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LeadershipSBOT—Inspiring the Next Generation of Lawyers
By: Tennessee Williams

The “idea” of becoming a lawyer is intriguing to many middle and high school aged students. Unfortunately, many of those same students quickly foreclose the idea. Why? Because they view becoming a lawyer as an unattainable goal. I have the privilege of participating in this year’s Leadership State Bar of Texas (“LeadershipSBOT”) class, and we are working to address this issue.

Like many of my LeadershipSBOT classmates, I am the first lawyer in my family. Speaking from experience, our LeadershipSBOT class is on a mission to get the word out to students across Texas—being a lawyer is an attainable goal and students (regardless of their background) can be “first.”

What is LeadershipSBOT?

Created in 2008 by then State Bar President Harper Estes, LeadershipSBOT is designed to increase diverse leadership participation within the legal community through the nomination of lawyers who possess both the desire and the potential to assume leadership roles in their communities and the State Bar of Texas. Central to the program’s mission is ensuring that participant demographics represent the diversity of the State of Texas — culturally, ethnically, geographically, and in practice area.

Additional information regarding LeadershipSBOT can be found here.

2017-2018 LeadershipSBOT Class

How is this year’s LeadershipSBOT class inspiring and empowering high school and middle school students to become the next generation of lawyers?

To be fair, this year’s LeadershipSBOT class is merely the vessel for delivering the message. Credit for creating the message belongs to TYLA. As the public service wing of the State Bar of Texas:

TYLA focuses 100% of its effort and funding to serving Texas communities to enrich and improve lives. TYLA's primary purposes are to facilitate the administration of justice, foster respect for the law, and advance the role of the legal profession in serving the public.

In carrying out its worthy purpose, TYLA creates powerful public service projects. Two of the more recent TYLA projects are: “I Was the First” and “What Do Lawyers Do?” Our LeadershipSBOT class was tasked with picking one of these two projects and rolling it out to students across Texas. Being the lawyers that we are, we reached a negotiated agreement to present both projects as a package deal. It just made sense. “I Was the First” is inspirational. “What Do Lawyers Do?” is practical—the nuts and bolts of what it takes to become a lawyer. The two projects fit together like puzzle pieces. Presenting the projects together combines inspiration with the empowerment of knowledge. If we do our job, students leave the presentation: (1) inspired to pursue a career in law, and (2) with a basic knowledge of (and accompanying resources pertaining to) what it takes to effectively pursue that career.

In the last several months, our LeadershipSBOT class has presented “I Was the First” and “What Do Lawyers Do?” to middle and high school students in all of the major metropolitan areas in Texas—and in some in rural areas as well. In addition to a divide and conquer approach to presenting in each of our local communities, the LeadershipSBOT class collectively hit Houston and Galveston at the end of March. In conjunction with our scheduled programming in Galveston, our class presented to four schools:

 - Mickey Leeland College Prep (Houston),
 - Fleming Middle School (Houston),
 - AIM College Prep (Galveston), and
 - O’Connell College Preparatory School (Galveston)

In the course of two days, LeadershipSBOT presented to several hundred students. After the presentations, many of the students indicated a desire to pursue a career in law. Just how many of these students will complete the journey to becoming a lawyer? That remains to be seen. But, one thing is for sure, thanks to the efforts of TYLA and LeadershipSBOT, the students are better prepared for the journey.

Tennessee Walker is a Plaintiff’s Personal Injury Lawyer and Partner with Patterson Law Group in Fort Worth, Texas.

Views and opinions expressed in eNews are those of their authors and not necessarily those of the Texas Young Lawyers Association or the State Bar of Texas.

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