at no cost to them. Caroline also ramped up the YLD’s involvement with new lawyers after their admission ceremony, organizing happy hours and events in multiple locations across the state. All in all, the YLD had a great 2023 because – frankly – Caroline wouldn’t have it any other way. From the bottom of my heart, thank you for your outstanding leadership, Caroline.
Last year’s accomplishments have provided a sturdy platform for continued growth and progress within the YLD in 2024. While there are several events we’re working on and are excited to share with you in the future, there are a few priorities that I would like for the YLD to emphasize and promote throughout the year: tolerance, civility and mental health.
At the end of last year, Oklahoma County District Judge Richard Ogden spoke at the OBA Diversity Committee’s annual Diversity Awards Dinner about the need for ensuring that the Oklahoma County Bar Association was a welcoming and inclusive organization for its members, and his words stuck with me. I strongly believe that the YLD can play a unique role in promoting tolerance in the bar. Please hear me – being tolerant never means that someone needs to compromise their viewpoints or personal beliefs. To me, tolerance instead means accepting and welcoming people, even when you don’t share the same viewpoints or personal beliefs as those people. Regardless of your perspectives, it is troubling that people characterize and demonize those who have viewpoints different from their own. In 2024, let’s focus on truly listening before acting. The more tolerant we can be, the better advocates we can be for ourselves, our colleagues and our clients.
Civility goes hand-in-hand with tolerance, and one way of expressing tolerance is by being civil to everyone – particularly to those with whom you do not agree. I believe that most members of our bar work very hard to exhibit politeness and courtesy in their endeavors with others. But having said that, we are bombarded every day with images of people who seem to suggest that politeness and courtesy are signs of weakness or that the way to get things accomplished quickly is by being a discourteous “bulldog.” Let me suggest that the most effective attorneys are those who can advocate for their clients politely, in an analytical fashion, without the need for histrionics. We’ve all had bad days and lost our cool at some point, but even when that happens, I appreciate it when my adversary can show me some grace and remain civil, and I strive to do the same when the roles are reversed.
Our profession is challenging regardless of how you use your law license. Given those challenges, our mental health is constantly under attack. Thankfully, a lot of the stigmas associated with mental illnesses are fading, but even in the absence of outdated stereotypes about mental health and wellness, keeping yourself mentally healthy is a constant struggle. I welcome suggestions for how we can promote and encourage mental health among all lawyers, not just those who fall within the YLD.
In conclusion, this new year, like all others before it, marks a significant chapter in the ongoing story of the Oklahoma Bar Association and the YLD. We stand on the shoulders of the achievements of the past, and with optimism in our hearts, we look toward a future filled with possibilities. Embracing these transitions, actively involving the community and fostering a culture of inclusivity, tolerance and civility will form the foundation and allow us to shape a year that reflects the strength of our unity and the richness of our shared aspirations.
Ms. Talbert is a lawyer in Oklahoma City and serves as the YLD chairperson. She may be contacted at email@example.com.
Originally published in the Oklahoma Bar Journal – OBJ 95 No. 1 (January 2024)
Statements or opinions expressed in the Oklahoma Bar Journal are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect those of the Oklahoma Bar Association, its officers, Board of Governors, Board of Editors or staff.