Importance of law associations, communities | Ciara Ward

By Ciara Ward

Law360 Canada (August 1, 2023, 11:27 AM EDT) --
Ciara Ward
Ciara Ward
Three years ago I joined a local crossfit gym after my trusty discount gym closed down. I thought it would be a lot more nerve wracking going from spin class and aerobics classes to powerlifting with (for lack of a better term) meatheads. I was not prepared to be so utterly wrong, or to find such a valuable and accepting community. This is not dissimilar to joining a law association — you’re getting so much more than access to discounted CPDs and fancy parties, you’re gaining an entire community.

The mentorship, camaraderie and support that comes from being part of a community is invaluable (even to introverts) and especially to those at the beginning of their journey; whether it is the beginning of your law career, or your first time stepping into the gym. Some lessons you can only learn through community, which is why I want to share some wisdom courtesy of coaches Bud and Scott:

If it’s hard, and you don’t want to do it … you should do it anyway because it’s probably important

Sometimes when Grandpa Scott puts 200 lunges on the board for 6 a.m. on a Tuesday, I really really consider getting back in my car and going home. But I don’t leave; I stand with the rest of “team 6 a.m.”, and we commiserate (much like lawyers do on a busy court day when everyone is overcaffeinated, stressed out and managing client expectations). Ultimately though, we all dig in and just get it done.

When you push yourself to complete the tasks you really don’t feel like doing, whatever the reason, you get a valuable lesson. I know this sounds corny, and maybe a little basic, but it’s true. It teaches you to be patient; it teaches you resilience and how to keep on going — you lost a big case? That’s tough, but what did you learn? Because next time you might win. With a good support network (such as your local law association) behind you, the failure seems less devastating. You’re not failing if you’re learning, and by being dedicated to what you are doing you will have a better chance of long-term success. This is how you see growth and progress.

Mindset: Power of positive thinking

As an extremely sarcastic and negative human, this one was (and continues to be) a hard pill to swallow. Coach Bud has a unique brand of aggressive positivity that will stick to you (and others), like it or not. You can do hard things, and learning to change your mindset is important; if you can reframe situations and find some positivity then it feels less like something to “suffer through” and more like an accomplishment.

As with many professionals when I started my career, I was not confident in my abilities; but I found my community (thank you, Ontario courthouse librarians; thank you team 6 a.m.) and it gave me confidence. I’ve learned that sometimes you have to really be bad at something before you can be good at it — even if you’re bad at it forever, your perspective changes, and even when you’ll never enjoy it (like burpees, or uploading documents into Caselines), you learn to get through it. The ability to change your mindset to weather the unpleasant tasks, at the gym, at work, at home, is a useful skill.

Community is key

One of the most important tools for success is community. Your community is your fanbase, your cheering section, your pity party, your support system; your community is a positive force in one or more areas of your life, that pushes you to try your best and to be better. Finding your community in the legal field can also have a positive impact on access to justice. Professionals who are supported are more likely to succeed and feel fulfilled.

Community is the cornerstone of your success, and for someone working in the legal sector, finding your community can sometimes be challenging. It might feel awkward to join a law association, to attend a networking event where you don’t know anyone, but if you push through those feelings, you stand to gain something that may, in the long run, support your overall practice, and help you reach new career goals.

Our gym’s motto is “Stronger Together”, and this truly reflects the community that coaches Bud and Scott have built — but it’s also a great lesson for any community. At my library, in my law association, our members have a close-knit community, and they are in fact, stronger together. Visiting counsel often wistfully comment on how collegial our local bar is, how close our community seems to be. The community our law association has built shows its value every time its members commiserate with each other, celebrate together, and when they lean on each other for advice and mentoring. And that’s the value of joining your local law association: community.

Ciara Ward is the law librarian for the Northumberland County Law Association. She is a researcher, history hoarder, photographer, batgirl and friend. You can contact her via email at: ncla@bellnet.ca.

The opinions expressed are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the author’s firm, its clients, Law360 Canada, LexisNexis Canada, or any of its or their respective affiliates. This article is for general information purposes and is not intended to be and should not be taken as legal advice.

 
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